UMass prepares for possible virtual fall semester

UMass discusses options in facing the uncertainties of COVID-19

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

By Maria Elena Little Endara, Collegian Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many students to wonder if they will return to college campuses in the fall, leaving universities around the country preparing for possibly another virtual semester.

Boston University recently announced that “it may not resume live classes until January 2021” according to an article by Forbes.

 The uncertainty of the virus makes it difficult for universities to say that anything is set in stone. In an interview with radio station WBUR, University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan said that because of the unpredictability of the virus, the school will “prepare for all options.”

“We need to know by July 15 at the latest and make plans. One of the challenges in this crisis is we just don’t know what’s going to happen in a month or two months or three months from now,” Meehan said in the interview.

UMass is also taking into consideration how remote learning will impact the school financially. According to Meehan, UMass has a “$125 million deficit as a result of decisions to pay back students.”

Meehan said that UMass is working with a congressional delegation to try and procure more aid to keep the school afloat.

“We’re in a really difficult situation. We want to keep the University of Massachusetts going,” explained Meehan, “so we’re looking at all options and everything is on the table.”

The economic toll that remote learning has had on the University has led to budget plans that according to Meehan have prompted some layoffs. According to numbers given by UMass, it currently has 31,350 undergraduate and graduate students and employs over 1,400 instructional faculty.

On a positive note, the number of incoming freshmen that are enrolling for the fall 2020 semester has been increasing.

“The number of students attending UMass may actually go up in September. So the initial response for an incoming freshman class has been actually very strong,” said Meehan.

However, this may put a strain on resources, such as the already for students.

Deputy Director of Office of News and Media Relations Mary Dettloff said that “no decision has been made yet regarding the fall semester.”

“At this time, there are many unknowns when it comes to fall and we have to plan for a variety of factors – starting the semester virtually, having everyone return to campus or do a staggered return, just to name a few,” said Dettloff.

In an email message sent out Thursday, April 24 Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said that groups of administrators will be in charge of assessing the frequently changing situation.

“We will consult with the usual governance groups to finalize recommendations that will take into consideration the medium and long-term implications for teaching, learning, student experience, research, infrastructure, operations and staff,” Subbaswamy said.

Subbaswamy also noted the economic concerns of moving to remote learning adding that “due to heavy downward pressure on all revenue sources, it is clear that significant budget management actions will be required in the weeks and months ahead.”

Maria Elena Little Endara is Collegian staff and can be reached at [email protected]