Update about student petitions to remain in College housing

An update from the Dean of Students on the petition process for students who wish to remain in College housing for the remainder of the semester.

Dear Students,

I write to update you all regarding the petition process for students who wish to remain in College housing for the remainder of the semester. Never could I have imagined that I would be in a position where I would be called upon to make the kind of decision that requires asking students to leave campus in the middle of a semester because of a global epidemic. Having been placed in this nearly impossible, but unavoidable, position, I want you all to have an understanding of the process that we used to make the housing decisions; the basic principles that guided our process; the assistance we are making available to students who won’t be able to stay on campus; and what we expect the campus environment will be for those who remain in our res halls.

Given the rapidly escalating concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, we knew from the outset that this would be a challenging but necessary task that would lead to decisions that we knew would not be what many hoped for. Our immediate preference would have been to say yes to every student who wished to remain on campus, given their understandable desire to stay on campus.  However, there are multiple factors which make it impossible for us to say yes to everyone. There are the urgent federal, state and local health guidelines that have been put in place in order to limit the spread of the virus. Those restrictions seem to be getting more draconian each day, meaning some decisions are increasingly outside of our control. Additionally, we have an important responsibility to our employees who take such good care of our campus, and make campus life possible--some who have children who attend now shuttered schools and all of whom are understandably concerned about their own health.

We received 432 petitions from students who wished to remain on campus. We approved 217 petitions and these students will be notified by email this evening and given further instructions. Students whose petitions were not granted will also be notified by email this evening. Each petition was reviewed by a group of representatives from the Dean of Students office, the Dean of the College Office, REHS, SLICE, Disability Services, Emmons Counseling, IPO and the ICC.

In making these difficult decisions, we had to determine our guiding principles to make a determination in each case. The principles for approving petitions to stay generally involved:

  • International students faced with travel restrictions that put them at risk of not being able to return home, or visa limitations that would make it difficult to return for the fall semester

  • Significant financial hardship that cannot be mitigated by financial support from the College

  • Students with compelling hometown, home, and/or family situations

  • Students who need to stay for a very short period of time beyond March 20 to make arrangements for transportation home

The reasons for the denied petitions fell into several broad categories.

  • Some students argued they need to remain in an environment that will facilitate academic success. That’s understandable, and of course Oxy is committed to the success of its students. But in these unprecedented circumstances, students will need to join faculty in making adjustments and moving to an online learning system.

  • Many students stated that the spread of the coronavirus is worse at their home than in L.A., making these students feel worried about contracting the virus if they have to leave campus. However, the situation everywhere is rapidly changing; the number of cases in L.A. County has almost doubled over the last three days. Therefore, we are not in a position to presume that conditions here in Los Angeles will be better than conditions elsewhere.

  • Other students cited lack of computer and wifi access. Information Technology Services (ITS) will provide support for students in this regard, including hardware for loan. In addition, several broadband carries are now offering cut-rate or free introductory service.  Please contact ITS through the ITS help desk at helpdesk@oxy.edu to inquire about technology laptop and wifi support.

  • Some students cited their inability to attend particular classes or labs. Faculty have worked hard and made adjustments to make it possible for students to meet all of their academic requirements without meeting in-person, or using specific equipment or lab work. 

Work-Study Jobs

For those students with work-study awards in their financial aid package who were working at the time the College announced it was moving to online instruction, we remind you of the College’s decision to pay those students their full amount of the work-study component of their financial aid package.

Campus Environment

We also want to be realistic about portraying what the campus environment will be like for those who will remain in the residence halls. As a reminder, no in-person classes will be occurring on campus. We expect the library, which closed to students today, to remain closed for the rest of the semester. The fitness center is also closed, and all campus programming has been cancelled in order to practice appropriate social distancing (which as of today has been recommended to be gatherings of no more than 10 people). Social life on campus will be very limited.

Campus Dining, as of tomorrow, is limited to providing take-out service only. Community members may get their food and take it with them "to-go," but not dine in the community area (dining rooms). These recommendations may change to an even stricter model in the future, which limits how many people can be in the dining facilities at once. Beyond that, if need be, we are ready to convert to a service model restricted to pick up or delivery of prepared meals.

Finally, we will have a diminished student support staff presence because of the need for staff to telecommute or stay home because of K-12 school closures.

I’m very sorry that this pandemic has pushed us all to this point. Further, I know that the events of this semester have caused many of you to feel emotionally exhausted, deeply disappointed, struggling with uncertainty, and craving a safe haven. I also know that faculty and staff are wrestling with similar emotions. But I do have faith that we will make our way through this crisis.

Rob Flot
Vice-President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students