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6/25/2020 - Fall Planning Update

To: Caltech Incoming and Continuing Students and Their Families
From: Joseph E. Shepherd, Vice President for Student Affairs

Over the last several months, staff members, administrators, and students across Caltech have been actively working to assess and plan for a variety of options for returning to on-campus living and learning in the upcoming academic year. While we still are very much in the midst of that work, we are also at an important juncture where we have enough information to share a broad look at what we know and what we are considering as options for Fall 2020, as well as a strong interest in hearing from our student community about what factors will inform and shape their decision-making process.

Soon all of our undergraduate and graduate students will receive an invitation to participate in a survey about fall instruction and the residential experience. What the Institute learns from this survey will factor into our final decision, which will be announced in early July. I encourage all of our students to complete this survey and to talk to their families about the issues involved.

I recognize that the uncertainty around the Institute's plans for the fall is challenging and that there are many questions that Caltech is not yet able to answer. We are working closely with public health officials to bring clarity as the coronavirus pandemic progresses. In whatever form the fall takes, however, the Institute is committed to moving forward in a manner that is reflective of its responsibility to support the wellbeing of the entire community and the Institute's mission to deliver a robust and immersive learning experience to our students, wherever they are.

Planning for the Fall
Just as Caltech employees have been asked to adhere to specific health guidelines as they return to on-campus activities and to maintain a reduced density on campus, I expect that public health measures will also require significant modifications to the instructional and residential programs. At this time, the Institute is planning for the following:

  • A reduction in the overall number of undergraduates in Caltech housing. Limitations on occupancy are being driven by several factors, including the need to provide every individual their own bedroom (no doubles); to maintain a safe distribution of restrooms and shower spaces among residents; and to have designated residences for isolation and quarantine space. 
  • Full occupancy in graduate housing, given the apartment-like configuration of those spaces.
  • Limitations around social gatherings. Socializing by students in campus residences may be limited to small cohorts, and campus- or residence-wide social gatherings will be prohibited.
  • An expectation that all members of the community adhere to required preventative risk measures, including, but not limited to, wearing a face covering, maintaining physical distance, practicing appropriate hygiene, and implementing enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols. 
  • Academic instruction to be delivered through a blended model of online and in-person courses. Conversations with faculty and an assessment of courses has been underway to better understand the parameters for various instruction models and how to best support students' degree progress across programs.

I recognize that these changes represent a distinct change to the campus community environment that you have previously experienced or known. Adherence to these expectations will require a shared commitment among students, faculty, staff, and others to follow guidelines that mitigate risks and help to keep our community members healthy.

At the same time, Caltech is committed to supporting and caring for students' physical and mental health, and fostering their academic and social development, both on and off campus. Caltech will continue to offer a range of wellness services, academic advising, and individual consultation and support, and a variety of workshops, programs, and skill-building opportunities to help students meet the demands inherent in a non-traditional learning environment. 

Thank you for your continued patience and understanding as the Institute works through this process. We will continue to keep you updated as new developments arise and encourage you to access the Returning to Campus website as a timely resource for what is happening on campus more broadly.