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Campus Life FAQ

Updated February 23, 2021

In accordance with state and local orders, Caltech is not housing undergraduate students in on-campus residences. Exceptions may be granted in situations in which students may otherwise be housing insecure.

Graduate student housing continues to operate in accordance with the Institute's policies and public health measures, including the Graduate Student Community Health and Hygiene Policy for the 2020-21 Academic Year.

In spring 2020, two separate committees were constituted with the expressed goal of planning for the return of on-campus instruction and residential living.

The Committee on Reconstituting On-Campus Instruction delivered a comprehensive report and recommendations that took into consideration traditional and nontraditional teaching spaces, teaching models, technologies, and the expressed interest of students and faculty (ascertained through surveys and consultation with student and faculty leaders). In developing its recommendations, the committee assessed the HVAC systems of classrooms and laboratories and modeled seating capacity and configurations for classrooms and auditoria.

A Student Affairs Planning Group simultaneously assessed all available on-campus housing options to understand occupancy restrictions and needs, and to identify isolation and quarantine requirements to support the campus community throughout the duration of the pandemic. Since May 2020, rooms in Avery House have been dedicated for use as isolation and quarantine space; the Bechtel Residence was added as a secondary space for such purposes in September 2020. It is important to note that because of the configuration of some on-campus residential spaces not all of our residences are suitable for student housing during the pandemic. When single-room assignments are considered with isolation and quarantine needs, the Institute anticipates it would be able to accommodate up to a third of the undergraduate population.

While the research and planning efforts of the two committees mentioned above were expressly focused on the fall 2020 term, their work will continue to inform plans as Caltech prepares to return to on-campus instruction once public health officials deem it is safe and appropriate to do so.

Caltech has and will continue to explore all available and reasonable options for bringing undergraduate students back to campus. We are actively monitoring and assessing public health conditions, while also expanding preventative health measures and testing capabilities on campus, to prepare for students' return

There are a range of programs and activities that can be found in a weekly newsletter that is sent to students every Monday. The events include movies hosted by Caltech faculty, panel discussions, game nights, a talent show, and more. We've also created some other activities where students can get to know us and each other in more meaningful ways. For example, we now have a series called "What Matters to Me and Why." This is a program where we have professionals from a range of different fields to come and share their choices, their decisions, their challenges, their field with us and so we can get to know them.

In addition, we know that students themselves have fantastic ideas and are really committed to the traditions of Caltech and we don't want to lose those even in a remote world. We're trying very hard to keep up what has made Caltech special for our undergraduates. For example, one of the traditions is to have doughnuts each term, so we had GrubHub deliver doughnuts to the students at home. We know that Pi Day, and fake Ditch Days, and actual Ditch Days are all part of the fabric on the social connections that students really enjoy. And all of those will happen, they'll look different, but they will happen. And that's important to us.

There are also student-directed activities that are not run by us but that we facilitate. We have over 50 clubs and organizations. We had a club fair over discord, and we will do that again to make sure that people find each other and are able to connect around the activities and interests that they all share.

The undergraduate houses can be a really important center of social life on campus, and are continuing to operate in a virtual capacity. They host events and social activities including game nights, painting activities, hangouts, welcome activities, and care packages.

Students who elect to return to the Pasadena area and find their own accommodations in the community are able to access campus facilities in ways that are consistent with current guidelines for faculty, graduate students, and staff. It is important to note, however, that movement around campus is significantly limited, with entry to buildings restricted to keycard access. At this time, undergraduates do not have access to the on-campus undergraduate residences.

Caltech Housing does not provide assistance to students living off campus. There are a number of online resources the students can use to find housing off campus, as they have done in previous years.

The Institute has developed a series of procedures to mitigate the spread of infectious disease in dining areas. Updates to the facilities and dining processes include:

  • Crew-serve and pre-packaged meals only.
  • Enforced physical distancing for all patrons. Floor decals spaced 6 feet apart will guide waiting patrons on proper distancing.
  • Designated entrances and exits with separate lines for each station, with proper distancing between patrons.
  • Requirements for all individuals to wear a face covering that fully covers their mouth and nose at all times while in dining facilities.
  • Installation of hand-sanitizing stations at entrances and exits, and posted signage promoting correct handwashing and sanitizing procedures.
  • Increased sanitation of all frequently used spaces
  • Installation of clear protective guards at cashier stations. Students will swipe their own ID cards.
  • Addition of clear, standing barriers above current sneeze guards to provide additional protection to protect staff and customers
  • Indoor seating will be strictly prohibited. All students will be asked to return to their rooms or eat outside at one of our outdoor spaces.
  • Regular health monitoring of all CDS employees.
  • Management of staff scheduling procedures to reduce exposure risks.

Campus dining facilities operation in accordance with all local public health orders and guidance.

No. Caltech is part of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), a conference made up of nine regional schools. Six of the colleges and universities in the conference are in Los Angeles County and none of those six, including Caltech, will be able to fill teams this spring because we are not able to house students on campus and we do not have courses to offer broadly across academic programs. We have chosen to approach athletics from a standpoint where athletic teams and competition are offered as part of a comprehensive education program which prioritizes student education, health, and safety.

Caltech coaches support enrolled student-athletes consistent with public health guidance, which includesaccess to virtual team activities and individual training instruction. Student athletes must complete their NCAA eligibility affirmations and medical clearance to participate in these virtual activities.

Universities in Los Angeles County who have returned athletes to campus largely compete in Division I athletic programs. Caltech's athletics program is at the Division III level, and as a conference and a collective body of Division III schools, the SCIAC schools in Los Angeles County have chosen to follow a different model for approaching athletics. Athletic teams and competition are offered as part of a comprehensive education program which prioritizes student education, health, and safety.

Caltech values the educational sports program of its 16 Division 3 teams and its ability to provide sports as part of a cocurricular program for its students, not as an entertainment or commercial endeavor and ancillary to the core educational mission. Caltech is committed to its sports program and to supporting our students who participate in these programs, and looks forward to returning to regular team practice and competitive opportunities when safe to do so.

Caltech's athletic facilities and outdoor courts, fields, and track are operated in accordance with local public health orders. For the most current information on access to these facilities, please see the Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation website.

No. We have previously allowed students in Caltech housing to have guests for up to 3 days per month. Given our individual and collective responsibility to remain vigilant in the practice of physical distancing and cautious in our return to more traditional operations, we will no longer allow guests in Caltech residential properties until further notice. Bringing in guests has understandably been a source of concern and friction among roommates and other residents. This policy change is necessary to reduce the risk of infection in the campus community and brings our residential policies in alignment with the Institute prohibition against inviting or hosting visitors by campus laboratories.

Caltech contracts and leases are being changed to reflect the new guest policy. You will receive notification of this change directly from the Housing office.

While non-student/non-Caltech affiliated partners are not able to enter data into the Caltech COVID-19 Reporting Application, all individuals should proactively monitor their health on a daily basis, practice physical distancing and wear face coverings, and avoid gathering with individuals outside of the household. If a partner tests positive for COVID-19 or becomes ill with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the Caltech student should not enter campus, and should contact covid19@caltech.edu or use the Report an Illness feature through the web app so that the circumstances can be evaluated by the COVID-19 management team.