Mudd administrators detail fall return logistics and leave of absence procedures

Harvey Mudd College has announced a plan to return to campus, pending approval from health officials and a slow in coronavirus cases. (Zoe Cowan • The Student Life)

Harvey Mudd College students debating taking a leave of absence in response to the college’s Wednesday announcement on the fall semester will have just under two weeks to decide.

Members of the President’s cabinet told students during a webinar Thursday they now have until July 15 to request a leave. By that date, students must indicate on a form whether they will live on campus, attend online classes from home or take a leave. 

The college initially announced July 1 that students would have until July 10 to decide to take a leave. Following significant student pushback, the college has extended the deadline to declare a leave of absence by five days. 

“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,” outgoing ASHMC President Kyle Grace told TSL.

Students who indicate on the Department of Student Affairs’ form that they will take a leave will be bound to that decision, Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez said during the webinar.

“We are asking that you stick to that response on July 15 as much as possible because we need to know what kind of equipment we need to get for students who are going to be on campus,” Gonzalez said.

If students plan to take time off, Mudd will generally ask them to leave for a full year as opposed to one semester. Students who are only prepared to commit to one semester of absence must talk to the academic deans.

“The preference from our academic advising standpoint is that students who are going to take a leave, take a leave for a year. It is much easier at Harvey Mudd, given our requirement structure which tends to pair fall, spring courses or experiences, for a student to step out for a longer time,” Dean of Faculty Lisa Sullivan told students.

To reserve tests for students who show symptoms during the semester, administrators also announced that the school will only test students displaying symptoms, rather than all students when they arrive on campus. 

Students will be quarantined for two weeks upon arrival to campus to eliminate the spread of COVID-19, administrators said.

HMC President Maria Klawe said the rationale was that testing everyone would require too many of the U.S.’ limited supply of tests, and Mudd prefers to use tests on those who show they need them.

“As I’m sure you all know, there is a shortage of tests in this country,” she said. “The medical advice is that if we use a large fraction of those tests to test all of the students coming back on campus at all of our higher-ed institutions, it will use up a disproportionate fraction of these scarce tests on people who are unlikely to actually suffer severe consequences from the illness.”

Gonzalez described what the two-week quarantine period would look like.

“You would actually be in your place of residence, meaning your room or dorm room or your Arrow Vista room. And we, dining hall services and [Division of Student Affairs] and other staff, would take care of the delivery of the food to a centralized place,” Gonzalez said. 

She noted that grocery trips would not be permitted during this strict quarantine period. 

“It will be a full quarantine as much as we can at Mudd in the sense that you and your roommate, if you have a roommate, will be in your dorm areas,” Gonzalez said. “There will be very limited contact with others, and then we would be delivering your food and your mail. And we would figure out a way for you to do outside exercise on campus but in a way that there are not mass gatherings of any sort.”

Administrators also elaborated about health measures for on-campus students.

“We have ordered thermometers for all students so basically we would follow [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines and [Los Angeles] County health guidelines in terms of having every student, faculty and staff do a daily symptom monitoring that then gets reported through either an app or a QR code through our Mudd app,” Gonzalez said.

As for fall classes, Mudders will not be able to take in-person classes off campus and off-campus students will not be able to take in-person classes at Mudd. 

All 5C students will be permitted to take Mudd’s online classes, but that list of classes has not yet been made available by the other undergraduate colleges. 

Harvey Mudd has been in communication with the other 5Cs and says that they will pass on the information about off-campus classes and restrictions when they are released.

“The other colleges are a little behind us in getting ready to issue their list of courses and instructional modalities,” Sullivan said. “We anticipate that all of the undergraduate colleges will be tipping heavily toward online or largely online offerings that will be available to our students. We expect to hear from CMC with their offerings within the week but we don’t have a sense of when the others will be ready to share that information. We will get it out to our students as soon as we can.”

The other 5Cs have not released final decisions on returning because they are waiting to see what the county guidelines are and how high the local coronavirus cases will increase. Klawe said it’s possible that some of the other 5Cs won’t return at all.

“Some of the other colleges may end up entirely online for different reasons, and still other colleges may be on campus but with different restrictions on their students,” she said. “So each of us is trying to maintain the best student learning experience for our student body and I think the truth of the matter is that our students are somewhat different and our curriculum is somewhat different.”

The College anticipates having the same meal plan options available, including Flex dollars. Jay’s Place and The Cafe will likely be open for food pickup.

“We are committed to doing the same meal plans that we have,” Gonzalez said. “But we will also ask our dining folks to make sure that is the right answer and we will adjust it on the FAQ if it is not.”

The food situation for students in the off-campus Arrow Vista apartments will be similar to students on-campus, with delivery or pick-up from the dining hall staff being available and also trips to the grocery store being available after the two-week quarantine has ended.

Any students who have access to a kitchen in their dorm or in the Arrow Vista apartments will still be able to go off of the meal plan.

Klawe also clarified that if the County announces that students are not allowed on campus after the July 15 deadline and the semester is moved entirely online, room and board costs will be refunded but tuition will remain the same. It is likely that the form to take a leave of absence will reopen if no students are allowed on campus.

“If we are not allowed to have students on campus and if you made a tuition payment that includes room and board, we will refund those payments. Since tuition will be the same, we will not be refunding tuition,” Klawe said.

Students will be required to sign a liability agreement if they are returning to campus.

“It is very important that people understand that there are risks. There are risks if you stay at home, there are risks if you actually come on campus and it is important that we communicate those risks to you,” Klawe said about the agreement.

Many professors will conduct their classes remotely from their houses similar to last spring.

“A fraction of the faculty will be teaching in-person,” Sullivan said.

Mudd’s grading policy for courses will return to normal in the fall semester, Sullivan added, after it was revised at the end of the spring semester.

Financial aid and merit aid will not be affected for students who take a leave of absence.

This article was last updated July 2, 2020 at 10:50 p.m.

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