Some 5Cs delay fall return decisions in wake of California’s coronavirus case spike

A building called Scott Hall, with a person walking past it.
Some of the 5Cs are waiting to make final decisions on fall return plans, while Harvey Mudd College announced Wednesday that it is planning for a return to campus. (Domenico Ottolia • The Student Life)

Though Harvey Mudd College announced Wednesday that it is planning a return to campus this fall — contingent on state approval and safety conditions — the remaining 5Cs said they would wait to release an official decision regarding a return to campus as they monitor coronavirus developments.

Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver announced that Pitzer would release its decision on July 17. Scripps College President Lara Tiedens said the school’s decision would come sometime by mid-July in an email to students. Pomona College administrators told students via email that they expect to announce plans for the fall semester within two weeks. 

Claremont McKenna College President Hiram Chodosh delayed a finalized decision until July 24, but released a detailed “CMC Returns” plan with what the semester will look like if students return to campus, complete with information on academics, campus life and additional safety measures.

Scripps College

Scripps planned to announce a reopening plan with social distancing guidelines today, but are rethinking their original plan as coronavirus infections in California have spiked in the last week, resulting in over 230,000 confirmed cases and over 6,000 deaths total in the state.

“Previously, I believed that this week, I would be announcing our decision to invite students back to campus in August,” Tiedens told students via email. “I’ve been impressed by the planning the College has engaged in and the many innovative solutions that have been found to the enormous challenges produced by COVID-19.”

The decision will likely be dependent on the progression of coronavirus in California within the next two weeks, Tiedens said. Scripps is planning to announce a finalized decision in mid-July. 

“Amidst recent news of an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County and a deceleration of reopening plans, the Board of Trustees and I have serious concerns about the implications of returning to campus on our students, faculty, staff and neighbors,” Tiedens said.

Pitzer College

Pitzer also planned to release plans for reopening today, but is delaying a finalized decision in the wake of a spike in coronavirus cases nationally, as well as in Los County and the Inland Empire.

Oliver said Pitzer faculty are currently planning their courses “with the goal of ensuring that all of our students can succeed regardless of whether they will be on campus or taking classes remotely.”

“To this end, flexibility and attention to the potential use of online tools in course design are critical,” Oliver said. “Pitzer’s technological infrastructure has already been expanded and faculty training has been ongoing since early this summer. Our goal is to ensure high quality educational experiences for all students.”

Pitzer’s decision will be informed by “the progression of the virus in the region, and the guidance and directives issued by state and county health officials,” Oliver said.

Pomona College

Pomona College has also pushed back their decision because of “the urgent and concerning public health situation in Los Angeles County, the state of California and nationwide,” administrators said in an email to students.

“We will evaluate next steps through the lens of public health, and also through our liberal arts values that lead us to [respond] to new data and craft creative answers to the world’s great challenges,” Pomona officials said. “We expect to announce our plans for fall semester within the next two weeks, as we consider the most up-to-date information available and consult with experts and stakeholders in our community.”

Administrators acknowledged that multiple paths were still open and that Pomona was preparing for all possibilities.

“We are committed to continual innovation in how we teach, for the benefit of our students and the wider world we know they will go on to change,” they said. “We are grateful to our faculty for their work this summer in adapting their teaching and courses to engage students in new ways for the world we are in right now.”

Claremont McKenna College

CMC has released preliminary reopening plans but emphasized that they are not finalized. They are also aiming to make a final decision in the coming weeks.

“After a rigorous, community-wide three-month process, the College has finalized its plan for the fall 2020 semester, CMC Returns,” Chodosh said. “Given the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19 and recent, concerning trends here in Southern California, the Plan is fully conditional on both the announcement of L.A. County Public Health guidelines that allow an on-campus program and a favorable, independent assessment of our health and safety capabilities.”

Right now, CMC is preparing simultaneously for a virtual learning plan and for a hybrid learning plan that would bring students back to campus with classes mostly online, Chodosh said. 

“First, if these necessary [safety] conditions are not satisfied, CMC will be fully prepared to offer a strong virtual program in the fall. Second, in order to maximize the opportunity to reopen our on-campus program, we must continue to work hard to implement the Plan,” Chodosh told students.

The Plan includes guidelines on health and safety, campus life, on- and off-campus learning, faculty and staff, financial mitigation and review and vetting by medical experts.

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