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10/1/2020 - Campus Access for Undergraduate Students

To: Caltech Undergraduate Students Residing Locally
From: Kevin M. Gilmartin, Vice President for Student Affairs

Following on the recent student survey, I am writing to those of you who will be living near campus or in the Los Angeles area, and particularly to those who plan to access campus facilities or interact with other students who do.

The fact that many of you have remained in the area, or have recently returned, is a tribute to the close-knit student community that the houses and other campus programs have fostered. I welcome you back to fall term, and to what we all recognize will be a very different campus experience.

As you know, Los Angeles County health guidelines determined that Caltech could not reopen campus residences for the fall term, and that instruction would remain online. At that point, Institute leadership faced a decision about whether to allow undergraduate students to return to lab facilities. Our decision to do so was both a reaffirmation of the distinctive Caltech tradition by which undergraduates participate centrally in the campus research mission, and an expression of trust in our undergraduate student community. It now lies with you, individually and collectively, to confirm that this trust has been well-placed.

We have all endured an unprecedented public health crisis, and significant challenges lie ahead. To stay healthy and productive, and to protect the Caltech community and campus research, you need to interact with others in ways that are consistent with local and state public health orders and Institute policies. In summary, this means refraining from hosting or attending in-person social gatherings with individuals from outside of your household; maintaining appropriate physical separation (minimum 6 feet) when sharing physical space with individuals from outside of your household; wearing a face covering; closely monitoring and tracking your own health; and frequently and thoroughly washing your hands. The Caltech Community Commitment affirms our shared responsibility to protect one another, and all undergraduate students are expected to abide by its terms.

The most recent CDC weekly report on COVID-19 identifies infection among young adults as a source of transmission to their contacts and communities, and specifically calls attention to the need for college and university students to practice social distancing and wear face coverings. We have all seen how this trend in transmission has played itself out in news reports of colleges and universities forced to scale back on teaching and research activities after undergraduate students have returned to campus and cases have spiked. It is critical that this does not happen at Caltech. If you are approved for a return to campus research, please understand that the ongoing work of your faculty mentor depends on your responsible social conduct. The same holds true for those of you who expect to access athletic or other facilities.

I urge each of you to reflect carefully on your plans for the term ahead. Frankly, if your expectations about socializing with friends are not consistent with safe practice during this pandemic, you should change your plans with regard to accessing campus facilities and interacting with those who will be coming to campus. The return to research has gone well to this point because faculty, staff, postdocs, and graduate students have closely followed Institute policies and public health guidelines. As undergraduates now join the campus community, we need your support to ensure the continued success of our return to research. Specific instructions for those of you who plan to access campus follow this letter; please review that information carefully.

The start of the academic year and the return of undergraduate students has long been among the most meaningful and rewarding experiences in our shared campus life. While the unfolding pandemic has resulted in significant changes and disruptions to familiar campus activities, faculty and staff are working hard to develop a meaningful fall term academic and social experience. Working together, we can not only overcome the challenges of the day but persevere with the collaborative and creative spirit that has long distinguished the Caltech community.

Stay safe, and best wishes for a successful and rewarding fall term.

Instructions for Undergraduates Intending to Access Campus Facilities

Only students approved through Caltech's attestation and testing process can access campus facilities in any form. Prior to be being cleared to access campus facilities, all students must have:

  • A negative COVID-19 test. Those who have traveled to the local area through any means other than a private vehicle should monitor their health for 14 days after travel and schedule a test at the end of that period. Contact Student Wellness Services at 626-395-6393 to schedule your test.
  •  Familiarized themselves with the policies and protocols that all members of the campus community are expected to follow, and review other relevant training materials posted in the guide for accessing campus. 

Students accessing campus will also be expected to participate in a regular testing program established by Student Wellness Service, with information to follow soon. Additionally, each student will be provided with a Kinsa Bluetooth thermometer to aid in health attestation and daily health monitoring. 

Students who become ill or have contact with a known COVID-19 positive case should immediately report their symptoms through the Caltech COVID-19 Reporting application and consult with Student Wellness Services for further instructions. It is imperative that students fully participate in the contact tracing process and provide timely and accurate information to the medical professionals on the COVID-19 response team. Students who are unable to isolate or quarantine safely in their off-campus housing may be allocated on-campus isolation and quarantine accommodation depending on availability and capacity. Eligibility will be established during the initial consultation with a COVID-19 response team member.