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4/28/2020 - Planning for Our Return to Campus

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President; David A. Tirrell, Provost

The emergence of COVID-19 required reorganization of every aspect of our operations under extraordinary time pressure. The Caltech community responded to the challenge with energy, imagination, and a sense of shared purpose, and together we have implemented policies and practices that have allowed us to work safely in accord with state and local social distancing orders.  

We know that many of you are now eager to return to work on campus. So are we. Although we don't yet know when circumstances will allow us to expand our on-campus activities, we have put in place a broadly based planning process to define a strategy for doing so.

The Infectious Disease Task Group (IDTG), which has played a central role in shaping our COVID-19 response to date, will continue its work on the many activities that support the Institute's core missions. In addition, we have constituted two committees to focus specifically on research and instruction. 

The Committee on Reconstituting On-Campus Research is chaired by Vice Provost Kaushik Bhattacharya. Members of the committee are:

  • Ralph Adolphs, HSS
  • Elizabeth Callihan, Division Operations Officer, CCE
  • John Eiler, GPS
  • Ryan Eskin, Associate General Counsel
  • Jennifer Howes, Executive Director, Student Wellness Services
  • Rustem Ismagilov, CCE
  • Jared Leadbetter, EAS/GPS, Chair, Institute Biosafety Committee
  • Karen Lencioni, Director, Office of Laboratory Animal Resources
  • Lauriane Quenee, Institute Biosafety Officer
  • Doug Rees, Dean of Graduate Studies
  • Ellen Rothenberg, BBE
  • Jonas Zmuidzinas, PMA

The committee will develop recommendations regarding criteria for expanding on-campus research, safe work practices, training of research personnel, health monitoring, resource requirements, and related issues.  We expect that many of their recommendations will shape our approaches to expanding on-campus activities that extend beyond our research enterprise.

The Committee on Reconstituting On-Campus Instruction is the successor to the Academic and Research Work Group of the IDTG, which played a key role in enabling our successful transition to online instruction in the spring term. The committee is chaired by Stacey Scoville, Administrator to the Provost.  Members of the committee are:

  • Jin Chang, Chief Information Officer
  • Regina Colombo, Senior Assistant Administrator, Office of the Provost
  • Marionne Epalle, Division Operations Officer, EAS
  • Ali Hajimiri, EAS
  • Cassandra Horii, Director, Center for Teaching, Learning and Outreach (CTLO)
  • Ron Kong, Associate Chief Information Officer
  • Leslie Maxfield, Director, Academic Media Technologies and Communications
  • Kate McAnulty, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies
  • Betsy Mitchell, Director of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation
  • Niles Pierce, BBE/EAS
  • Christy Salinas, Registrar
  • Jennifer Weaver, Associate Director for University Teaching, CTLO
  • Cindy Weinstein, Vice Provost, HSS
  • Kristin Weyman, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Students

The committee will assess our physical facilities for on-campus instruction, determine the capacity of our facilities under alternative models of physical distancing, continue to evaluate and enhance our capabilities for online instruction, identify potential models for mixed in-person and online instruction, and consider the ancillary functions needed to support our on-campus educational enterprise.

We expect these two committees to work closely together and with the Institute Academic Council, the IDTG, and other campus constituencies. Both committees will establish processes to facilitate consultation with the broad Caltech community.

The recommendations from these committees will be integrated with planning efforts underway elsewhere on campus. In Student Affairs, for example, leaders are designing plans for how best to support students through appropriately configured housing, dining, programming, and extracurricular activities. Similarly, our colleagues in Human Resources will consider and address the implications of any testing, social distancing measures, and personal protective equipment necessary for employees to resume work on campus.

We aim for a first round of recommendations by mid-May, fully recognizing that ensuring the safe reunion of our community will require time for judicious consideration and multiple iterations to test ideas and plans within our community and with public health officials. We will provide you with additional information as the planning process advances. We are grateful to the members of the committees for taking on these important tasks, and we look forward to their recommendations.