January 6, 2022
Dear Pitzer Community,
I hope this message finds everyone well and restored at the start of a new calendar year. As I reflect on last year, I am filled with pride at how the Pitzer Community collectively came together for a safe and successful academic experience in the midst of the pandemic.
While we were all hopeful that COVID-19 would be in our rearview mirror, unfortunately, it remains front and center locally, nationally, and globally at this time. Despite this, I remain confident that our community will continue to be mindful of each other and make the best of a very challenging situation.
Given the rapid spread of COVID-19 recently, due primarily to the Omicron variant, the undergraduate Claremont Colleges will begin the first two weeks of the semester online. In-person instruction is scheduled to commence on Monday, January 31; however, students will be able to return to campus as originally planned beginning January 16 with additional health and safety protocols in place.
Please know that this decision did not come easily, and it is informed by expert medical advice from multiple sources. While Pitzer and the consortium have done extensive planning, we have been advised that the ongoing and anticipated spread of COVID-19 over the next few weeks is likely to impact 10%-15% of our student population, which would put us at risk of exceeding our capacity to provide isolation spaces for those that become infected. (Although 99% of our community is fully vaccinated and most have received a booster at this time, and it is likely most students that contract COVID-19 will have mild or no symptoms, the College is required to adhere to all public health guidance regarding quarantine and isolation). We also expect contact tracing and testing capabilities to quickly become overwhelmed by the anticipated number of cases if we don’t shift to online instruction at the beginning of the semester.
As communicated to our faculty and staff on Monday, all Pitzer students, faculty and staff are required to receive a booster. There are new mask guidelines in effect now, and we are reducing campus density by mandating remote work for all who are able through at least January 18. Details about these and other Covid-related protocols are referenced in Community Messages on the Pathway Forward section of the Pitzer website.
These measures and others have been put in place to safeguard the health of our community and to make it possible for our students to live and learn in-person for the remainder of the semester. Our medical experts believe that we have the best chance of successfully continuing the spring semester in-person if we take this brief pause and shift to remote instruction at the beginning.
This means that students should plan to return to campus as originally scheduled, with classes starting on Tuesday, January 18. The spring move-in guide with specific return dates is here, and more details are forthcoming from Student Affairs. It is important to know that while students will be living on campus as planned, it will be a completely different experience than last semester, one that was very successful despite the circumstances.
Students will be learning remotely at the beginning of this semester, and there will be modifications and limitations to many areas of campus life, including dining and student activities, as well as restrictions on student interactions for the first few weeks. In other words, students who return to campus in mid-January should expect a very different environment than last semester. I wish this was not the case, but it is important for us all to be aware of this as we continue to monitor the public health situation over the next several weeks.
To ensure that our staff is able to provide appropriate support and resources for our students that will be traveling back to campus domestically and internationally, we ask those students that are able to please exercise flexibility and move in after January 16. Further details, including funding support for students who may need assistance to modify travel plans, will be shared by Student Affairs later today.
Dean Omoto will be providing more information to faculty immediately following this, including information about accommodations for faculty and students as needed. Please keep in mind that at this time we are planning to resume in-person classes on Monday, January 31.
As there may be questions and concerns about these changes and plans, a virtual town hall meeting for Pitzer faculty and staff is scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m., followed by a webinar for students and families on Tuesday, January 11, at 11 a.m. More information on these events is forthcoming soon.
I want to reiterate that Pitzer and the Claremont Colleges are committed to a safe and successful in-person living and learning experience for our students this semester. Based on what we know at this time, beginning the semester remotely will help make this possible.
Finally, I would like to extend my appreciation to our students and families for their understanding and flexibility, and our employees who are working tirelessly to make this all possible. In this challenging environment, I ask for your patience and empathy as we bring our community back together on campus again to experience the residential academic environment that Pitzer is known for.
Thank you all for your continued efforts to be mindful of each other.
Melvin L. Oliver