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COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Last Updated: May 22, 2020

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When will Smith announce its plans for the fall semester?
The academic planning group, led by Provost Michael Thurston, is considering a range of approaches to our curriculum that prioritize safety, flexibility and academic quality. To help each of you in your planning, we commit to sharing our plans for the fall in early July.

What is the status of fall 2020 study-abroad programs?
In light of ongoing health and safety challenges around the world related to COVID-19, the college has made the difficult decision to suspend all study abroad for the fall 2020 semester.

The safety and well-being of our community was the paramount factor in reaching this decision. At this point, we do not have the public health information necessary to assure us that we can keep students safe on Smith-sponsored study and travel abroad, nor the confidence that travel restrictions would not impede students’ return home if needed.

Will any employees be placed on furlough?
Yes. On May 20, President McCartney announced a summer furlough program for 231 staff members. These employees are in departments throughout the college and are distributed nearly equally across administrative, administrative support and union roles.

How are employee benefits affected during the furlough period?
Benefit information for furloughed employees can be found on the HR website.


When will Smith announce its plans for the fall semester?
The academic planning group, led by Provost Michael Thurston, is considering a range of approaches to our curriculum that prioritize safety, flexibility and academic quality. To help each of you in your planning, we commit to sharing our plans for the fall in early July.

Will remote work for faculty and staff continue through the summer?
Yes. In order to safeguard those students and employees living and working on campus, we anticipate that remote work will continue through much of the summer. Faculty requests for exceptions to the remote work policy can be addressed to the Office of the Provost, which will consult with the Committee on Academic Priorities; staff requests can be addressed to Human Resources. Please note that exceptions will only be granted when there is a compelling reason.

Can faculty access research labs over the summer?
While laboratory access is permitted by the state in its reopening plan, we are not prepared to grant such access at this time. Safe reopening of labs requires compliance with newly defined safety standards and protocols. Provost Michael Thurston will work with the science planning committee and the CIRT to develop guidelines for limited access to labs and will communicate those guidelines and the process for seeking access soon.

When will Smith make a decision regarding the fall 2020 semester?
The college will balance federal, state and local government recommendations, along with public health guidance, to determine any potential changes to the academic calendar. Should an adjustment to the calendar be necessary, we will contact all current and new students immediately.

Is Smith planning to open as scheduled for the fall 2020 semester?
We are hoping and planning for an in-person fall semester. Further, if a fall opening is delayed we are prepared to offer a full, in-person academic year even if the year therefore goes longer than usual or has fewer breaks. Nonetheless, we are actively planning for alternate scenarios in case COVID-related disruptions prevent us from gathering on campus for full, residential operations in the fall. In addition to considering a delayed start to the year, we are also mapping out scenarios that could easily be adapted to alternate modes of instruction.

What is the status of non-tenure-track faculty hiring?
Please see Provost Michael Thurston's message regarding non-tenure-track hiring this year.

Is the construction of Neilson Library affected?
Yes. While the Neilson Library construction project is active as of early May, strict safety protocols - including daily temperature checks - are in place.

Are summer programs canceled?
Yes. All summer programs, including the Campus School June Program; all external rentals of campus facilities, including those in the conference center; in-person Executive Education programs; and Summer at Smith pre-college programs are canceled through the end of August 2020. Please see the April 14 letter to the community for more information.

Will the School for Social Work program be held on campus this summer?
The Smith College School for Social Work will move all courses to alternate modes of instruction for summer 2020. Visit the School for Social Work website for more information.

How has COVID-19 and the college’s response impacted athletics?
Please refer to the athletics COVID-19 response for current information on the impact to Smith athletics programs.

Is the Campus School closing?
The closure of the Campus School has been extended to the end of the school year as per an April 21 announcement by Governor Charlie Baker.

Is the Fort Hill Center for Early Childhood Education closing?
The Center for Early Childhood Education remains closed until further notice.

