A note from the Dean of the College on timely matters related to advising as well as courses and programs for Fall 2020.
I hope you were able to have some rest this weekend, and find moments of peace and normalcy despite what is going on around us. I also hope that you and your loved ones continue to be safe and healthy. Social distancing is essential to curbing the spread of the virus, but it can take a toll psychologically and emotionally.
As difficult as these last few weeks have been, there have been uplifting moments as well. Last Thursday evening, Marty Sharkey moderated a webinar in which Rob Flot and I answered Oxy parents’ questions about the remainder of the semester, in real time. Many parents expressed gratitude for the communication and for all Oxy is doing to keep the educational program going in the face of challenging circumstances. We heard several positive comments from parents who were, for the first time, getting a glimpse into their students’ academic lives, overhearing their classes, and observing the care with which professors are connecting with their students. As an institution, we must continue to find ways to keep our extended Oxy family engaged in the life of the College, separated as we are by time and distance.
Many of you are the assigned academic advisors of students both inside and outside your department. With advising period (3/30-4/10) and registration for Fall semester (week of 4/13) upon us, it is important to provide institutional guidance on how we plan for the academic program in the face of uncertainty related to the current crisis.
The fact is, we do not know how long the pandemic will persist or the duration of social distancing measures that will be required on a global, national, and local scale. Yet, our top priority as an institution must continue to be ensuring our students’ progress through the academic program. For that reason, our planning approach at this time is for the “best case scenario”: that we will be able to mount our regular academic program and residential on-campus experience in the fall of 2020. In doing so, we can also instill confidence in the minds of our students at a time when they may be apprehensive about the future of the institution. I should also point out that even if our program returns to “normal” in the fall, we may have to make modifications due to potential enrollment impacts that may result from this unprecedented disruption.
If the spring semester of 2020 has taught us anything, it is that conditions may change rapidly and we should plan with contingencies in mind. Even if we are back on campus come fall, there may be limitations on international or domestic travel. Because of these uncertainties, students that are planning to study abroad or participate in off-campus programs in the Fall have been directed to register for on-campus courses, so that they have a plan in place in the event that their off-campus program is canceled.
There are many planning questions that we will need to consider should the pandemic and its associated disruptions to normal college operations continue into fall. We don't have answers or all the contingencies in place now, but we are monitoring the situation continuously. We will work with Faculty Council, Department Chairs, and the faculty as a whole in the coming weeks to plan for possible outcomes.
So, stay safe and stay well, and we’ll be in touch.
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College