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Guidance on Reopening Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, May 27, 2020

Dear students, staff, faculty and parents:

Today, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s Reopening Advisory Board released “Safe on Campus,” a framework to guide reopening of the state’s 106 higher education campuses. The framework was developed by a working group of college and university presidents representing a range of public and private institutions.

As you will see, the framework addresses teaching and learning, research and campus life, and aligns with the phases in the state’s overall reopening plan that I shared with you on May 19. It recommends actions to be taken by institutions and by the state, to ensure that this important sector of the Massachusetts economy can safely and progressively return to operation in a context of manageable risk.

An important observation of the report concerns the diversity of institutions throughout the state. Accordingly, a reopening plan and timetable for a residential liberal arts college such as Smith may look different from that of a research university or non-residential community college. Because higher education “is not a one-size-fits-all industry,” the working group observes, “campuses will need to make their own tailored plans for safe operations in the face of COVID-19.”

Of note, the framework recommends

  • Relaunching campus operations gradually, starting with limited programming
  • Reorganizing learning spaces to accommodate physical distancing, which will likely require a mix of in-person and remote learning
  • Tailoring protocols for students’ shared living spaces to campus-specific conditions

An additional—and critical—set of recommendations around protocols for testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation, are not included in the report but are expected soon.

I will be discussing this report and its recommendations with our governance and planning groups, to ensure that our own plan for 2020-21, to be announced in early July, is responsive to these and other best practices.

I thank each of you who have written with your ideas about planning for—and managing through—the COVID-19 pandemic. Please continue to share your thoughts via

Stay safe and be well.


Kathleen McCartney