Our return to in-person instruction is based on a variety of measures to support students and their safety, including our mandatory vaccination policy.
In just a few short weeks, or less for some of our student athletes and other early arrivals, we will be welcoming you to the beautiful Oxy campus. What joy it brings me to write that! With great excitement and anticipation, our Oxy community is looking forward to resuming the person-to-person interactions at the heart of an Occidental education -- in the residence halls, classrooms, labs, studios, athletic fields, all across campus.
This will be a fall unlike any other. First-years will just be starting out on their college journey, while sophomores also will be arriving in Eagle Rock for the first time, even though they already have a year of classes under their belts. Juniors will be returning to a campus they last saw early in March 2020, and seniors are hoping to finish strong and make the most of their last year as Oxy students.
Amidst the joyous anticipation, it is vital to note that the pandemic is still with us. We have already reached a 97% vaccination rate among students, faculty and staff, and that percentage will grow higher by the time the semester begins. This is an impressive achievement, and one that speaks directly to your commitment to health and safety, and to the community of care we foster at Oxy. But it is not a license to ignore common sense or best practices. The surge of cases in Los Angeles County and in many parts of the country caused by the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 is a very serious matter. Vaccination remains the best protection against the virus, and this is what gives us confidence in our plans for fall.
Our return to in-person instruction is based on a variety of measures to support you and your safety, starting with our mandatory vaccination policy. Our policy also requires strict testing protocols for unvaccinated individuals with valid exemptions. In addition, we just completed an accelerated inspection and upgrade program for all campus air circulation systems to ensure we have safely ventilated buildings, and we are following Los Angeles County guidelines requiring mask-wearing while inside by everyone, regardless of vaccination status. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to monitor the latest scientific findings, follow the guidance of public health officials, and adjust our policies as conditions require.
As a case in point, given the recent developments with the Delta variant, the College is currently reviewing our testing protocols for vaccinated individuals in keeping with our ongoing effort to minimize COVID transmission on our campus. Our intended course of action is to test all new and returning students soon after arrival, within approximately 3-5 days. We are also considering a range of ongoing symptomatic and/or surveillance testing options for students, faculty and staff. We are finalizing the scope and support operations for the new testing protocols and will have updates for the community soon.
Your professors look forward to being back in the classrooms with you for the dynamic exchange that in-person instruction offers. Whether through lively classroom debates or through community-engaged learning in Los Angeles, Oxy aims to prioritize in-person learning opportunities through mutual commitments to our health and safety guidelines. While everyone must wear a mask while indoors, this cannot and will not obstruct the processes of learning and the lively interchange between you, your classmates and your professors.
It is also important to keep in mind that bringing the campus back to life is a process that will take some additional time to fully accomplish. There are a number of aspects of campus life that will take a little while to get back into full swing, as many staff who have been working remotely or have been out on furlough adjust to being back on campus. The student-run Green Bean Coffee Lounge, for example, will not reopen until spring because its managers simply have not had the opportunity to recruit or train student baristas this past year. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through the necessary adjustments.
There will be many opportunities for you to lend your voice to the betterment of the College, including two student surveys this fall--one on Sexual Respect & Title IX and another on campus climate. Our goal in gathering your responses will be to learn from and act on them. Accurate data is critical and your opinion counts, so please take the time to answer these surveys.
As a college president who spent his first year on the job almost exclusively in Zoom meetings, I cannot wait to meet you in person. We will work to build community, and gather together in responsible ways, acknowledging the pandemic is still with us. I wish you a safe journey to Eagle Rock and look forward to seeing you soon.
All the best,