UMass to ZoomMass: Students frustrated over administration’s management of COVID-19

By: Elienishka Ramos Torres

After a series of vague emails and unclear decisions from the UMass administration these past two weeks, thousands of students have voiced their anger for the university’s decisions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Over 1,000 students have signed a Change.org petition, which was later followed by a separate petition created by the Student Government Association. Both are demanding economic compensation for students, as well as some form of ceremony for graduating seniors. While it was later announced commencent would be postponed indefinitely, financial compensation is still in the works. Some students are concerned that getting financial compensation might take away resources that are included when students pay their tuition. 

Isabella Marseille, the creator of the petition, felt that, “administration had gone about the situation in one of the worst ways I’ve ever seen.” Marseille believed that she, “couldn’t just stand by and be complacent”, which lead her to write the petition 

Shortly thereafter, The Student Government Association and Graduate Student Senate created a list of demands to give to the school regarding issues of housing, meal plans, refunds, student jobs, and other issues that have come with the closing of campus.   

Both of these demands have risen because of the abrupt change in plan that UMass administration decided to go through. On Friday March 13, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy emailed students stating that all “in-person classes, including laboratory, studio, capstone, and graduate courses” would be suspended for the remainder of the semester. 

The decision to close campus came about two days after administration had announced an extended spring break that would end in April. 

Although both the list of the demands from the SGA and Marseille’s petition came about separately, Marseille believes that her petition demonstrates, “that not just the student government is angry, we are all angry,” and that the two help each other in showing that the general student body is upset at UMass.

Although statements from the school were clear in stating that in-person classes would not resume until the fall, students believe that the administration has not been answering other important frequently asked questions. 

This is something that SGA Chief of Staff Tamar Stollman, Chief of Staff at SGA believes is at the core of the issue. 

“I think the school should have included students in this decision-making process,” Stollman said. “If they had done that, there would have been much smoother processes to close the school and account for students who would be losing their homes, meal plans and jobs.” 

As students continue to feel confused over what the rest of the semester will look like, here is what administration has stated and what hasn’t been said yet: 

  • Suspension of all in-person classes and campus closing. Only international students who cannot travel back to their homes and students with extenuating circumstances are allowed to remain on campus. (Announced March 13 and March 16)
  • Changes made to appointment times for Fall 2020 scheduling. Students should check Spire for new appointment times, which have been extended to start on Monday March 23 (March 14)
  • If students have purchased/rented textbooks from Ecampus –UMass’ official textbook provider – they can now access the ebook version of all their books on the Ecampus website under their account. (Announced March 16)
  • Chancellor announced that commencement will be postponed indefinitely. (Announced March 17)
  • Starting March 30, students can select multiple classes as either pass/fail until wednesday, April 29. 
    • This includes all gen-ed and major requirement classes
    • It’s advised that students be aware if they need letter grading for applying to graduate school, medical school, etc. 
    • For graduate students, getting a SAT (Satisfactory) is the equivalent of “Passing for Graduate Credit”  (Announced March 22)
  • UMass will be paying all students with campus jobs on the next payroll. This payment will be made based on how many hours students worked From March 1-7. 
    • This does not include work-study students, students paid to do research and students recognized by their supervisors as critical employees
    • Students who are experiencing financial hardships because they are now unemployed can apply to receive support through the school. (Announced March 23)
  • Due to Governor Charlie Baker’s orders of closing all non-essential businesses, UMass will be suspending all move out plans that were previously stated to be implemented over the next few weeks. These move out plans will resume once the stay-at-home advisory is over on April 7.  (Announced March 24)
  • Administration has not made any announcement or official statement if it will financially compensate students in terms of tuition, meal plan and room and board. 
  • UPDATE: As of March 27 at 12:03 PM UMass has announced that it will refund students room and board fees. This includes any parking fees and meal plans. Students have the option of taking the money cash, check, or applying it to tuition for the Fall 2020 semester once the money is made available to students.
  • Although professors may have policies regarding students who do not have access to the internet or other materials for online classes, the university has yet to release any official protocol on what students should do amid any hardships they may be facing with the change to remote learning.
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