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A Culture of Care

Read Smith’s UPDATED plans as of August 5, 2020,
for an entirely remote fall 2020 semester.

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Smith College A Culture of Care

COVID-19 Response Plan

Throughout the spring and summer of 2020, staff, students and faculty across the college developed a plan for Smith’s response to COVID-19—a plan with health and safety, students’ education and the Smith experience at the center. That plan, titled “A Culture of Care,” underscores the core value that must guide every member of the Smith community—caring for ourselves and for one another.

Smith’s plan will continue to evolve in response to emerging local, state and federal public health guidance.


Fall 2020 Semester Changes

As noted in President McCartney’s letter of August 5, 2020, the college announced that it will switch to a fully remote fall 2020 semester.

President McCartney and Others: Please Wear a Mask

President Kathleen McCartney joined local leaders in an op-ed to support mask wearing in Northampton.

Announcing a Change to Our Fall 2020 Plan

Dear members of the Smith College community:

In my communications to you about the COVID-19 pandemic, I shared that if public health circumstances changed, Smith’s plans could change as well. In the past several weeks, we have learned significantly more about this pernicious virus from biomedical researchers and have followed with interest the experience of schools where students have returned.

Given new scientific evidence, as well as recent and troubling trends nationally and in Massachusetts, I have come to the difficult conclusion that we should not bring students back to campus for the fall semester. Instead, to keep our campus and local community as safe as possible during this period of high risk, we will offer all courses in the fall semester, including those for graduate and post-bacc students, remotely.

I know this decision is profoundly disappointing to many of you, especially our second-semester seniors set to graduate in January, as well as our international students. I want to share the factors that led my leadership team and me to this decision, which is based on considerations for our community’s health and safety. In early July, we announced our Culture of Care plan for on-campus instruction in 2020–21, informed by the best public health information and guidance available at the time. So what has changed in just a few short weeks?

  • “Troubling new phase”: Last weekend, our nation’s leading infectious disease specialists warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has entered a “troubling new phase” in which the virus is “extraordinarily widespread.”
  • Increased transmission rates: As I write this, the United States has reached nearly 5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and just last week 18 states set new daily case records. Massachusetts, which had successfully reduced coronavirus transmission to one of the lowest rates in the country, now is seeing an increase in community spread.
  • Potential for rapid asymptomatic transmission: Studies have shown that 40 percent of infected individuals never manifest symptoms but can still spread the virus. Even in the context of rigorous, frequent COVID-19 screening, such as we were prepared to administer, the potential for asymptomatic spread on an open residential campus like ours is high.
  • Failed school reopenings: Just yesterday, The New York Times reported on a secondary school in Israel that, within days of reopening, experienced a series of COVID-19 infections that “quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single school in Israel, possibly the world.” Through community transmission, the cases in the school were ultimately responsible for infecting “hundreds of students, teachers and relatives.” We have seen similar incidents at schools and camps in the U.S. as well, demonstrating how hard it is to create the conditions necessary to protect schools from an outbreak of the virus.

We have a civic duty to the communities in which we live and work. By limiting the number of students and employees on campus, we will mitigate the potential exposure of many people to the virus—not only those connected to Smith but also those living in the greater Northampton area. By asking students to study at home this fall, we will reduce travel in and out of Massachusetts and surrounding states, thereby supporting essential public health efforts to reduce transmission of the virus. As critical as higher education may be, none of us wants it to be the driver of a second wave of virus transmission in our host communities.

I assure you that our faculty and staff remain deeply committed to supporting the education of our students. We have been hard at work all summer on plans for a remote learning contingency. While the mode of instruction is changing temporarily, students will still receive the high-quality academic experience they have come to expect from Smith College.

  • Smith faculty members have invested time and resources in redesigning their courses to deliver an outstanding remote academic experience.
  • Faculty advisers will be in frequent contact with advisees, ready to provide guidance not only in the selection of courses but also about the wide range of support services the college has in place for all students.
  • We are committed to providing broad technology support, with a particular emphasis on students whose access to technology and connectivity is limited by their financial or residential circumstances.
  • We will be moving forward on the actions outlined in Toward Racial Justice at Smith, and we look forward to hosting numerous virtual events, such as Cromwell Day.
  • We are preparing to provide engaging co-curricular offerings for students. For example, this Friday the Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs finals will be held via Zoom. This fall, students can expect virtual recreational opportunities, health and wellness programs, leadership workshops and more.
  • And I look forward to hosting traditional college events like Convocation, presidential colloquia and Mountain Day.

