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March 16, 2020
Dear Pitzer College Community,
Pitzer College has officially begun the extended Spring Break 2020 (March 16 – 27). Although most students, faculty and many staff will be away from campus during this time, I want to take this opportunity to share information with you about some of the work that is being done to respond to the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 public health threat. Please continue to refer to Pitzer’s COVID-19 webpage for resources and updates.
STUDENT HOUSING TRANSITION
As we announced last week, Pitzer, along with other Claremont undergraduate colleges, is directing students to leave campus as a prudent measure of social distancing. Since that time, our Student Affairs professionals have been working tirelessly to facilitate this transition. Pitzer students with extenuating circumstances could apply to remain in campus housing for the remainder of the semester and a number of exceptions were granted by Student Affairs, primarily based on potential health risks if students returned home or faced housing insecurity circumstances.
Student Affairs is also assisting students with many other move-out details, making travel arrangements, providing or arranging for shuttle service to airports, storing students’ belongings and responding to dozens of individual requests for assistance. This has been an incredible disruption for our students and I want to commend Student Affairs for their dedication, compassion and creativity in responding to this unprecedented circumstance.
Going forward, students who remain on campus should expect to receive information about their residential experience and the College’s expectations of them in this new environment. However, the level of services will almost certainly be minimal. Although dining services are available at Pomona and Harvey Mudd, the McConnell dining hall will remain closed. Residence Directors will be on call, yet there will be no RA coverage and social events are not scheduled. The Gold Student Center (including the swimming pool and fitness center) will be closed until further notice. This will be a somewhat spartan existence, but as we are seeing all around us, social distancing is the best strategy to “smooth the curve” of infections and keep our health care facilities from being overrun with cases.
Around the Claremont Colleges, services will be available on a limited basis during our extended spring break and beyond. Refer to Student Service Hours and Operations with any questions you have for: Student Health Services, Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services (MCAPS), Campus Safety, Chaplains, Chicano Latino Student Affairs (CLSA), Office of Black Student Affairs (OBSA), Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC), Health Education Outreach (HEO), Huntley Bookstore and Connections.
Faculty are actively engaging in the transition to the virtual classroom. Workshops last week focused on technology and unique pedagogical considerations associated with remote course instruction were very well attended. Additional training sessions will be announced later today. Similarly, students should expect to receive information next week (the week of extended break) about using Zoom or other remote tools.
Governance work also continues. We successfully navigated our first virtual College Council meeting on Thursday with over 80 attendees and other committees are devising strategies to carry on their important work as well.
Thank you to our faculty (and our outstanding IT staff) for embracing this work with such enthusiasm. I encourage you to continue sharing resources and working directly with our students in ways that are responsible and consistent with social distancing recommendations.
Last week, Pitzer made the difficult decision to suspend all Study Abroad programs. Dean of Faculty Allen Omoto’s announcement explains the reasoning for this decision and the complex logistics involved. The Office of International Programs and Study Abroad has also been working around the clock to assist students with travel arrangements and, together with Student Affairs, assisting our international students who face uncertainty about their ability to return home either during this semester or at its conclusion. I want to thank the Study Abroad staff for their timely work in attending to our students’ needs abroad and here on campus.
TELEWORK AND STAFFING INFORMATION
Pitzer is moving to a telework arrangement for staff as the circumstances allow and IT has posted a Work from Home Toolkit to assist the campus. We anticipate maintaining minimum operations for remaining residential students and some in-person support as we transition to online instruction. More information will be forthcoming as our specific needs take shape in this new environment.
Yesterday, Governor Newsom issued several social distancing recommendations, including self-isolation for California residents over age 65. Pitzer will be working with affected staff to observe that recommendation and others as the situation develops.
Please join me in thanking our Facilities staff members who have worked this past week to help move students out while maintaining an enhanced cleaning regimen that aligns with CDC guidance.
Finally, we know that schools and child-care facilities have or will be closing for an extended period. This will create new challenges for many of us as we respond to the needs of our families. I assure you that Pitzer will be compassionate and flexible in responding to these circumstances and is committed to paying our staff their regular wages through the semester regardless of whether the conditions allow them to work.
STUDENT EMPLOYMENT & WORK STUDY
Community members have raised several questions about how Pitzer will handle student employment. Information is posted in a Questions and Answers format here. We are still working through some of the regulatory complexities associated with student employment and will update this information as additional decisions are finalized.
This has been an extraordinarily difficult week for all of us and much work lies ahead. Every day brings new information, new guidance, new concerns and new challenges. I have recognized several offices here for their inspiring work, but I know that all of you are doing everything you can. Thank you for your dedication and unwavering support. Let’s all continue to work together with our consortial partners, students, faculty and staff in protecting the community, ensuring the continuation of the College’s mission and keeping each student’s educational experience positive and on track.
Melvin L. Oliver