Are campus buildings open?
No. Academic and administrative buildings are only open to essential employees. Residential houses are only open to students and essential employees assigned to those houses. All outdoor athletic facilities and gardens are closed as well.

Are on-campus meetings and events canceled?
Yes. The college is requiring that all in-person gatherings and events not deemed critical for continued operations be canceled or moved to remote delivery methods.

How will on-campus mail service and delivery be affected?
Students: As of Monday, March 23, mail services will be closing the retail and student pickup windows and will only be on campus to process campus-related mail. Students who are remaining on campus will receive notices and be able to pick up their letters and packages from the lockers at the Campus Center. If items arrive that cannot be loaded into lockers, mail services will contact students directly to coordinate a pickup time. Students’ mailing and shipping needs can be fulfilled at the Northampton Post Office at 37 Bridge St., Northampton.

Faculty and Staff: Mail will be delivered to the normal drop-off locations on Tuesday each week, however, ordinary sorting of mail at each drop-off location is suspended except in offices supporting a critical operation. All campus employees are strongly discouraged from coming to campus to retrieve mail. If faculty or staff expect mail crucial to ongoing critical operations, they should be in contact with their chair and/or manager to make appropriate arrangements. Employees who need to make regular visits to campus in order to manage essential mail functions must receive appropriate HR approval to do so, if not already approved for on-campus critical operations. Although outgoing campus mail will be picked up on Tuesdays, it will be metered and go out on Thursdays. If departments have specific mailing needs that are of an urgent nature, or would like to coordinate a mailing drop off, please contact Sarah Marshall at smarshall@smith.edu for assistance.

How will working remotely affect essential processes handled by the controller's office?
For information on reimbursements, payments, Workday processes and more, please visit the COVID-19 Reference Guide for Working Remotely.

Who should I contact if I have questions about COVID-19 at Smith College?
Questions about Smith's response to COVID-19 should be sent to covid19info@smith.edu.

What is Smith’s admission deferral deadline? Will it be extended this year, particularly if Smith offers only remote instruction in the fall?
We require deferral requests by June 1 so that we can offer available spaces to students on our waitlist. While this deadline remains in place, should we adjust the fall calendar, we will consider deferral requests to either January or September 2021.

If Smith is not able to offer in-person instruction in the fall, will there be an option to enroll in January?
Yes. Typically Smith does not enroll new first-year students in January, but should it be necessary to adjust our calendar, we will enroll first year students in January 2021. If that is the case, we will conduct a full orientation program.

I am an international student and do not know if I will be able to obtain a visa. What are my options?
If you are unable to obtain a visa in time for the fall orientation, you can defer your enrollment to January or Fall 2021.

What are Smith’s policies for AP credit? Have any adjustments been made for the revised AP exam?
Yes. Smith College will grant credit for the modified Advanced Placement exams taken in May 2020 in accordance with our existing prematriculation credit policy (https://www.smith.edu/about-smith/registrar/transfer-credit).  When the AP credit is being used to meet a prerequisite requirement, the student must have a conversation with the course instructor or a representative of the department to verify that they have a comprehensive grasp of the background that is essential for that course.  In some disciplines, the student may be required to take a subject matter/placement exam in order to demonstrate that knowledge.

My family’s financial situation has changed because of the pandemic.  Will Smith review my financial aid award?
Admitted students who are appealing their financial aid award may access our Appeal and Request for Review Form on Net Partner (Downloadable Forms section) or on our Review Request webpage.

Visit the Health & Prevention page for information on transition of care and travel safety.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

If you have had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from an area affected by COVID-19, please contact your primary care provider for guidance. Do not go in person to any medical provider without first speaking to medical staff over the phone for advice.

Students should call the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness at 413-585-2250. Medical staff are also available outside of normal business hours at 413-585-1260. Students are asked to provide health updates to the Schacht Center via the secure and confidential patient portal.

Faculty and staff should contact their primary care providers. If you are an employee, notify your department head. In support of social distancing, we recommend using telehealth resources. For employees, Harvard Pilgrim, the college’s health insurance provider, supports doctorondemand.com.