My team and I will answer all of your questions, and we will be in touch with more information soon. We are updating our COVID-19 website and FAQ and will be announcing a series of webinars for students as well as staff and faculty. As before, I invite you to send your questions to

I am grateful to everyone in the Smith College community for your understanding and patience as we learn together through this global pandemic. To the students who were invited to return to campus this fall, I can only imagine how disruptive this decision is for you; to all students, I want you to know how empty the campus feels without you. I remain optimistic that, with improved treatment and prevention protocols, we will be able to return to life together, in person, in this remarkable community. In the meantime, we will focus on what Smith does best—teaching and learning, supporting and caring for one another, and continuing to do good work in and for the world.

Take care and be well.


Kathleen McCartney

Updated Fall 2020 FAQ

What led Smith to make the decision to change their fall plans?
Public health data, both at the national and state levels, indicated a rise in coronavirus infections and an increasing need to take significant actions to help prevent the spread of the disease. Additionally, as President McCartney wrote in her letter, “By limiting the number of students and employees on campus, we will mitigate the potential exposure of many people to the virus—not only those connected to Smith but also those living in the greater Northampton area.”

Will there be any changes to the academic calendar?
At this time, there are no further changes to the academic calendar.

Will there be any further changes to course load expectations?
No. Students may still elect to take three or four courses in the fall term. Additionally, students may choose to take four-to-six more credits during the six-week January/February interterm.

Will any students be invited to live on campus? Can students apply/appeal to be on campus?
All permissions for students approved to live on campus for fall semester have been rescinded. An extraordinarily small number of students—those who demonstrate a complete inability to meet academic and learning outcomes in their home environments—may apply to be in residence. An application will be made available on August 10. Students currently on campus will be contacted by residence life on August 6 regarding housing permissions. For those students approved to be in residence, including Ada Comstock Scholars, a limited dining option will be available.

How will this decision affect Ada Comstock Scholars using campus housing?
If an Ada has already been assigned housing on campus, that housing assignment will remain. No additional Adas will be assigned housing after August 5.

How will this decision affect graduate and post-bacc students?
All graduate courses will be taught remotely. Graduate students currently living in campus housing may remain on campus and will be subject to the on-campus screening requirements and community health standards. No additional campus housing assignments will be made after August 5. Further information on graduate programs will be forthcoming.

Will asymptomatic screening still be available to faculty, staff and students on campus?
Yes. Smith will continue to provide and require asymptomatic screening for employees and students on campus.

Will students living locally or approved to be in residence have access to campus learning resources?
No. All academic engagement will occur remotely, and all campus resources will be available through remote access only. Outdoor areas of the campus and the botanic garden remain open to the public. Campus buildings will remain open only to authorized faculty, staff and students.

Can students defer their admission or take a leave of absence?
New students can defer their admission offer with a deadline of Aug. 17 by writing to the dean of admission at Deposits will be held for the following year. Current students can opt to take a personal leave by Aug. 28 by contacting

Will there be changes to student course registration?
Yes. Registration will be slightly delayed for returning students. More information, including any course changes or further changes to the registration schedule, will be shared as soon as it is available. Registration for first-year students will take place during the orientation period as planned.

If I have already paid my bill, will I get a refund for my room and board?
Yes, a full refund will be processed shortly.

Will my financial aid be adjusted?
If you have been approved to live on campus, your financial aid award will be adjusted to reflect that you will no longer be charged for room and board. This may or may not have an impact on your estimated family contribution. The additional $2,000 increase to the personal expense allowance remains intact for the full academic year.

Does this decision affect the plans for the Campus School or the Center for Early Childhood Education?
Both the Campus School and the Center for Early Childhood Education (Fort Hill) will review their plans in light of this announcement and share updates with their community shortly.

