In light of the issuance of Los Angeles County's Protocols for Institutes of Higher Education on August 12, Caltech has announced that its undergraduate program will need to be fully remote in Fall 2020.
In a memo to the community on August 13, President Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Provost David A. Tirrell, Vice President for Student Affairs Joseph E. Shepherd, and Dean of Undergraduate Students and Incoming Vice President for Student Affairs Kevin M. Gilmartin said they were "disappointed and saddened" to have to make the announcement regarding the fall term, and noted that the protocols also preclude on-campus dormitory living.
"In mid-July," they wrote, "we announced that the Fall 2020 plan was to invite up to one-third of our undergraduate students to live in socially distanced campus residences, with a focus on bringing to campus students whose academic progress or transition to Caltech's academic environment would most benefit from in-person instruction and on-campus engagements."
Given the high community transmission rates in Los Angeles County, however, the LA County Public Health Department is requiring "more restrictive actions to slow the spread of disease," the memo noted. "In particular, the Protocols require Los Angeles area universities and colleges to forego occupation of undergraduate residences, except by students with no alternative housing options, and to limit in-person instruction to training that is required for the essential workforce and that cannot be accomplished via distance learning."
The Institute's administration noted that, because of these restrictions, "we have redoubled efforts across the Institute to create community virtually and to foster a robust and engaging educational experience for all students." These will include the addition of collaborative tools and technologies for instructors and students, the continued implementation of a new learning management system, and workshops and discussion sessions on effective teaching methods.
In addition, the Undergraduate Deans' Office and Office of Residential Experience will work to create new paths to provide "the extraordinary opportunities for intellectual and personal growth that are characteristic of a Caltech education." These will include virtual living/learning groups for first-year students as well as opportunities for student-faculty interactions, active study group sessions, and peer-led programming for all students.
The Institute's leaders noted that the changes to the educational experience would not only "adhere to the high standards of the Institute" but would also be "designed with a transition to post-pandemic in-person education in mind." The idea is to ensure that the Institute will be ready "to safely return and support an on-campus experience for students in the winter and spring terms," should the conditions around the pandemic allow.
"While this is not the outcome any of us wanted," they wrote, "we know that our community will respond to this new challenge with determination and ingenuity."
For more information about and frequent updates on Caltech's response to COVID-19, visit the Institute's Coronavirus Information website.