Harvey Mudd College announced Wednesday it plans to return to campus this fall in a hybrid format, pending approval from health officials as the coronavirus pandemic worsens in California.
Mudd’s Board of Trustees approved the plan Tuesday, according to a statement from President Maria Klawe Wednesday afternoon.
Klawe announced a variety of stringent measures “to provide a living and learning haven to the roughly 1,100 Mudders (students, faculty and essential staff) who would most benefit from being physically on our campus,” including various measures to hold students at Mudd and keep others — including members of the consortium — away.
The announcement also acknowledges that it is likely that members of the community could contract COVID-19 and lays out procedures for supporting patients and minimizing exposure.
“As the virus continues to spread in Southern California and across the U.S., we know that we can expect members of our community to contract COVID-19,” Klawe said. “We must be ready so that when it happens, we can support those who most need our help, while continuing to provide the highest quality educational experience possible for our students.”
This fall, Mudders will return back to campus for “a mix of modalities.” The school’s hybrid plan will include both in-person and online instruction.
The College expects up to 70 percent of courses to be held online, such that students can complete their educational requirements in the case of self-isolation. Larger classes will be among those held online to comply with physical/social distancing requirements.
“We will be providing online access to students for most courses, and we expect a large percentage of courses at many of the other colleges to be offered online as well,” Klawe said.
Classes are set to begin Aug. 24 and end Nov. 24, in order to finish the fall semester before the Thanksgiving holiday. Once students leave campus, there is no coming back until spring term. According to the HMC website, there will be no fall break, but there will be a longer winter break.
“We anticipate the 2020-2021 academic year will be unlike any other in the College’s history,” Klawe said.
The College has made the “difficult decision” to restrict Mudd students from taking classes on other campuses and to bar students from other 5C campuses from taking Mudd classes in person.
“I’m an off-campus major so all of those classes will be online,” outgoing ASHMC President Kyle Grace HM ’21 said in an interview. “There are some benefits with all of the classes being recorded, but I personally learn better in person.”
Students will further not be permitted to visit the other 7C campuses or have visitors at HMC, with the exception of one person who can assist them with moving into their residence halls for a designated period of time.
“Some of the recommendations in our preliminary plans may seem in conflict with our position as a member of The Claremont Colleges consortium,” Klawe said. “While we are in near-constant communication with our counterparts as we continue to share and coordinate our respective plans, as of the writing of this message, some of the other colleges have not yet made their decisions on how to proceed for the fall semester.”
Mudd requests that students indicate they wish to take a semester or year off by July 10, according to an email from DSA.
“I think from the student’s perspective, the July 10 deadline for declaring taking a leave of absence is pretty short notice. I think they want to know as soon as possible for logistics but it really is very soon,” Grace said.
Grace predicted the conditions would push some students to take leaves of absence.
“Taking classes online isn’t going to be right for everybody and students are having to handle issues at home and their lives outside of Mudd as well,” he said. “I don’t think anyone will be faulted for taking a leave of absence and I can see why students would want to do it.”
Incoming ASHMC President Mariesa Teo HM ’22 said students’ decisions might be affected by the ability to be on campus with their friends.
“Not being able to hang out with friends in the same way that we are used to and having to take classes online are factors I think affect students’ decision to take a leave of absence,” Teo said. “The reason a lot of students do not want to take a leave of absence is that they want to graduate with their friends.”
Mudd athletes competing for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps will be restricted from participating in their sports if they live on the Mudd campus, Klawe said. The college will reevaluate the decision for the spring semester.
“We have to acknowledge that students who participate in some sports are at higher risk and that having them on campus would defeat the purpose of a closed campus, if we assume the administration wants to create one,” Grace said.
This comes in conjunction with Wednesday’s announcement that “high-risk” CMS fall and winter sports will not be permitted to compete this fall since Los Angeles County has “not currently met the state or local gating criteria recommended to resume intercollegiate athletics.” These include basketball, football, soccer, volleyball and water polo.
