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Important Information About the 2020–21 Academic Year, July 29, 2020

Dear Smith students and families:

We write to update you on Smith’s planning for the fall, specifically with regard to COVID-19 screening, quarantine requirements and the academic experience. We are sending this now in light of new higher education guidance from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where the coronavirus spread is currently low but vigilance, thankfully, remains high. We hope that this information is helpful as you make plans for travel and course enrollment.

Testing, quarantine and public health behaviors

The health and safety of our community remains our priority. Screening for current COVID-19 infection is a key element of our health and safety plan. Screening is essential for quickly identifying and isolating cases so that we can effectively mitigate the spread of the virus. Accordingly, the first time every student comes to campus—and at regular intervals thereafter—they will be screened. Test results are expected to be delivered within 24 to 36 hours through our screening partner, the Eli and Edythe Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, which is providing one of the best screening systems in the country.

In accordance with commonwealth regulations, students from Massachusetts or lower-risk states, or those from higher-risk states who present documentation of a negative test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival in Massachusetts, will not be required to quarantine. All others will have to quarantine until they receive a negative test result. For our students, quarantine means staying in their rooms, with meals provided through contactless delivery. Students who test positive will be transferred to a dedicated isolation space on campus where they will receive treatment and support. Please note: No one exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms should come to campus. We ask that students follow the Safer-at-Home protocol for two weeks before arrival.

As always, it remains critical that each one of us follows the CDC-recommended public health measures that have been proven to reduce the coronavirus spread. Everyone on campus will be required to wear a mask, observe good handwashing hygiene and maintain physical distancing. We are grateful to have the support of student leaders—the Student Public Health Advisers and the Community Health Organizers—in getting the word out via a public information campaign about the importance of working together to keep one another healthy and safe.


The commonwealth of Massachusetts’ most recent regulations allow for transient travel without quarantine or testing; that is, parents or guardians or other adults are permitted to come to campus for purposes of move-in without testing if their time in the commonwealth does not include an overnight stay. We recognize that students and families traveling long distances or from abroad will require an overnight stay, possibly in a neighboring state. We offer more information here.

Academic experience

The Smith faculty is hard at work preparing to provide the most engaging academic experience possible. They continue to plan for multiple modes of teaching, so that they can give their full focus to each student’s learning experience and provide continuity should pandemic conditions require changes to instructional plans. A number of courses will be multimodal, such as some first-year seminars, labs and performance courses; many courses will be remote, especially for their routine activities, but may also incorporate small-group discussions, one-on-one meetings with faculty and other opportunities for in-person engagement.

Because faculty know best how students learn in their disciplines, they have the freedom to design their courses in the format they believe will best meet students’ needs under the current circumstances. We encourage you to check the course listings on BannerWeb for updated course delivery information.

In the context of a rapidly evolving public health situation, we continue to monitor the pandemic context and public health guidance around the country and the world and to update our COVID-19 website accordingly. If you have questions not addressed on the site, please feel free to write to And rest assured that if circumstances change significantly, we will adjust our plans accordingly.

In a world of uncertainties, we want you to know that one thing is certain: the faculty and staff of Smith College are rising to the challenges of this unprecedented time with dedication, commitment and a resolve to deliver the best academic experience possible to you, our students. This remarkable community of learners and scholars ensures that a Smith College education remains a powerful and transformative experience.

We wish you continued good health and look forward to greeting you—whether in person or remotely—very soon.


Kathleen McCartney

David DeSwert
Vice President for Finance and Administration

Michael Thurston
Provost and Dean of the Faculty