Welcome back and Happy New Year! We are on the verge of another semester like no other. I know that there are a lot of questions about this semester, and by this time, I trust that you have seen President Oliver’s community message describing current plans for the spring semester. Importantly, the current plan is for the semester to begin with two weeks of online instruction, and then to return to in-person instruction. In this message, I hope to address many faculty concerns, while also reminding you of recent communications that have gone out with campus-wide information. A town hall meeting for faculty and staff is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, January 7, from 10:00-11:00 am; a Zoom link will be forthcoming.
The Pitzer community is approaching this semester committed to remaining mindful of each other and to an in-person residential educational experience. The safety and well-being of our community remain our highest priority in returning to in-person instruction and students living on campus. There is already considerable information on this semester’s plans and safeguards on our website (see Pathway Forward), and we will continue to disseminate additional information over the next several weeks. Across faculty, staff, and students, we have clear expectations for health behaviors and social norms that will help to ensure community safety and well-being.
We remain mindful of the recent and rapid rise in COVID-19 transmission due to the Omicron variant locally and nationally. Vaccinations, including a booster shot, and masks are the best currently available protection. Before enrolling in classes or moving into campus housing, students are required to submit documentation that they received their booster unless they have a religious or health exemption. Across the consortium, students must be vaccinated and have received boosters to live on campus and be enrolled in classes. Among staff and faculty, we are requiring vaccinations and boosters by the start of the semester. Unless they have an approved exemption on file with HR, Pitzer faculty and staff should provide evidence of having received a booster vaccine by January 18th.
Below you will find important information about our policies and expectations for the start of the spring semester. As you are aware, the situation is dynamic and subject to change. We continue to monitor COVID-19 transmission and daily new cases, County and State directives, and consortium decisions, all of which may impact our plans.
Campus Safety and Precautions
- All faculty and staff are required to submit proof of vaccine booster through the Healthy Pitzer Portal by January 18, 2022. Please contact HR at [email protected] to submit proof of vaccination using an alternative method. If you require an exemption, please contact HR. A “how to” for completing this upload can be found here. If you already have an exemption on file or have previously submitted proof of receiving the booster vaccine, please disregard this point.
- Mask requirements have changed. All Pitzer employees and students are required to wear medical grade face masks while indoors. This includes well-fitting medical grade masks, surgical masks, medical procedure masks, or higher-level respirators approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, such as a N95 filtering face respirator. KF94 and KN95 masks are also approved for use on campus. Surgical masks will be supplied by Pitzer and available through the DoF Office (Scott Hall 114), Office of Student Affairs, Office of Residential Life, or Campus Facilities. When we transition to in-person instruction, unmasked students are not permitted to attend classes. You can send them to DoF or Student Affairs to obtain a mask if they arrive to your class without one.
- All faculty and staff are required to complete the brief daily health screening questionnaire every time they come to campus. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or if you are unvaccinated and have been in contact with a person with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 diagnosis in the past 10 days, it is critical that you do not come to campus.
- All Pitzer students will be required to complete a PCR test at least 72 hours prior to spring move-in arrival and produce a negative test at that time; if they are unable to test before arrival, Student Affairs and the Student Health Service will work with students to arrange a test. Thereafter, vaccinated students will be routinely tested twice/week in the first two weeks of the semester and at least once/week thereafter. Meanwhile, unvaccinated individuals (students, faculty, staff) who have an exemption on file will be tested twice/week. For now, if you experience any symptoms or think you may have been exposed to COVID, you are encouraged to get a test. On campus, tests are available from the Hamilton Health Box nurse (Zephyr) on the north end of West Hall; contact Nurse Zephyr at [email protected] to make an appointment.
- It is possible that we will institute mandatory faculty and staff testing. Please watch for updates on testing requirements.
- All individuals – faculty, students, staff, – must wear a facemask when indoors, regardless of vaccination status. This includes when in class and office hours. The only exceptions for faculty are when you are alone in your office with your door closed or when you are actively eating/drinking. Anytime someone joins you in your office or other indoor locations, all individuals should be masked.
- Outdoors, masking is recommended but not required if you are fully vaccinated.
- At the outset of the semester, many campus offices and departments will have limited walk-in availability for services. In many instances, faculty and students will be able to make appointments for service or to send online queries/requests for information.
- We will be limiting in-person gatherings, at least at the beginning of the semester. Students, staff, and faculty from the Claremont Colleges will be allowed on our campus, although they must comply with our safety precautions (i.e., be masked). However, we will not hold in-person campus-wide speakers or other public events. For broader reach and participation, we will continue to rely on Zoom or Hyflex capabilities.
- At this time, non 7-C guests are not permitted on campus. This will be re-evaluated in early February.
- The dining hall will be open only to Pitzer students, at least for the first several weeks of the semester. In addition, no catering services will be available through the campus food service.
- The Pit-Stop and Shakedown Cafes will offer “grab and go” options for students only, at least for the first few weeks of the semester. The Grove House will most likely be closed for the entire semester. Thus, faculty and staff should bring food from home or make arrangements for dining that do not include going to campus facilities and services.
- The water fountains on campus will not be functioning, but water bottle filling stations should be operational.
- Disinfecting wipes will be available in classrooms and through Facilities. In addition, hand sanitizing stations are located across campus. Please assist in keeping our campus community safe by regularly washing your hands and wiping down surfaces (e.g., printers, keyboards before and after use).
- Facilities has worked to make windows operable in many offices. Please contact Facilities if you have a question about your windows.
