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October 28, 2020
Dear Pitzer Community:
I have read the letter from the 5C Student Body Presidents, the recent Pitzer Student Senate Resolution (57-R-7), the Change the Academic Calendar petition, the Pitzer FEC resolution, and email messages from students, parents, and faculty about the Spring 2021 academic calendar. I also have talked first-hand with Pitzer community members and discussed the concerns and feelings that were raised at last week’s College Council meeting presided over by Dean Omoto.
Please know that I hear you and understand you. It is clear that many in our community are not just working hard, but are tired, stressed, and spread thin, and there is considerable frustration, anger, and uncertainty about the pandemic and other world events. On top of that, many of us are missing the support and energy we typically receive from friends and colleagues, and also may be feeling the weight of assistance we are providing to others. We all want and need time for restoration. Based on experiences this semester, students and faculty have plainly stated that they desire days free of classes and other school-related responsibilities during the upcoming spring semester.
In developing the spring academic calendar, the Academic Deans Committee weighed the benefits and consequences of many scenarios, and with recognition that no calendar could accommodate all possible scenarios. They considered input from faculty and students from their home campuses as well as the Student Affairs Deans, and prioritized the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty, as well as the surrounding community. In addition to COVID-19 health risks, potential stress and mental health impact influenced the development of the calendar. Furthermore, Pitzer remains fully committed to preserving 5C class cross-registration, which requires that all of the undergraduate colleges adopt the same spring academic calendar.
Many of you have indicated that you understand the reasons for modifying the spring academic calendar in order to have students on campus. As a reminder, the spring semester starts later. This later start means that we will have longer recuperative time between semesters, but importantly, it provides additional time for any potential post-holiday spikes in COVID-19 infections to dissipate and more transition time for bringing students back to campus. In contrast to fall, the spring calendar preserves all weekends; that is, there are no Saturday class days.
Although not a full week, there are four intermittent days off during the semester (including Cesar Chavez day). Our expectation is that these break days will be true days off without meetings or assignments or exams. The intermittent days off are intended to build in rest and recuperation while also reducing opportunities for travel to and from campus. Due to the delayed start, the spring semester has been reduced by four days. Changing the traditional five-day spring break to three intermittent days off ensures sufficient instructional days and weeks to meet pedagogical and curricular requirements as well as provisions for federal financial aid. Finally, the semester will end “on time,” thereby allowing students to take advantage of internship and work opportunities or simply have time off during the summer. It will also allow for faculty and staff to pursue their usual activities and typical time away from Pitzer.
As you know, the Presidents of The Claremont Colleges adopted this spring semester calendar. We are all hoping to bring students back to campus next semester, and the calendar was developed to hold out the possibility that one or more of the Colleges will have students in residence. At this point, however, we are prohibited from operating residential campuses. As much as we would like to have students on campus, we await word from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) if this is even a possibility, let alone the health and safety requirements that will be necessary to have students in residence. Pitzer hopes to learn more from LACDPH in mid to late November. If we find out at that time that we cannot have students on campus during spring semester, I commit to lobbying for a change to the spring semester academic calendar. Regardless, I pledge to continue to work together with the Pitzer Community and consortium partners to explore alternate ways to effectively address the concerns that have been brought forward.
I thank you for your input and ask for your patience and consideration. Like you, I long for the days when we can all be together on campus and to return to some sense of “normal” in our lives. I hope that you understand and trust that these decisions are made solemnly, after careful, deliberate consideration of the information at hand, and with earnest commitment to do what is best for our entire community.
Melvin L. Oliver President