As a record-setting surge in COVID-19 cases peaked at the 5Cs, Pomona College student leaders asked seniors not to go on traditional “senior week” trips the week before graduation. Harvey Mudd College’s student government similarly scaled back senior week trip plans for COVID-19 safety, but did not cancel them.
Since seniors are required to turn in finals one week earlier than other students, graduating Pomona seniors have traditionally taken celebratory trips to San Diego during finals week. The trips are student-planned and not directly supported by ASPC or the college.
In an April 12 email to Pomona seniors, ASPC President Nirali Devgan PO ’22 and Senior Class President Andreah Pierre said that although “we cannot do anything to stop you,” they “are asking seniors NOT to attend [senior week trips] in hopes of securing a full celebratory Commencement Day involving ALL graduating seniors.”
Through the email, Pierre hopes to prevent students from contracting COVID-19 through exposure so close to commencement, she told TSL. As April unfolded, the 5Cs experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases that resulted in more than 10 percent of the 5C student population having tested positive since the end of spring break. 96 Pomona students tested positive the week of April 4.
“It’s so close to commencement, and it would really suck for [someone] to get COVID and their family comes out here and sees everyone else walk except for [them],” she said.
To compensate, ASPC plans to host three events during and leading up to senior week, including an event with student and professor bands May 6, a pool party on Sunday afternoon and a day trip to the beach on the following Tuesday, Pierre said.
The decision to discourage senior trips was made well before the surge, according to Pierre.
“That email was actually in conversation back in February, March when people started asking about senior week,” she said. “It took me a minute to finally release that email because I knew if I sent an email saying ‘please don’t go,’ but I had nothing to offer in return, people would still go.”
Harvey Mudd College seniors have a similar tradition of taking three-day trips to Mission Beach in San Diego. In contrast to Pomona, ASHMC directly supported the tradition by booking two to three large Airbnbs for students.
For the class of 2022, ASHMC is cutting senior week trip plans to a shorter duration and housing students in smaller pods of five to ten, according to ASHMC Senior Class Co-President Emily Fok HM ’22. Instead of booking housing directly, ASHMC will provide reimbursements for students who request them for trip expenses, said ASHMC Senior Class Co-President Vadim Mathys HM ’22.
Fok is optimistic that Harvey Mudd’s twice-per-week testing requirements will reduce the risk that the trip will impact commencement activities. For students who elect not to go to San Diego, ASHMC plans to host outdoor on-campus events.
Students at both schools have been generally understanding of the COVID-19 precautions, according to Pierre and Fok.
“We’re trying to find a nice balance of keeping the same traditions as previous senior classes while also making sure that we’re being super safe about it,” Fok said. “I think everyone is seeing that for the most part.”
Pierre noted that the ASPC email does not impose any strict limitations and hopes that seniors will heed the warning.
“It’s a little frustrating [when] people are like, ‘I’m still gonna go but I’ll be safe.’ I am offering other things and you don’t have to go to San Diego to have fun with your friends,” Pierre said. “I really want everyone to be there [at commencement].”
For graduating seniors, the impacts are among the last that they will experience in two and a half years of pandemic-affected time at the 5Cs.
“There was a ton of COVID going around the senior class a couple weeks ago, so everyone understands,” Clay Hamilton PO ’22 said. “We’re at the acceptance phase of processing. It’s been long enough.”