Whether student, staff or faculty, if you suspect you may be sick, follow your primary care provider’s guidance, remain at home and practice self-isolation to limit the spread of the disease. Additionally, please fill out this private form to support the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness in its public health response. Updates can also be sent to healthservices@smith.edu with the subject “COVID follow up.” 

Please note that the Schacht Center cannot provide medical services to employees and is only acting in this case as a repository of community health information.

Refer to the Exposure Response & Protocol page for more information.

What should students, faculty and staff do to minimize the risk of transmitting the disease on campus?
The college strongly recommends following CDC prevention guidelines, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home unless procuring essential items (groceries, medicine).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Should I wear a face covering?
As per an order of the Mayor of Northampton, Smith College is now requiring that face coverings be worn on campus when in outdoor spaces. For details, refer to the full campus announcement.

How is the college planning for a potential outbreak of COVID-19?
The college’s response to COVID-19 is being led by the COVID-19 incident response team, which is meeting daily to set policies for and issue operational guidance to the Smith community in response to the disease.

Will my Smith-provided health insurance change?
No. There will be no changes to the college-provided insurance coverage.

If I am an international student, will Smith's student health insurance cover me in my home country?
Yes, but it will be considered "out-of-network." As such, any claims will be covered at 80% of usual and customary charges. There is also a $300 deductible for out-of-network providers. Blue Cross Blue Shield does also have a global network of providers. Visit BCBS - Global Core to search for doctors around the world. This link is also available at Smith's home page on www.gallagherstudent.com under "Find a doc."

Does the college have a quarantine protocol in place?
Yes. The college’s emergency plans include a pandemic protocol that covers, among other contingencies, the need for various modes of on-campus quarantine.

How is Smith College supporting the local community during the COVID-19 pandemic?
In partnership with Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Smith is donating currently vacant on-campus housing to support the hospital's needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The college also donated supplies to the City of Northampton—including 250 cots and 80 meals a day—to expand sheltering capacity for the local homeless population.

How are summer Praxis programs affected?
The Lazarus Center will consider Praxis internship proposals in which students work for organizations remotely. Further, in recognition of the disruptions that workplaces are experiencing due to COVID, the Center will extend application deadlines and offer greater flexibility in work-hour requirements. The requirement that Smith funds can only be used for remote internships in summer 2020 holds for all internship programs across the college.

How are SURF projects affected?
The Science Center will work with faculty sponsors to advance SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) projects that can be supervised appropriately by remote means. 

How were spring 2020 classes graded?
While faculty recorded letter grades, all spring 2020 classes were moved to mandatory S/U grading. These courses did not count against the cap of 16 S/U credits that can be counted toward degree completion. Students who had elected S/U credits for this semester had those credits converted to mandatory S/U so that the previously elected credits did not count against the cap.

Why were spring 2020 classes moved to mandatory S/U grading?
We changed this semester’s grades to S/U to recognize the extraordinary character of current circumstances. As we moved instruction into alternative modes, we necessarily changed our agreements about expectations and assessments. In a new and unfamiliar environment, we could not hold faculty and students to expectations constructed in and for a different instructional experience.

Did the mandatory S/U grading apply to students studying abroad/away?
Course work completed through a non-Smith study abroad program, carrying grades issued by an external institution or provider, was accepted as transfer credit (i.e., not institutional credit) and did not count in the student GPA.

Did the mandatory S/U grading apply to Five College courses?
Yes. The policy applied to course work that was defined as institutional and would normally count in the student GPA, including courses taken by Smith students through the Five College interchange. Grades submitted by the host institutions were converted to S/U grades per the existing college policy.

What if students require letter grades for professional programs, employment or graduate studies?
Because letter grades will be recorded, it will be possible for students to request an official letter attesting those grades should that be necessary. This letter would attest only to grades, not to GPA. We will ensure that those who need evidence of your academic achievements this spring will be able to get it. Please visit the registrar's website for more information.

