Board of trustees tells Harvey Mudd to bar other 5C students from in-person classes, plan for hybrid teaching

Harvey Mudd College is considering changes to academic life that would lean heavily on online coursework, even if students are present on campus this fall. (Kyle Grace • The Student Life)

Editor’s note: In an update to students, faculty and staff Monday, Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe said this article “selectively pulls information from several draft working documents, which in turn misrepresents the planning process used at HMC.” 

We have not received any corrections or requests to alter the piece from any Harvey Mudd administrators, and do not believe any of the information is presented any differently than it was presented to the entire Mudd faculty. We made clear the context of the information of the article — that the directives of the board of trustees were not final and no decisions had been made — when it was published. 

We learned of the college’s issue with the article only after an email had been sent to the entire college community, along with a public statement. We would welcome any additional opportunities to speak with them, and have made several requests to do so. 

TSL stands by its reporting and has embedded the emails sent by Lisa Sullivan to the faculty to further contextualize our piece. This article has additionally been updated to reflect Klawe’s response, as well as the three methods of instruction the Board of Trustees requested that the college plan for. 

We strongly believe all students — especially Harvey Mudd students — should be aware of the active planning taking place for the fall semester, especially plans with such serious consequences. Given that the plan outlined in this article was referred to as the “most likely” scenario, we felt it was important for students to know the measures being considered.

At the direction of the board of trustees, Harvey Mudd College is planning drastic changes for students’ possible return this fall, including likely barring other 5C students from taking classes in person on its campus. 

The college is also currently assuming all classes without “substantial reasons” for in-person interaction will be held online, according to an internal email from Dean of Faculty Lisa Sullivan sent June 5. TSL also reviewed emails sent June 8 and June 15 as well as an online Q&A spreadsheet for faculty.

If students return, Harvey Mudd also currently plans to restrict student and faculty movement between buildings on campus and hold some classes on Saturdays, emails said.

In an update to students, faculty and staff Monday, HMC President Maria Klawe stressed that the board of trustees asked the college to plan for three possible scenarios this fall, with a hybrid instructional model included. The school’s plans are contingent on future consortium decisions and guidance from the state and Los Angeles County, Klawe said.

The board of trustees has dubbed a mix of in-person and remote learning “the most likely scenario,” according to the June 5 email. The board also stressed flexibility to adapt to “whatever changes occur in the status of the epidemic, medical treatment, or regulatory efforts that will come over the next year and possibly beyond,” in a May 20 update. 

Mudd spokesperson Judy Augsburger said the information in the emails describe “preliminary ideas discussed by faculty leadership as part of an ongoing planning and comment process about fall planning.” 

None of the information should be considered official until the board of trustees makes final decisions later this summer, and options discussed during this planning phase continue to change as the status of COVID-19 changes, Augsburger said. A decision on whether students will come back to Claremont for the fall semester is expected in July.

An isolated campus? It’s being considered 

“The other four are holding hands and not thinking about this. We are thinking about the Claremont Colleges as the Claremont Colleges.” —Scripps Dean of Faculty Amy Marcus-Newhall

Harvey Mudd’s board of trustees told the school to prepare to teach in-person classes exclusively to Mudd students and offer its classes to other 5C students remotely, Sullivan said. Under this plan, Mudd students would also take off-campus classes remotely. 

Harvey Mudd is the only 5C considering this scenario, Scripps College President Lara Tiedens told parents of Scripps students in a Zoom call Thursday. 

In a Zoom session for students Thursday, Scripps Dean of Faculty Amy Marcus-Newhall said there is one college currently considering restricting in-person classes to their own students, without specifying which college she was referring to. “The other four are holding hands and not thinking about this. We are thinking about the Claremont Colleges as the Claremont Colleges,” she said.

The emails called into question Mudd’s previous promise of a consortium-wide decision. “Whether different members of the consortium make different decisions about having students back on campus, the start of the academic term will be Monday, August 24,” Sullivan said in the June 5 email.

In addition to academics, recreational options will be similarly limited if Mudd students return to campus. The Claremont Colleges plan to eliminate cross-campus co-curricular and social activities and prohibit guests, Sullivan said, though Augsburger warned that “decisions regarding academics and student life remain in flux on all campuses pending official decisions.” 

Residential life at Mudd would also likely be constrained if students return, Sullivan said in the June 5 email. They’ll have to abide by a social contract similar to Los Angeles’ “safer at home” guidelines for colleges, she said. Mudders’ dorms or off-campus apartments will become their primary residence.