- Undergraduate classes at the 5Cs will begin in online format for the first two weeks of the semester as we do baseline testing and establish protocols for community health and safety. The Presidents Council will continue to receive information on COVID cases and testing and quarantine capabilities, and make a decision about potentially continuing online instruction beyond two weeks. At this time, however, the Colleges remain committed to in-person and residential educational experiences, and the intent is to return to in-person instruction as soon as possible after the start of the semester.
- Some faculty may have health concerns or other circumstances for which they would like to request accommodations. There may be a limited number of online or hybrid offerings taught by faculty who request and receive teaching accommodations. Faculty should contact the DoF at [email protected] as soon as possible to discuss possible teaching accommodations, which also will include conversation with Pitzer HR. Faculty may be asked to provide medical or other documentation to support accommodation requests.
- Faculty are free to use online tools and technology for their classes and student meetings, and even after we resume in-person instruction. For example, faculty can continue to use Sakai (and Canvas) to support teaching by recording and posting lectures, utilizing asynchronous chats/conversations, etc. In addition, Hyflex teaching capacity is available in some classrooms and with advance notice to IT. All of these tools are available to assist with teaching and learning accommodations that may be needed over the semester and with fluctuations in student and faculty health.
- Student Technical Assistant positions will once again be available for this semester. More information on this program will be forthcoming.
- We are able to use our current classrooms at normal/full capacity, although LACDPH recommends social distancing within classrooms when possible. Like fall semester, we will be utilizing larger spaces that have not traditionally been used for classes. Classroom assignments are being made based on faculty preferences, class requirements, and class enrollments. If you would like to request a change in your assigned classroom, please send your request to [email protected] so that we can help coordinate the search for available alternatives.
- Windows in some classrooms are able to be opened. Please contact Facilities to make this request.
- We have several outdoor classrooms available, although masking is still recommended in these settings and some faculty may require it for their classes. There is little that can be done to control heat, wind, and ambient noise in these classrooms, and projection capabilities, wi-fi, and electricity is limited. If you would like to explore having your class outdoors, please contact [email protected]. Even if you opt to teach in an outdoor space, we will do our best to ensure that you have an indoor classroom reserved at the same time that you can use in the case of inclement weather or for other purposes.
- For office hours, faculty are encouraged to consider different options: masked and in-person (indoors or outdoors) or meeting online.
- No class field trips will be permitted for at least the first two weeks of the semester. Once we have clearance to resume field trips and other off-campus educational activities (e.g., internships in community agencies), faculty and staff should abide by the College transportation policy.
- Faculty are encouraged to think about and discuss with Field Group colleagues possible accommodations or pivots they could make during the semester should our campus circumstances change or in case their own health is compromised. These considerations may also influence course design and requirements. Pivoting to online instruction after the first two weeks may be a viable short-term teaching accommodation.
- In the event that a student needs to be isolated or quarantined for a period of time, please work with the student, their advisor, the Office of Student Affairs, and the DoF to help them to continue their work or do extra-credit work. Faculty will be notified by the Pitzer Student Affairs Office when a Pitzer student tests positive and enters quarantine/isolation. Student Health Services is hopeful that it will have antigen testing for isolation release on Day 6 (assuming a negative test) available by the start of the semester. Until antigen tests are available, a 10-day isolation period will apply.
- Given the ubiquity of the Omicron variant, we can expect that students, staff, and faculty may be infected over the semester and need to avoid attending in-person classes or on-campus activities. Faculty and students should contact Pitzer Academic Support Services to discuss specific accommodations and what will work best for their situations and classes. We are hopeful that our high vaccination and booster rates, insistence on masking, and best practices for community health will help us to limit absences and to address them using our usual accommodation processes. Hyflex teaching capabilities are also potentially available, and we will have tutors and note-takers for a number of classes this semester.
- Faculty are encouraged to consider isolation and potential quarantine requirements when constructing their attendance policies and to make clear statements in their syllabi about student attendance and possible accommodations. For example, students who have tested positive for COVID, been exposed, or are experiencing even mild symptoms should not come to class. Consistently penalizing students for absences may deter them from engaging in good health practices. Recording and posting lectures to a class Sakai site, meanwhile, may permit students to continue making progress even if they cannot attend class sessions. Faculty are empowered to set policies and expectations for their classes, and to the extent possible, it is best to do so through clearly stated guidelines in the course syllabus and class discussion.
- Faculty who are medically unable to come to campus should be in contact with the DoF at [email protected]; HR may be consulted for medical accommodations.
- If faculty cannot work from campus because they are caring for an individual(s) who is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order, or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19, they should contact the DoF at [email protected]. Again, HR may be consulted to determine appropriate accommodations.
In closing, I would like to thank all of you for your continuing work on behalf of the Pitzer community, and especially our students. The past 21 months have been extraordinarily challenging for all of us personally and professionally, and for the College as a whole, and we have all learned the importance of flexibility and patience. I am proud of how our community has adapted and helped each other. Clearly, though, more patience and adaptations will be needed in this next semester. The Pitzer community is strong and resilient, and I have confidence that we will continue to work together to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic so as to continue to offer a distinctive and high-quality education to our students in a healthy and safe environment.
If you have questions or suggestions for steps that we can take to increase safety and comfort on campus, please send them to DoF at [email protected] or reach out to members of our Pitzer COVID Task Force. My office will continue to send out updates as they become available and as the College continues to monitor developments and make adaptations.
With best wishes for the coming semester,
Dean of Faculty