How will this change affect my GPA?
Grades for spring 2020 courses will not enter into GPA calculations and the college will not be able to calculate or communicate alternative GPAs.

What library resources are available for students?
Please visit the Libraries Services During COVID-19 website for information.

What is the expected financial impact of COVID-19 on the college’s current fiscal year budget (FY20)?
The college has an estimated gap of $8M - $10M in this year’s budget, primarily attributable to refunded room and board fees. We believe we will be able to address this shortfall by implementing a hiring freeze, curtailing departmental spending through the rest of FY20 and relying on our reserves.

What is the expected financial impact of COVID-19 on the college’s FY21 budget, beginning July 1, 2020?
The global pandemic is affecting our endowment and constraining two additional -- and sizable -- revenue sources: net student income and philanthropic gifts. Enrollment could be limited by international travel restrictions, students’ and families’ financial needs are expected to grow, and donors may not have as much capacity to donate to Smith. In light of these revenue constraints, we will likely need to reduce our budget by 10-15% ($25-35 million). The specific figure will depend largely on the duration of physical distancing requirements and the implications of those requirements on residential colleges like Smith. 

What actions have the college already taken to reduce spending?
The college has taken several actions, including: suspending nearly all capital projects; providing no salary increases through the end of the calendar year; implementing a hiring freeze with rare exceptions for faculty and staff positions that are deemed critical for the college; and more as outlined in the April 20 letter from the President and the Vice President for Finance and Administration.

Will my mail be forwarded?
Mail Services is requesting that all students verify their current mailing address. If changes need to be made, please email registrar@smith.edu. This will ensure that all First-Class Mail received after your departure is forwarded to the correct address. Please review the guidelines on the Smith College Mail Services website for additional information.

Are there visitor restrictions for those who remain on campus?
Yes. No non-Smith visitors will be permitted in campus houses.

Can students who remain on campus travel outside of Northampton?
No. Students who have been approved to remain on campus may not travel outside of Northampton. Doing so will forfeit the right to retain on-campus housing and dining. Urgent travel needs should be brought to the attention of reslife@smith.edu.

What services will still be available on campus for students who remain?
Limited housing, dining, and health and wellness services will be available to those students remaining on campus.

What steps is the college taking to disinfect residence halls and common areas after students retrieve their belongings?
Smith has purchased additional cleaning and disinfecting supplies, and we are working to carry out the proper cleaning of our facilities.

Where can I find details about Smith's participation in the CARES Act?
Detailed reporting is available here.

Is Smith able to access additional federal funding under the CARES act?
Yes. In passing the CARES act, the federal government allotted each college and university funding to award directly to students whose lives and studies have been disrupted by COVID-19. Under the act, Smith College was awarded $1,059,948 to distribute to affected students.

Which students are eligible to receive CARES act funds? 
Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at Smith through the spring 2020 semester who have filed a valid FAFSA demonstrating eligibility for Title IV funds and whose estimated family contribution did not exceed $75,000 are eligible.

How much will eligible students receive in CARES act funding?
Eligible students will receive a one-time payment of $630 via direct deposit or a check mailed to their address on file.

Do students need to apply for CARES act funding?
No. Funds will automatically be distributed to eligible students.  
 
Are there any restrictions on how eligible students can use CARES act funding?

Yes. Under federal guidelines, these funds can only be used to offset expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19, such as transportation, food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and child-care expenses. If any recipient’s additional expenses in these categories did not exceed the funding provided, then they must decline the funds in excess of their expenses and return the unused portion to Smith College by contacting sfs@smith.edu.
 
Sinces CARES act funding only applies to domestic students, how will Smith support international and undocumented students? 

In accordance with Smith’s commitment to equity, the college will use its own funds to provide equal assistance to every eligible international or undocumented student.

How can students access their account credits?
For information on accessing account credits for prorated refunds and other items, please visit Student Financial Services.

