To: The Caltech Community
Kevin M. Gilmartin, Vice President for Student Affairs
David A. Tirrell, Provost
Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President
Date: February 18, 2021
Re: Spring Term Decision
After close consultation with Pasadena Public Health officials, we write to inform you that Caltech's undergraduate academic program will continue as a remote-learning program only in the spring term. While we had hoped to have the opportunity to expand the undergraduate instructional framework to support a limited number of in-person laboratory courses in the final term of the academic year, public health officials have determined that it is too early to adjust our current operating model. The limited rollout of vaccines and questions about the timeline for broader supply and access to doses, a still-high level of case activity in Los Angeles County, and concerns over new, more infectious viral variants create an unacceptable level of risk for any resumption of in-person courses this spring.
We recognize that recent declines in the daily number of coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County have brought hope for a return to more normal operations. At the same time, the county remains in California's most restrictive (purple) tier, which strictly limits activity and residential living options for all institutes of higher education. Caltech cannot resume in-person undergraduate instruction and residential living until the situation improves and public health officials approve expanded operations.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty and staff have planned continuously for students' return to campus, even developing a framework for a limited return of undergraduates at the start of each term. Through the implementation of testing programs, including mandatory surveillance testing for all individuals who access campus a minimum of one day a week, and protocols that limit on-campus occupancy to 25 percent of normal levels, and by requiring face coverings, physical distancing, and other measures, we have made every effort to protect the health and wellbeing of our community while advancing the Institute's research and education mission.
With this decision, the registrar's office and option representatives will continue to work closely with all students, especially those completing their degree programs this spring, to ensure that degree requirements are met. We will work also with student representatives and leaders from the graduating class to formalize plans for this spring's commencement ceremony. Updates on plans for commemorating the graduates' accomplishments are forthcoming.
The Institute now will turn to plans for the summer and fall. Several important undergraduate programs and activities normally take place on campus over the summer, and we have initiated discussions with public health officials to secure permission to operate these programs as residential campus experiences to the fullest extent possible this year. We believe these summer activities will serve as a critical step toward planning for a safe return to in-person instruction and residential living in the fall. As plans and priorities for the summer and fall develop, we will update the community.
Additional information on Caltech's response to the pandemic, as well as news and answers to frequently asked questions, is available on the Caltech Together website.