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Fall-Term Instruction

September 10, 2021

To: The Caltech Community
From: David A. Tirrell, Provost
Date: September 10, 2021
Re: Fall-Term Instruction

For many months, the Caltech community has been working together to prepare for the resumption of on-campus instruction this fall. As part of that effort, the Committee on Reconstituting On-Campus Instruction has developed a set of recommendations to guide our return to the classroom. These recommendations have been endorsed by the Institute Academic Council, and are summarized here. They are to be regarded as Institute policy.

Recommendation 1: Continue demonstrably effective practices developed during COVID-19, including supporting student collaboration, populating the learning management system (Canvas) with required course information, recording class meetings, updating instructors through the website and regular email updates, and continuing the iPad/Apple Pencil loaner program to facilitate remote course access and collaboration. Instructors will not be required to record all class meetings, but must be prepared to do so to support students who enter isolation or quarantine (see Recommendation 3).

Recommendation 2: Conduct instruction in person whenever possible, consistent with the Institute commitment announced in May 2021. Our vaccination policies will ensure that all faculty and staff members, postdoctoral scholars and students involved in in-person instruction will, with a few approved exceptions, be fully vaccinated. Masks will be required, students living in Caltech residences (and others who wish to do so) will be tested regularly for SARS-CoV-2, density in the classroom will be reduced, and teaching spaces will be adequately ventilated and cleaned on a daily basis. These precautions should allow us to conduct the majority of our fall-term instruction in person. Nevertheless, the campus will not escape the virus entirely, so it is essential, as stated by the Committee, that "the Institute, instructors and TAs should remain poised to implement fully online, remote instruction at any time during the academic year."

Recommendation 3: Articulate clear cases for teaching that is not in-person. For example, some of our large lectures cannot be accommodated in any of our conventional teaching spaces. In such situations, Divisions may decide to offer lectures online. Even in such cases, though, the Divisions will ensure that each course includes substantial, regularly-scheduled, in-person activities, including section meetings and office hours.  No courses should be planned for fully remote instruction throughout the fall term.

Some students may need to begin the fall term in quarantine or may require isolation after a positive test for SARS-CoV-2. Instructors must plan ahead to enable participation by students who cannot come to class. The Institute will develop protocols to inform instructors promptly when such circumstances arise, and will provide equipment and support for recording of classroom activities when needed. The Institute and the Divisions will work together to ensure continuity of instruction should instructors fall ill.

Recommendation 4: Implement social distancing, masking, minimum air exchange, and cleaning for in-person teaching. All students participating in in-person classes will be required to wear high-quality N95 masks while in instructional spaces, both indoors and out. The Institute will provide N95 masks for all participants, and strongly recommends their use by instructors. Occupancy of teaching spaces will be limited, consumption of food during class will be prohibited, and all classrooms and teaching laboratories will be cleaned at least once per day. Cleaning supplies will be available in the classroom to allow participants to clean their work areas. Voice-amplification systems will be provided to instructors who are concerned about teaching while masked. The Institute has measured ventilation rates in hundreds of teaching spaces across campus, and will ensure that ventilation is adequate in each of the spaces, including outdoor teaching spaces, to be used during the fall term.

The foregoing is only a summary of the recommendations of the Committee; everyone involved in fall-term teaching and learning should consult the full Committee report for further detail and additional information. I would like to thank the Committee (membership listed below) for their thoughtful, thorough guidance.

Committee on Reconstituting On-Campus Instruction: Stacey Scoville (chair), Jin Chang, Regina Colombo, Marionne Epalle, Ali Hajimiri, Cassandra Horii, Ron Kong, Kim Mawhinney, Leslie Maxfield, Kate McAnulty, Betsy Mitchell, Lesley Nye, Niles Pierce, Christy Salinas, Jennifer Weaver, Cindy Weinstein, Kristin Weyman, Kara Whatley