In COVID crackdown, UMass told students not to go to work, offered pay for them to stay home

After a spike of Covid-19 cases, UMass Amherst instructed students to not leave campus for outside employment.

The university even offered to pay students to stay home from their jobs.

In a recent COVID-19 crackdown, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst advised students not to go to work and offered to pay them to stay home. After the policy had been in place for weeks, the school lifted the restriction for students who complied with a strict testing policy. 

On February 9, the university announced new restrictions implemented in response to a surge of positive COVID-19 test results. The school determined based on contact tracing that the spike was due to students socializing. 

UMass-Amherst issued new protocols and restrictions in light of the surge. Among those included preventing students from leaving their residence halls unless they were buying food, getting their biweekly COVID-19 test, or attending medical appointments. 

“Failure to comply with these directives is a violation of the Code of Student Conduct and will result in disciplinary action, which may include removal from residence halls and/or suspension,” read one announcement.

[RELATED: Berkeley’s draconian COVID-19 restrictions look more like prison than college]

Only students who staff campus testing and vaccination clinics were exempt from this restriction. Student workers who work in research, residential life, or transportation were encouraged to talk to their supervisors to see how their schedules might be affected. 

As for students with jobs off-campus, UMass advised them to “alert your employer to the current situation and complete work remotely if at all possible. To be clear, however, students employed off-campus are expected to follow the self-sequester directive to aid in reducing the spread of the virus.” 

The university then offered money to students if they agreed to stay home rather than go to work: “We understand that the directive to self-sequester may present financial hardship for students who rely on income from their employment to support costs of attendance (tuition, housing, meals, textbooks, etc).  As a result, we have set up a Student Employment Assistance Grant program to support students who are unable to work. Grant awards will be up to $300 per student.” 

The lockdown raised concerns for the Student Government Association, to which many of the students reached out to express their concerns. SGA had hoped to come up with a resolution to request that UMass reconsider its reported restrictions. 

“We’ve tried to communicate our concerns to the administration, but didn’t get any response to that,” SGA President Sonya Epstein said, according to The Daily Hampshire Gazette. “There needs to be an understanding for how they are impacting students...So many students are worried if they go to their shifts that they’re going to be sanctioned.” 

[RELATED: Berkeley orders students home for winter break, but discourages travel due to COVID]

According to Massachusetts Live, UMass offered students with on-campus jobs compensation for the hours they would have normally worked. Students with off-campus jobs were allowed to apply for a Student Employment Assistance Grant.

UMass junior Haley Caroll told The Daily Hampshire Gazette that despite the spike in cases, “Telling students not to go to work, that is pretty unfair.”

On February 22, UMass announced that it would lift some of its restrictions for those who were in compliance with twice-weekly covid testing.

“Students employed off-campus might wish to use the green checkmark to assure their employers of their health status and commitment to public health obligations,” the official UMass Instagram account said.

It noted that ”students out of compliance with the testing protocol will lose access to their fully remote courses.’ 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @LelaGallery