Home  /  Updates  /  Updates for Students and Parents  /  9/14/2020 - Fall Housing Plans for First-Year Students

9/14/2020 - Fall Housing Plans for First-Year Students

To:  Families of the Class of 2024
From: Joseph E. Shepherd, Vice President for Student Affairs 
Kevin M. Gilmartin, Dean of Undergraduate Students and Incoming Vice President for Student Affairs

It has come to our attention that some families may have plans to secure residential housing in the Pasadena area for groups of first-year students. We are writing to urge anyone involved in such arrangements to reconsider, and instead allow their student to work from home until public health conditions allow Caltech to welcome students back to campus.

The experience of leaving home, of living and working with a greater degree of independence, and of bonding with other students has long been central to the college experience. We certainly understand the desire to achieve some version of that in the face of the disruption that COVID-19 has brought to all of our lives. As you know, our initial plan for the fall term prioritized housing first-year students in campus residences. However, directives from state and local authorities required us to change course, and were based on public health concerns and challenges related to the persistent presence and transmission of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County. With COVID-19 actively spreading in the community, we believe there are few advantages and real risks to first-year students living together off campus.

There will be no campus-based instructional, research, or advising programs for first-year students. Current public health guidelines in Pasadena and Los Angeles County do not allow for outdoor social gatherings. Faculty and staff are instead working hard to provide a rich remote learning experience, and to augment that experience with a variety of programming that supports students' personal and social development. This will include support for academic collaboration.

Over the last several weeks, we have all witnessed troubling reports from colleges across the country, where outbreaks of COVID-19 proliferate as campuses reopen and students irresponsibly participate in social activities. Frankly, much of what young adults look forward to as part of their college experience is fundamentally unsafe in the current world. If any one student living in a group near campus becomes sick, others in the residence will be at risk. And all will be without immediate access to family members and familiar support services.

We appreciate how disappointing the change in fall plans has been. We regret that we will not have the opportunity to gather in person this fall, but believe strongly that current public health guidelines make sense. It is our intention to resume more traditional campus operations as soon as possible. In working towards this goal, we need the support and cooperation of every member of the community. We thank you for your understanding, and look forward to providing a rich and rewarding remote learning experience this fall.