How can students request remote learning support?
Digital support requests for remote learning can be submitted via the COVID-19 Digital Support website.

Will the college reimburse travel or housing expenses for students who were planning on traveling to Smith in August?
Unfortunately, the college is not able to reimburse personal expenses.

Will the Schacht Center still provide remote resources?
Yes, the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness will continue to provide accessible, remote mental, physical, disability and wellness services. Counseling Services will offer a range of services to all students regardless of their proximity to campus. The type of service available to students is dictated by laws governing appropriate practice and scope of care across state lines. All students are eligible to participate in Schacht Center for Health and Wellness group programming. Students who are off campus will have access to individual coaching sessions and support in finding local services. Students living in Massachusetts—whether on campus or not—will have access to individual therapy and support with any other needed services. Medical services will continue to be available for the limited number of enrolled students on campus.

Will co-curricular activities continue virtually?
Yes, the college will have a robust virtual engagement program for the fall semester.

How will having a remote semester affect the college’s financial situation?
The college will continue to review the financial implications of a remote semester. Smith’s underlying financial condition is strong.

Is the college adjusting its pricing structure for 2020–21 in response to COVID-19?
In recognition of the financial burdens that COVID-19 has imposed on students and families, the college took two key actions. We increased financial aid to help offset the impacts of the pandemic, and we rolled back our planned tuition increase. We remain committed to meeting every Smith student’s full demonstrated financial need and to reviewing each student’s award if their financial circumstances have changed. There are no additional changes planned for the 2020–21 pricing structure.

How will remote instruction be different than it was last spring?
Smith’s move to a full-remote spring semester occurred in a short period of time, without advance preparation, and using the resources at hand. In contrast, faculty have now been working all summer with the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning and the COVID-19 Digital Support team to develop and support robust, engaging teaching models tailored to remote delivery. Further, the move to a full-remote semester (vs. a multimodal semester with students learning both in-person and remotely) will allow faculty to focus their efforts on a single, consistent mode of delivery.

Will faculty and staff continue to be allowed on campus?
There are no changes at this time to the college’s Return to Campus policy for employees. Employees must be authorized to return to campus as part of their departments’ operating plans.

Will the college be remote-only in the spring?
The college has not yet made a decision regarding the spring semester. If the college is able to bring students back to campus in the spring, the commitment to include juniors and seniors in that group remains.

How does this impact international students?
Under federal law, new students will not be able to obtain an F-1 visa since Smith’s academic program will be fully remote. International students may begin their Smith education remotely or request a deferral by contacting the dean of admission at Returning international students currently in the United States may remain in the country and study remotely. Any international student who takes a leave of absence must leave the U.S.

Is Smith College health insurance still available to students studying remotely?
Yes. Students who wish to switch to pre-existing coverage and opt out of the Smith College insurance plan can consult the Student Financial Services website.

Can I keep my Smith health insurance if I take a personal leave this fall?
Yes. A Continuation Plan has been made available due to the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please visit the Student Financial Services website for more information.

Building Name Details
Administrative Buildings Closed to the public. On-campus employee and student access only.
Campus Center Closed to the public. Limited hours and capacity.
Campus Center Café Open for pre-order and take-out only.
Campus Center Post Office Information to come.
Conference Center No external events or visitors.
Libraries Closed to the public. Contactless pickup only, see details.
Lyman Plant House Closed to all visitors. Academic use only by approval.
Residential Houses Only open to students assigned to each house with limits on non-resident students. No off-campus or overnight guests.
Smith College Museum of Art Closed to all visitors. Academic use only by approval.
Student Affinity Spaces Unity House, Helen Hills Hills Chapel, Kosher Kitchen, the Mwangi Cultural Center, and the Resource Center for Sexuality and Gender are open with limited hours and capacity.
Print and Copy Services Open for Smith production needs. Contact
Center for Early Childhood Education Closed for the fall semester.
Campus School Information to come.
Bookstore All business done remotely. See:

Response Planning Groups

CIRT Membership

Finance Membership

  • Membership: Members of ACRA/CMP
  • Kathleen McCartney, President, Chair
  • David DeSwert, VP for Finance and Administration, Chair
  • Michael Thurston, Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Vice Chair
  • Camille Bacon ’21, SGA selected representative
  • Darcy Buerkle, Associate Professor of History and Faculty Council
  • Betsy Carpenter, Associate Vice President for Development
  • Samantha Earp, Vice President for Information Technology
  • Rick Fantasia, Barbara Richmond 1940 Professor in the Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology and Faculty Council
  • Laurie Fenlason, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
  • Bosiljka Glumac, Professor of Geosciences and Faculty Council
  • Kate Gola, Director of Budgets and Financial Planning
  • Saari Greylock, Senior Academic Budget Manager
  • Kristin Hughes, Director of Athletics
  • Susan Levin, Roe/Straut Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy
  • Mahnaz Mahdavi, Professor of Economics and Faculty Council
  • Katie McGarry AC, SGA selected representative
  • Esther Mejia ’21, SGA President
  • Borjana Mikic, Associate Dean for Integrative Learning
  • Madelyn Neely, Administrative Coordinator School for Social Work
  • Joanna Olin, Chief of Staff
  • Bill Peterson, Associate Provost and Dean of Faculty
  • Beth Raffeld, Senior Vice President for Alumnae Relations and Development
  • Danielle Carr Ramdath, Dean of the Senior Class
  • John Singler, Associate Vice President for ITS (Enterprise Application & Data Services)
  • Audrey Smith, Vice President for Enrollment
  • Anne-Marie Szmyt, Associate Vice President for Human Resources
  • Baishakhi Taylor, Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of the College
  • Hélène Visentin, Professor of French Studies and Associate Dean of the Faculty/Dean for Academic Development
  • Susan Voss, Chaired Professor of Engineering
  • Frazer Ward, Associate Professor of Art and Faculty Council Chair
  • Dano Weisbord, Executive Director, Sustainability and Campus Planning
  • Greg White, Mary Huggins Gamble Professor of Government

Enrollment and Financial Aid Membership

  • Audrey Smith, Vice President for Enrollment, Chair
  • Dave Belanger, Director of Student Financial Service
  • Gretchen Herringer, Registrar
  • Danielle Carr Ramdath, Dean of the Senior Class and Associate Dean of the College
  • Kate Gola, Director of Budgets and Financial Planning
  • Julie Ohotnicky, Dean of Students and Associate Dean of the College
  • Rebecca Hovey, Dean for International Study
  • Hélène Visentin, Associate Dean of the Faculty

Academic Program Membership

  • Michael Barresi, Professor of Biological Sciences
  • Samantha Earp, Vice President for Information Technology
  • Michael Gorra, Mary Augusta Jordan Professor of English Language and Literature
  • Gretchen Herringer, Registrar
  • Susan Levin, Roe/Straut Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy
  • Sara Pruss, Professor of Geosciences and Director of the Sherrerd Center for Teaching & Learning
  • Danielle Ramdath, Dean of the Senior Class and Associate Dean of the College
  • Michael Thurston, Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Chair
  • Susan Voss, Achilles Professor of Engineering
  • Dano Weisbord, Executive Director, Sustainability and Campus Planning
  • Greg White, Mary Huggins Gamble Professor of Government

Campus Life Membership

  • Baishakhi Taylor, Dean of the College and Vice President for Campus Life, Co-Chair
  • Julie Ohotnicky, Dean of Students and Associate Dean of the College, Co-Chair
  • Floyd Cheung, Vice president for Inclusion and Equity
  • Scott Richards, Assistant Vice President for Facilities and Grounds
  • Andy Cox, Director of Dining Services
  • Hannah Durrant, Director of Residence Life 
  • Kris Mereigh, Associate Director, Wellness Education
  • Kristin Hughes, Director of Athletics

Health Practices Membership

  • Kris Evans, Interim Director of the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness, Associate Director for Counseling Services, Co-Chair
  • Jim Gray, Associate Vice President for Facilities & Operations, Co-Chair
  • Tara Dumont, College Physician
  • Laura Rauscher, Disability Services Director
  • Benita Jackson, Professor of Psychology 
  • Rob Dorit, Professor of Biological Sciences
  • Corey Lynch, Environmental Health & Safety Manager