When will room and board refunds be processed? 
Residential student room and board refunds were processed during the week of April 6, 2020, for students who have left campus as a result of COVID-19. 

Was there a delay in the refund process?
Yes. There was a slight delay because the college is in the midst of transitioning from Banner to Workday, and student and financial records currently reside in two systems. As a result, it took more time than expected to apply student account credits.

How much of the spring semester’s room and board will be credited to students who have left campus as a result of COVID-19? 
For those students who are not receiving institutional aid, a 50% credit of $4,533 for the spring semester room and board charges (or $2,275 for room only) will be applied to their account. For students receiving institutional aid, the refund will be adjusted based upon the level of financial assistance provided by the college. Every student—even those who were receiving the maximum amount of institutional aid—will receive a minimum of $750 (or $375 if they were not on the college’s meal plan). 

Is the college considering tuition refunds?
There are no plans to issue tuition refunds.

What is the status of fall 2020 study-abroad programs?
In light of ongoing health and safety challenges around the world related to COVID-19, the college has made the difficult decision to suspend all study abroad for the fall 2020 semester.

The safety and well-being of our community was the paramount factor in reaching this decision. At this point, we do not have the public health information necessary to assure us that we can keep students safe on Smith-sponsored study and travel abroad, nor the confidence that travel restrictions would not impede students’ return home if needed.

Is there an option to switch my fall 2020 study-abroad plans to a different term?
Yes. Students will be allowed to switch their study abroad plans to spring 2021 and should notify the Office for International Study of their desire to make this change by completing the Request Form to Change Fall 2020 Study Abroad Plans. Please submit this form by June 15, 2020, if you wish to switch your study abroad plans to spring 2021.

Can students who have been accepted to one of the Smith Programs Abroad (Florence, Geneva, Hamburg or Paris) defer their participation to another, later term?
Yes, as long as the program offers a spring semester option and space is available. For example, the Smith in Paris program is a full-year program only, and therefore students wishing to defer would need to reapply for the following year.

Can I study abroad during fall 2021 as a senior?
Yes. The college has no restrictions against seniors studying abroad. It is recommended that you discuss this option with your academic adviser, class dean and the office for international study.

Since the college is not supporting study abroad starting in the fall, when is the deadline to request a personal leave for the fall semester?
Students can request personal leave voluntarily at any time before the semester begins. Please refer to the Class Deans Office website for more information.

Are there any changes to the approval process for study abroad that starts in spring 2021?
No decisions about spring study abroad have been made. However, as long as the U.S. Department of State keeps its Global Level-4 Health Advisory in place, the college will be unable to support study abroad. Because of this, the study-abroad approval process has been delayed. The college will continue to monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travel Recommendations. Study abroad will not be approved in any country where a CDC level-3 Travel Health Notice remains in place. Should the global situation improve, the Office for International Study will proceed to notify students of their study abroad approval.

Is there an option to switch my study abroad program(s)?
Selecting a study abroad program is a very important decision and should not be taken lightly. The college understands that some countries may not be viable for study abroad, and students with concerns about studying abroad in a particular location should contact the Office for International Study at studyabroad@smith.edu.

Are Smith students able to get funding or transfer credit for summer study-abroad programs this year?
With the U.S. Department of State maintaining its Global Level-4 Health Advisory, the college is unable to support experiences abroad in summer 2020. The Lewis Global Studies Center will not be awarding summer 2020 International Experience Grants (IEGs) or approving transfer credit for summer study abroad.

Will any employees be placed on furlough?
Yes. On May 20, President McCartney announced a summer furlough program for 231 staff members. These employees are in departments throughout the college and are distributed nearly equally across administrative, administrative support and union roles.

How are employee benefits affected during the furlough period?
Benefit information for furloughed employees can be found on the HR website.

How long are furloughs expected to last?
As noted in President McCartney’s May 20 letter, we hope that it will be safe for students to return to campus in the fall. When we know more about the fall semester, we will re-evaluate furlough decisions. Managers will stay in active contact with furloughed employees, and we will keep the community informed of our planning.

