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Spring Term Plans

February 01, 2021

To: The Caltech Community
   Kevin M. Gilmartin, Vice President for Student Affairs
   David A. Tirrell, Provost
   Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President
Date: February 1, 2021
Re: Spring Term Plans

With the start of midterm exams this week and registration for the spring term soon to follow, we recognize that many members of our community have questions about the Institute's plans for spring. As we have done in previous terms, staff and faculty from across the Institute's academic divisions and student affairs office are working together to plan for a variety of scenarios, and we intend to announce by the middle of February a final decision on the spring term instructional model.

In the interim, we wanted to provide an update on our planning process and to share more broadly information that was presented at a recent virtual town hall for undergraduate families. With widespread circulation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the local community, it seems likely that the Pasadena Public Health Department will restrict Caltech to continuing with remote instruction. Nonetheless, we are exploring whether a small number of in-person laboratory courses may be offered to undergraduate students. If local health officials agree, this expansion of operations would result in a limited return of in-person laboratory courses and on-campus residential living for those enrolled in such courses. Access to any courses offered in-person will be prioritized for students who need to complete the courses to meet their degree requirements.

Options for expanding on-campus instruction have been a regular topic of conversation with local public health officials. Unfortunately, the conditions of the pandemic to date have prevented such proposals from being accepted and implemented. 

At the same time, Caltech remains committed to supporting students' progress to degree, regardless of the instructional model offered. The Institute has offered roughly 300 courses remotely and has only cancelled about a dozen courses in each of the first two terms for the academic year.

In addition, the registrar's office is working directly with seniors and with the options to ensure that all graduating students have a path for fulfilling necessary degree requirements and courses.

Looking further ahead, staff and administration have initiated planning processes to consider various options for summer and fall activities and programs. It is our hope that with the availability of vaccines, and other safety and preventative measures, public health conditions will improve to such a point that we can return to a more traditional, in-person living, learning, and research model. We will keep you updated on progress and the Institute's continued response to the pandemic.

Thank you for your patience as we work through these steps. For those interested in the complete conversation on spring term, summer plans, and the Institute's efforts to support undergraduate students' academic, social, emotional, and health needs, a transcript of the town hall has been made available on Caltech Together