Klawe’s announcement said that while Mudd would like students to remain on campus or in campus-provided housing, they “fully support our students who need to travel off campus to access essential consortial services such as those available at Student Health Services and Monsour Counseling and Psychological Center.”
The school anticipates that large social gatherings such as parties, club meetings and intramural athletics will not be able to happen.
“We will all have to work really hard to build a semblance of the community we had before,” Teo said.
Incoming disciplinary board chair Ilona Kariko HM ’22 said the guidelines didn’t have to preclude Mudd’s close-knit community.
“It will be a lot of work to get used to it but if we can have a shared understanding of why these guidelines are necessary, we can work to create a new normal for social activity,” Kariko said.
Health and disciplinary measures
Mudd anticipates introducing a two-week quarantine when students arrive on campus, with all classes being online, meals delivered to dorms and no social events. During this period, students will be confined mostly to their rooms, Klawe said.
“The College is trying to avoid a situation where we return to campus and then the virus spreads and we have to close down again. It is really important that we take a safety-first mindset when reopening and then we can lift some of the restrictions if the situation in Southern California gets better,” Grace said.
The measure aims to decrease the risk of spreading coronavirus if students arrive on campus already infected.
Mudd will also provide safety supplies to students when they arrive on campus.
“We plan to provide students coming to campus with an updated suggested packing list and will provide all students with reusable masks and other health-related items,” the website said.
Many Mudd students are concerned with the impact the social distancing restrictions will have on students’ mental health.
“In terms of mental health, because there will be social distancing regulations, it will be harder to maintain our social lives and to collaborate on homework. It will impact student mental health a lot,” Teo said. “The student committee and members of the administration really recognize the impact of that and we are working to increase the availability of mental health resources available to students.”
Mudd also announced a socially distanced move-in day with staggered three-hour time slots for each year and a one-hour sanitization period in between. Each student is allowed one guest to help them move in.
First-year orientation will also be moved online with pre-recorded informational presentations, open discussion boards and Zoom meetings between mentors and their mentees.
HMC also announced that Mudd will not decrease tuition or make any changes to financial aid plans, according to the update.
The guidelines for reopening will continue to be announced and updated as the fall approaches.
“There is a lot of uncertainty with how coronavirus will develop across the country and in LA County. The restrictions at Mudd will be constantly updated as the situation progresses, and keeping students updated is a priority,” Teo said.
The possibility of leaders in student government and the residential life team taking a leave of absence in the fall is also raising concerns.
“If students on ASHMC, honor board, mentors or proctors decide to take leaves of absences, their positions will likely be filled by someone else. There would be another call for candidates or another rehiring call for these positions. This might be different if these student leaders are taking classes remotely from home,” Kariko said.
Both Kariko and Teo emphasized that the student planning committee, the student government and administrators want to hear student feedback on the announcement.
“We encourage students to reach out to the deans or members of the student committee if they have suggestions or concerns about next semester. We want to make coming back to campus a positive experience as best as we can and we would love to hear input from students,” Kariko said.
“The reopening policies are created to protect all Mudders, especially those who are most vulnerable in the case of an outbreak or in the event that the school has to shut down. These include, but are not limited to, the immunocompromised, students of low income, international students and students without a stable home environment,” Kariko added.
A student FAQ on Mudd’s website said that HMC will return to its normal grading policy.
Klawe also announced a Zoom meeting with members of the cabinet Thursday morning to discuss the announcement with Mudd students.
Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College and Pitzer College said Wednesday in emails to students that they would make their own decisions on returning to campus later in July, citing the recent spike in California’s COVID-19 cases. Los Angeles County recently saw its case count pass 100,000.
“We respect their right to deliberate further on this difficult decision. We are moving ahead now with a decision for Mudd because all members of our community — including students and their families, our faculty and staff — need both time and accurate information in order to plan for the fall semester,” Klawe said.
This is a breaking story and will be updated with more information.
This story was last updated July 1 at 6:47 p.m.