March 11 was the last day of in person classes at Amherst College as the school transitions to remote learning until further notice. The college announced Monday that they would be moving to this format after spring break due to the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Thursday and Friday classes were cancelled to give students and faculty time to prepare, and students have been asked to leave campus by March 18. Those who wish to remain on campus must submit a petition by noon on Friday, March 13.
“Everybody is really upset, especially the seniors,” said freshman Hope Tsai, a computer science major at Amherst College. “People are really angry that we have such little time to prepare.” She said that students were originally asked to leave by Monday, but that deadline was later extended to Wednesday.
Tsai said that the college’s decision poses financial issues for many of her peers. “I’m part of the FLI, first generation low-income, community on campus and everyone is saying they don’t have enough money to book tickets and go back home.”
Tsai said that she was able to work a lot this semester and has saved up enough to get back to her home in Michigan but is worried about how online courses will affect her education.
“I feel like the quality of the education will probably just inevitably be worse just because we don’t have in-person contact and I just feel like it kinda detracts from…what we came here for, but…obviously, in these circumstances, it’s what they have to do.”
Tracy Huang, also an Amherst College freshman, agrees with many of Tsai’s concerns. She was not planning to return to her home in California for break but has used the money that would have gone to paying for a plane home in May to go back early. Because round-trip flights are cheaper, she was planning to buy a round-trip ticket that would bring her back to Amherst in the fall, a plan that will be “in the drain” if classes resume in person later this semester.
While Tsai feels that the school’s response to the outbreaks is a bit overblown, she said, “We don’t even have a case on campus and there are other colleges where they have cases and they haven’t closed.”
Huang takes a bit more of a “better safe than sorry” stance, reasoning that there is “a large elderly population in town.”
Sophomore Nicholas Govus has concerns about the remote learning format as well. As a computer science and theater major, he said that many of his classes require direct peer interaction.
“I’m not quite sure how any of that will actually work,” he said, “one of my classes is a studio class so the entire point is to… act and direct with others… that just sounds very difficult to do [remotely].”
Govus said that many of his friends are submitting petitions to remain on campus, but that most expect to be rejected. He feels that the email the school sent to students regarding the petition suggested that acceptance would be based on need only. “The email that they sent out seemed to imply… if you cannot get home then… we have a space for you, but if you can get home you should go.”
Despite this, Govus said that staff, especially professors, have been accommodating and understanding of students’ confusion. “They [Amherst College] are sending out…at least two emails a day and they have…scheduled times just for updates.” He only had one class today and said that the professor put coursework aside to sit down with students and discuss their circumstances.
While faculty and staff are not being asked to leave campus, professors will have to reformat courses to accommodate the remote learning model. Caroline Hanna, director of media communications for Amherst College says that the college’s Information Technology department is assisting professors with the transition.
“Our IT department is helping with all that. We’re using… Zoom conference software… for a lot of things and IT is conducting workshops, they have FAQs online, they’re really working hard to help faculty do this.”
Extracurricular activities have also been affected by new policies. According to Hanna, events are limited to 50 people or less, though, there have currently been no changes made to commencement activities.
Winter sports teams will be allowed to compete in championships, but the spring season has been suspended and will not resume unless on campus classes do.
Additional issues such as remaining in campus housing, partial room and board refunds, and on campus student employment positions are being determined on a case by case basis.
Lily Robinson can be reached at [email protected]