Claremont McKenna becomes fourth 5C to hold all fall classes online

central Claremont Mckenna College at sunset from above.
Claremont McKenna College will hold all classes online for the coming fall semester, becoming the fourth 5C to announce a virtual semester. (Jasper Davidoff • The Student Life)

Claremont McKenna College classes will be fully online for the fall semester, President Hiram Chodosh announced in a statement Friday. 

“Given the recent, substantial increases in COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death rates in California and Los Angeles County and, even more decisively, the absence of necessary state and county authorization for residential, in-person higher education programs to reopen, we will not be allowed to resume on-campus learning in the fall,” Chodosh said.

The college will not offer on-campus housing for students, and CMC will remain closed through the fall.

CMC had developed a plan for hybrid instruction in the fall

CMC’s decision follows its July 1 announcement of a potential hybrid model for the fall semester that would have allowed students to live and take classes on campus. 

At that time, the college noted that the hybrid model, detailed in a plan called CMC Returns, would be contingent upon LA County permitting colleges and universities to reopen in the fall, as well as the college’s ability to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students, faculty and staff.

As the college awaited guidance in the weeks following the initial announcement, it planned for students’ potential return, including holding room draw earlier this month. 

Four of the 5Cs are now online

CMC’s commitment to an all-online fall follows in the footsteps of similar online-only plans announced this month from peer institutions Pomona College, Scripps College and Pitzer College

The college’s announcement leaves Harvey Mudd College the sole undergraduate Claremont Colleges looking to welcome students back on campus in the fall. HMC has stated that it plans to bring students back, pending county and state approval for reopening, which will be one decision for all institutions of higher education, according to an FAQ page on HMC’s website.

CMC administrators said they anticipated a directive from the LA County Department of Public Health Friday via email to students Thursday. The department has not made a public announcement on whether colleges and universities will be allowed back in the fall, or what conditions must be present in order to do so. As of 5 p.m. Friday, the website noted there was an “update in progress.”

CMC outlines plans for fostering community off-campus

Though CMC classes will be online in the fall, Chodosh said that the college remains committed to providing students with a robust education.

“After months of intensive study of these serious public health concerns, rigorous planning to overcome them and hopeful anticipation of reconvening, we are disappointed that we cannot be together to take classes in Claremont this upcoming semester. Yet, we see opportunity in this challenge,” Chodosh said.

CMC will be providing smaller class sizes, tutorials, labs to be performed at home and mentorship, according to Chodosh’s email. The college will also offer new courses related to issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, race and the presidential election, according to the CMC Returns website.

Additionally, the Soll Center for Student Opportunity will continue to provide students with internship and full-time opportunities through relationships with alumni and new programs for coaching and virtual networking.

To foster community even as students remain off campus, there will be “robust student-led programming with [College Programming Board]CPB, ASCMC, DOS, the CARE Center, campus clubs, organizations and affinity groups to build community, purpose and play.” Incoming first-years will have a remote orientation, with additional guides this year so that first-years can be in smaller groups. RAs will plan online events.

The Athenaeum will continue to invite speakers virtually, while coaches at Roberts Pavilion will be providing “health and fitnessing programming.”

ASCMC President Johnson Lin said that during the remote semester, the student government will do “everything we can to support and advocate for students.” 

“While it saddens me to not be able to be back on campus this fall, I completely understand and support the prioritization of our community’s health,” Lin told TSL via message.

Furthermore, Chodosh said that CMC will be participating in an antiracism initiative in response to recent Black Lives Matter protests. The college will be engaged with the Presidential Initiative on Anti-Racism and the Black Experience in America and the Open Academy,

Fall CMS athletic competitions canceled

CMS athletic competitions for the fall are canceled, CMS announced today. Though CMS had been making preparations for fall athletics, CMS cited the growing coronavirus crisis in Los Angeles County and the rest of the state in canceling fall competitions.

CMS will continue to work with SCIAC on developing athletics programming for student athletes in the fall.

CMS Physical Education courses and programming from CMS Recreation will be available online.

Tuition and financial aid, support for students and staff

Increased financial aid, including $315 for Wi-Fi and technological support, will be offered to support students through the pandemic. There will be no tuition increase this year.

CMC will have targeted budget cuts and “responsible limits on hiring, salaries and spending,” according to Chodosh’s email.

Though students will not be living on campus in the fall, CMC will provide need-based financial aid to students for the costs of off-campus room and board, including housing, meals, technology and books.

The college has leased off-campus apartments to house those who may have difficulties procuring housing in the fall, such as international students unable to return home. The apartments are located 1.5 miles away from CMC, and there is space for approximately 60 CMC students. Students who wish to live in these apartments must apply by 4 p.m. on July 30.

Matriculation policies, including those for transfer credits, will remain the same.

The college will be providing mental health support through Case Management, including drop-in and group therapy. Students will also be able to access 24/7 free teletherapy through Timely.MD.

“On the heels of an election year, a nationwide rise in Black Lives Matter protests, and increased attention on social equity issues, the CARE Center will help students explore and practice the many strategies and skills through which we can overcome divisive challenges to build stronger, flourishing communities,” the college said on its CMC Returns website.

Additionally, the college will offer support to faculty and staff with technology and training on working virtually, as it goes into another semester online. There will be “on-site medical support” with testing, as well as “extended childcare benefits” since many schools and daycares are either closed or at capacity.

Plans for a potential return to campus in the spring 

As CMC continues to consult with medical experts like epidemiologists and improve its newly-unveiled “CMC Returns for Spring” plan, there will be “ongoing public health assessment in anticipation of a spring return,” per the email. 

A return to campus would most likely involve testing, contact tracing, quarantine and social distancing, as well as outdoor classes and lower-density housing and dining, according to the CMC Returns website.

By the beginning of fall semester, CMC will have an on-campus medical office for coronavirus testing and case management, according to the website.

“The college has also invested significant time, talent and resources into an adaptable restoration plan for on-campus residential and academic life. We are fully confident in this plan, and if permitted, we are prepared to implement it in the spring semester,” the site says. 

If CMC is allowed to reopen campus in the spring, the college plans to redo apartment selection and room draw, according to the website.

CMC’s decision to go online comes amid a rise in COVID-19 cases in California

CMC’s announcement comes in the wake of an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases in LA County that prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to roll back reopening plans and close many K-12 schools around the state. All K-12 schools located in counties on California’s watch list, many in Southern California, must remain closed.

All five undergraduate Claremont Colleges are set to begin instruction on Aug. 24, one week earlier than usual. Classes will wrap up before Thanksgiving break, while final exams will take place the week after Thanksgiving and be completed by Dec. 4. There will be no fall break this year.

CMC will be hosting student, family, staff and faculty forums in the upcoming week.

This is a breaking story and will be updated with further details.

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