Under current planning, students will be allowed off-campus to pick up groceries or food, go to the library or print shop and to access essential wellness-related services. Gatherings at Mudd will have limits on attendance and adhere to the guidelines regarding masks, handwashing and social distancing set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Upon arrival to campus, students will be expected to self-quarantine for 14 days and then submit to testing before any in-person instruction begins. 

At least half of all classes planned to be online 

The college is operating under the assumption that all classes will be held online except those that necessitate in-person interaction, the June 5 email said. Department chairs have been asked to make a minimum of 50 percent of their courses online. 

“Our planning default is to assume that every course will move forward as a … remote learning course unless there are substantial reasons for another structure,” Sullivan said. 

Under the current plan, courses at Mudd are being divided into a three-tier structure, with “tier one” classes held in-person, “tier three” classes exclusively online and “tier two” somewhere in between. 

“Tier one” classes involve hands-on work with tools and materials, like laboratories, workshops, studio courses and some students’ thesis research. These classes “will require special planning so that instructional spaces can allow for appropriate safety measures, including use of personal protective equipment and social distancing,” the June 5 email said. 

Instructors and department chairs will have the opportunity to argue that certain classes — ones that benefit “specifically from face-to-face instruction” — be classified as “tier two,” and be held partially in person. If approved, these courses will be taught with a mixture of in-person and remote instruction, and “represent the most challenging planning set,” the June 5 email said. 

Instructors who request their classes to be “tier two” should tell their department chair but “simultaneously begin developing a plan for remote instruction since every course could need to make use of those plans depending upon shifting circumstances,” the June 5 email said.

But online courses should be largely expected and planned for, the email said. 

These “tier three,” or completely remote classes, can proceed as planned “whether students return to campus or not,” the June 5 email said. Online classes provide “maximum flexibility to serve students who are not able to return to campus for health or other reasons, or who are absent from class due to quarantine or illness.”

“Tier three” classes are also beneficial for faculty who are “unable or ill-advised” to return to campus in the current pandemic, and give the opportunity for instruction while “simultaneously lowering risks of COVID-19 by decreasing opportunities for contact.” 

In the June 15 email, Sullivan said all department chairs have completed initial assignments of courses into tiers one, two and three and notified faculty of the designations.  

Faculty will face strict constraints, too

Many concrete stairs, surrounded by concrete ledges, lead upwards.
Sullivan said Mudd’s departments have completed an initial sort of courses into three tiers ranging from in-person to online. (Anna Horne • The Student Life)

Strict social distancing guidelines won’t just apply to students. Under current planning, faculty and staff will also be required to participate in testing, social distancing and sanitizing protocols under current planning, the June 5 email said. 

Though any faculty member who does not wish to be on campus for medical reasons will not be required to come to campus, according to the faculty Q&A, those that return would have to follow strict protocol.

For starters, this likely means the end of in-person office hours, tutorials and one-on-one meetings; all will be held via Zoom or other online platforms instead. Faculty will likely be asked to wear personal protective equipment in all places except their closed, private offices and use a wellness-checking or contact tracing app if one is chosen, according to the June 5 email. 

Faculty, like students, will furthermore be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days after any air or distant travel during the fall semester, and will be asked not to invite visitors to the school, the June 5 email said. 

The President’s Cabinet is considering ways to support faculty and staff who may face increased child care responsibilities due to possible school and day care closures in the fall, according to the Q&A, but did not offer any specifics. 

Saturday instruction and changing class times — an entirely new schedule 

In the new academic calendar announced last week, Labor Day and two Saturdays will be used for Mudd classes — tentatively September 12 and November 14 according to the June 15 email — “to provide for sufficient instructional days.” 

Scripps will also hold Saturday classes, according to previous TSL reporting. Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College and Pomona College have yet to make a public announcement regarding weekend instruction. 

Sullivan said next steps for the Academic Contingency Planning Committee, the group in charge of planning for the fall, will include establishing a new class schedule that will “place in-person and hybrid classes in appropriate spaces on a schedule that allows for cleaning between uses,” in consultation with the other 5Cs.

Four subgroups of the ACPC with different focuses (online resources, laboratories, hybrid classes and students not returning to campus) have begun to identify and address needs of all tiers, the June 15 email said. 

The ACPC plans to construct a website with resources for all instructors, “particularly relevant to tier three instructors,” regarding remote teaching, as well as survey all instructors about their space and technology needs, the June 15 email said. 

The fourth subgroup will consider what opportunities might be available to students who are unable or unwilling to return to campus, including international students, the June 15 email said. 

This article was last updated Wednesday, June 24 at 9:10 p.m. 

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