Benefits

See important COVID-19 related benefits information here.

Is there any extra assistance for employees facing financial hardship, and how can I access it?
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, a Smith College Employee Assistance Fund was created to support employees and their families. All requests will be kept confidential. Complete the assistance fund form to submit an application. If you have any questions about the application process reach out to covid19info@smith.edu.

How does the Families First Coronavirus Response Act affect Smith’s benefits?
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law on March 17. Smith’s policies already exceed the new minimums set by this law.

Are there any changes to the submission guidelines for 2019 FSA claims?
Yes. Any employees who elected a healthcare or dependent care flexible spending account (FSA) for the calendar year 2019 now have until June 30, 2020 to submit claims to their FSA for reimbursement. Receipts dated prior to March 1, 2020 are eligible for reimbursement. Employees should log into http://www.benstrat.com to submit a receipt or use the FSA online shop. Further questions about 2019 FSA claims should be directed to Benefits Strategies at 888-401-3539.

Employment

What if I exhibit symptoms or suspect I have been exposed to someone with COVID-19?
Refer to the Exposure Response and Protocol page as well as CDC guidelines. Inform your manager of the situation and fill out this private form to support the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness in its public health response. Updates can also be sent to healthservices@smith.edu with the subject “COVID follow up.” Please note that the Schacht Center cannot provide medical services to employees and is only acting in this case as a repository of community health information. If you are among those still working on campus, do not come to work until you have been cleared by a medical provider.

What is the status of casual and agency/temp employees?
All casual employees were placed on a furlough effective March 20 and received regular pay for their scheduled hours from March 15 to March 28. Casual employees who have been employed at Smith for 10 or more years received an additional week of pay; those employed at Smith for 20 or more years received two additional weeks of pay. Workers employed through temporary agencies stopped working effective March 20.

How should I enter my time in Workday?
Smith College has created a new way to enter your time in Workday. These changes ensure that Smith can continue to pay employees and simultaneously provide data to help our HR team understand the impact of COVID-19 on employee pay and time-off banks. Please visit the Workday help site for job aids and a flowchart to help determine how to enter time and time-off on your timesheets.

How should I record time if I am unable to work while I provide care for a family member?
Employees who are taking leave to provide care for ill family members are asked to record this period as “sick time” with the reason as “COVID-19” in Workday. Employees who exhaust their sick time will be allowed to go to a negative sick balance to continue to be paid. Please visit Workday for job aides and a flowchart to help determine how to enter time and time-off on your timesheets.

What considerations are being made for staff who are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19?
If you have a high-risk health condition, you should discuss your situation with your manager after first speaking with your primary care provider. If you cannot perform your work duties from home, your manager and human resources will work with you to evaluate your situation and explore potential solutions.

What if I become ill with COVID-19 and my sick time accrual is already depleted or becomes depleted during my time off?
Employees who have depleted their sick leave balances will have the ability to take additional sick time as needed without penalty. For other health-related absences, employees should follow regular procedures for using their sick time and requesting a leave of absence.

Are there any restrictions in place for travel?
Yes. No Smith-funded travel beyond the Five Colleges is permitted until further notice. Personal travel beyond the Five Colleges is discouraged in the strongest terms.

How are reimbursements being handled for canceled business travel?
Employees should make every effort to recoup costs for canceled travel. Many airlines, for example, have waived flight cancelation or rescheduling fees. Employees unable to arrange for refunds should contact covid19info@smith.edu. Please see the controller's COVID-19 Reference Guide for more information.

Can students or employees return to campus if they have recently spent time in a country with a CDC level-3 designation?
Not immediately. The college now requires any student or employee returning from CDC level-3 countries to self-quarantine and remain symptom-free for a minimum of 14 days before returning to campus. If returning from a CDC alert-level 3 country, students are required to contact their class dean, and employees are required to contact Human Resources.