Hundreds of students at Amherst College in Massachusetts are pushing back against what they call the school's overly restrictive COVID-19 protocols that include double masking indoors, restrictions on off-campus activities, and no in-person campus dining.
In a letter sent to President Carolyn “Biddy” Martin a week ago, the students said “the guidelines are not based on any given data, have been developed without student input, are significantly stricter than our peer institutions, and are in conflict with (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines.”
The restrictions originally announced Aug. 24 and designed in response to the spread of the delta variant apply to the first two weeks of the fall semester, which began Monday.
The prestigious private liberal arts college celebrating its 200th anniversary this year had already mandated vaccinations for students, faculty and staff.
In response to the student pushback, Martin explained their necessity in another campuswide email on Aug. 27.
“We are in the midst of a surge, and you are arriving on campus from all over the country and the world, including from delta hotspots," she said, adding later: “Now is not yet the time to relax key restrictions."
She did, however, amend a near-universal outdoor mask mandate, calling it “unworkable," and said masks are now only required outdoors at “high-density gatherings over a sustained time period."
Students are allowed to leave campus to take care of personal business and to pick up takeout meals, but should not go to restaurants, cafes, or bars, she said.
The school has about 1,850 students.
A message was left with a school spokesperson Tuesday.