As a follow-up to the first community update meeting of the COVID Operations Group, we want to highlight a number of key planning updates.
To the Oxy Community:
Last Friday, the COVID Operations Group hosted its first weekly community update meeting. We appreciate all of you who were able to attend and were happy to be able to address the wide range of questions put forward. As a follow up, we want to provide this written update to let you know about a number of key planning updates—much of which was covered in the community meeting.
Latest planning assumptions for Fall 2021
As a result of declining COVID-19 positivity rates and the growing availability of vaccines, the L.A. County public health guidelines that have most directly impacted our academic format and residential model this year are beginning to evolve. Not only have we been permitted to partially open certain facilities for this spring, but the county has already indicated new guidance that will permit an expanded residential program in the summer. Together, these recent developments have given us reason for optimism for fall. While there are many details to be worked out, our planning assumption is that all students will be able to return to campus this fall. As we have all along, we will of course continue to follow the guidance from county health officials, which means our plans will need to remain flexible.
While we believe it is helpful for the campus community to know of our “in-person” planning assumption, we want to reiterate that there are many aspects of our fall plan that are not yet final. This includes questions like:
- Will all classes be in-person?
- What health and safety measures will be in place?
- Will vaccinations be required for all students, faculty and staff?
- When will employees who have been working remotely be asked to return?
- When will we have updates on the status of employees on furlough?
These and other related questions are being discussed, and it is our intention to gather key stakeholder input through community meetings, staff and faculty meetings, collaboration with student leadership and other methods. We plan to have a more complete picture of the employee and staffing related questions by May 3.
L.A. County health officials have indicated that new residential guidelines will be in place for summer programming. We expect that the current restriction which permits only international students and those with housing hardship will change. The summer guidelines from the county will allow any student to reside on campus, with the provision of requiring single occupancy if the student is unvaccinated, and allowing double occupancy for vaccinated students. What does this mean? Taken together with the March 12 updated county protocols announced for higher education that permit increased indoor activity, we can begin to make assumptions about a return to some typical summer programming on campus. As of today, we have determined:
- Oxy Summer Research Program students can reside on campus.
- A limited number of Oxy students who work in essential campus jobs can reside on campus.
- Oxy’s Multicultural Summer Institute (MSI) students will be invited to campus.
- Upward Bound will host students on campus and they will reside in our res halls.
- Multiple external programs and camps will be able to use our facilities. Hospitality Services is in the process of finalizing these programs.
In a typical summer, international students or students experiencing housing hardship request housing. The College will continue to consider summer housing requests from these students on a case-by-case basis. We anticipate that more information about summer housing will be available from REHS in mid-April.
With the increased level of activity on campus this summer, following our health and safety protocols will continue to be critical. All participants in summer programs will need to be part of Oxy’s testing protocol, or a third-party testing service (which will be an option for non-Oxy programs). Masking and social distancing will continue to be the norm.
There is not a lot of new information to add beyond our last update. In summary:
- Academic Commons partially reopened on 3/22 allowing students to reserve study spaces in the library
- Athletics Facilities
- Outdoor facilities (pool, track, tennis) have partially reopened.
- Fitness center anticipated partial reopening on 4/12. Details coming soon.
- Dining: Indoor seating at 25% capacity at Gresham Dining Hall began on 4/1.
- The Admission Office began a modified campus visit program on 3/29.
In addition, we are excited by the prospect of celebrating the Class of 2021 with an in-person commencement celebration in May, although at present, due to current county guidelines, we must limit attendance to the graduating class and a small platform party. As planning progresses and we have a better understanding of how faculty and staff may participate, we will let you know.
Some of you who have been working remotely and have now received the vaccination have asked if you can return to your campus office. At this time we ask you to continue working remotely through the end of the semester. We would only ask (or permit) someone to return to regular on-campus work if the operational needs of the College necessitated such a scenario, and with department VP approval. As stated above, by May 3 we expect to have a firmer answer about what a “return to work” approach might look like.
The combination of greater vaccine availability at Emmons and expanded eligibility rules in California means that we anticipate being able to vaccinate any student, staff or faculty member who needs it. We continue to strongly encourage all community members to get the vaccine. At this time we have not made a decision about whether the vaccine will be mandatory. Please contact Emmons with any questions about vaccine scheduling.
In closing, we will continue to keep you informed of new developments and our planning progress going forward. Planning and implementation requires the collective effort of many across the College. Beyond the COVID Operations Group, there are many teams leading and supporting efforts across multiple parts of the College. We appreciate everyone’s efforts and patience as we deal with the unpredictability of the pandemic and the necessity to operate according to county guidelines that can be equally unpredictable in their timing and scope. As always, the health and safety of the community must be at the forefront in our decision making.
Feel free to reach out to me and/or any member of the COVID Operations Group with comments or questions. We encourage you to attend our next community update this Friday at 11 a.m. Community members may use this form to submit anonymous questions and comments in advance of the meetings. You may also check the COVID-19 website for additional information and FAQs. Thank you.
COVID Operations Group:
Rob Flot, Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students
Amos Himmelstein, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
John Lang, Faculty Council President & Associate Professor, Sociology
Sara Semal, Senior Director - Emmons Wellness Center
Marty Sharkey, Vice President of Communications & Institutional Initiatives
Wendy Sternberg, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College
James Uhrich, Vice President for Information Technology Services & Chief Information Officer