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Spring Quarter Information

March 13, 2020

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President and David A. Tirrell, Provost
Date: March 13, 2020
Re: Spring Quarter Information

The Institute's mission of forefront research and education is embedded in a commitment to societal responsibility and improvement. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic and our duty to the Caltech and Pasadena communities, we have decided to shift to online teaching for spring quarter for undergraduate and graduate students alike. The campus will remain open and we will continue to operate as a research institution, providing critical research and administrative services.

Such a decision is a serious one and involves many different operational considerations, a number of which we address below:

  • The transition to remote learning is effective the first day of spring term, Monday, March 30. A core team of administrators and staff, under the guidance of the Office of the Provost and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach, has been engaged in extensive planning and preparation for this eventuality. We have launched an online website,, with resources and guidance for instructors and faculty, and will continue to develop guidance and the necessary support systems to ensure that the high-quality, in-depth education that is a hallmark of Caltech continues.

  • We wish to emphasize that the shift to online education will not interfere with the ability of our graduating seniors and graduate students to attain their degrees. We are asking all faculty members and instructors to assess their course requirements and expectations for students to ensure that they are appropriate for an online learning environment. Students will have the option to take any course pass/fail during the spring term, and we will identify alternatives to required courses that cannot be offered online.

  • Caltech's on-campus undergraduate residences will remain open through the end of the winter quarter. Students should now plan to return home as soon as they can. All students must vacate their on-campus housing no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, March 20. Those individuals who are unable to leave because of travel restrictions or other compelling circumstances can apply to continue living on-campus by making an official request to the Dean of Undergraduate Students office. Students who continue to reside on campus will have their room assignment changed to consolidate undergraduate housing, enable appropriate support from Caltech Housing and the Office of Residential Experience, and maintain the health and safety of our campus. Further information will follow from the Caltech Housing office.

  • All undergraduate students who are leaving campus will be asked to pack up their personal belongings, taking with them as many belongings as reasonably possible. The Institute will store remaining items without charge until the start of fall term. Spring quarter room and board charges will not be assessed for individuals who leave campus. Further information will follow from the Caltech Housing office.

  • Caltech's graduate residences will continue normal operations in accordance with existing housing contracts.

  • The Caltech campus will remain open and the research enterprise will continue. Business services and administrative functions that are necessary to support that activity, including but not limited to dining, human resources, finance, and wellness and support services, will continue to operate. The Institute reserves the right to scale back services and operations as conditions develop, while being sensitive to the needs of the on-campus population.

  • At this time, we continue to hold open the possibility of reconvening for our graduation ceremony in June, as it is the ultimate celebration and recognition of accomplishment for all of our students. It may not be possible to hold commencement, however, and we will update all of you as our plans become clearer.

  • Student Wellness Services will continue operations and may use telehealth and other technology to support student wellbeing. Web-booking of appointments will no longer be available as of Monday, March 16; please call the office to schedule a visit or telephone consultation with a provider. Counseling services will be available on campus, and clinicians will work with students who have relocated off campus who are in need of referrals for local providers. After-hours and weekend crisis support can be reached by calling 626-395-8331 and pressing ‘2.' Please note that wait times may be longer than usual due to increased demand across the country for telephone support. Additional resources can be found on the Student Wellness Services website.

  • In an effort to provide additional clarity around this decision and the impact it will have across campus, we have compiled additional FAQs related to this and other topics on Caltech's COVID-19 Information Page. If you have additional questions beyond those addressed in the FAQ, please share them through the online form; a member of the team will respond as soon as possible.

We recognize that these actions are disruptive and unsettling, and we do not take them lightly. We believe that they are essential to protect the health of our community, and that they can be implemented in a manner consistent with the high standards that all of us hold for Caltech. We hope that the lessons we learn from this experience will further enhance our work as we return to normal operations in the future.