Despite issuing a vaccine mandate for students, faculty, and staff to return to campus this fall, Amherst College has implemented a slate of new restrictions, including double-masking and limiting student travel to the town of Amherst.
According to an email sent to campus community members on August 16, President Biddy Martin said the school would be requiring masks for anyone indoors; on August 24, that edict was increased to say students must wear two masks if they are not wearing KN95 masks in classrooms and other academic spaces at full capacity.
The school cited the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus as the need to implement extensive new regulations.
In addition to the masking mandate, no events with alcohol can be held at the beginning of the fall semester, and everyone at sporting events must be masked. No tailgating before or after events will be allowed.
Further, students will not be allowed to go to restaurants and bars in the nearby town of Amherst, and will not be permitted to travel to the town at all unless they are engaging in “business” such as setting up a bank account or picking up prescriptions.
Martin said the school expects to relax some of the rules “when [it is] confident the virus is not harder to control than we had predicted and is not beginning to take an even more virulent form.”
When students arrive on campus, they will be subjected to two COVID-19 tests, then will be tested every two weeks. The school is also shutting down its in-person dining services.
Any student that does test positive for COVID-19 will be forced to quarantine for ten days in designated dorm rooms or at home. If someone comes in close contact with a vaccinated person that has tested positive for COVID, they will not need to quarantine, but will be tested more often.
Over 250 Amherst students objecting to the new rules have signed an open letter to the school’s administration requesting more information on how the mandates came about.
The students call the new rules “frustrating,” as the guidelines “appear to be crafted out of thin air, but also confusing as they contradict what we are seeing and hearing about the transmission of COVID-19.”
The students also ask what benchmarks must be met to eliminate the new regulations if, as the president says, the mandates are only temporary.
“Is it contingent upon the number of students who test positive during move-in?,” they ask. “What might changes to this phase look like? While September 13th was given as a reassessment date for some protocols, the outdoor mask mandate was not one of them. Why is this?”
“This updated set of guidelines appears to be out of line with the current CDC, state, local, and peer institution standards for COVID-19 response and we demand revision and clarification,” the students write, adding, “with these updated regulations, lack of rationale, and shortage of student input, it is currently challenging to believe that Amherst remains committed to our full student experience, and difficult to regain the typical enthusiasm that comes with returning to campus each fall.”
Read the full story from the Amherst Student here.
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