Planning Assumptions for Spring and Fall

President Elam shares an update on Occidental’s planning assumptions for the remainder of spring, as well as next fall.

Dear Oxy Community:

With Spring Semester underway, I write to share with you a candid assessment of our planning assumptions for the remainder of spring, as well as next fall. In my last update, when we announced that we would begin this semester remotely, there remained unanswered questions about the potential to return to increased levels of in-person activity later this spring. As has been the case since the beginning of the pandemic, the health and safety of our community is at the forefront of our decision making. Equally important are the state and county guidelines which directly dictate our level of in-person operation.  

As a result of the surge in cases and hospitalizations that Los Angeles has experienced since December, L.A. County health officials have informed area colleges and universities that permission to reopen is highly unlikely in the coming weeks. While the recent reduction in case counts and rollout of vaccines are promising developments, control of the pandemic is not coming soon enough. In December, as we looked ahead, we hoped spring break could be a potential window to safely return more students to campus. It is now clear to us, given the latest indications from county health officials, that our current operating model will continue to remain in place for the rest of the semester. To many, this news will not come as a surprise. And yet I know this news is very disappointing nonetheless. I can assure you that if regulatory guidance changes allowing more activity, we will explore the potential for late semester, in-person programming.

Fall 2021 - Optimism Ahead:  Our sights are currently set on Fall Semester as the time to return to in-person instruction and a more traditional campus life. Driven by the availability of new vaccines and an expected reduction in cases and hospitalizations, county health officials have expressed similar optimism. A final plan for this fall cannot be finalized until the county provides guidance this summer--but based on how our staff and faculty have come together thus far, I am confident that operationally we will be ready.  

Until that time, I want to update you on a number of topics related to the current semester.

Our first priority is to continue to serve our students by delivering an enriching academic experience and to enable them to continue making progress towards their academic goals, while supporting their academic and non-academic needs. Across departments, courses have been designed to be delivered remotely and to accommodate students, wherever they may be located. All student support services remain open and available, including academic advising, counseling and medical services, fellowships support, the Hameetman Career Center, the Intercultural Community Center, peer learning, and the like.

 Being remote for spring has other implications:

  • Oxy will not be able to participate in the upcoming spring athletics season. For those students participating in spring varsity sports, this marks the second season lost to the pandemic. This is deeply disappointing to all of us. Our hearts go out to all our athletes, and particularly our seniors, who through no fault of their own have to forgo such an important part of their Oxy experience.
  • For our seniors, no decisions have been made about Commencement. As I communicated on January 27, we are looking at multiple options and plan to make a decision by March 1.
  • Our 2021 Summer Research Program is moving forward as scheduled, although the availability of on-campus housing is not clear at this point. 

As we have done since the beginning of the pandemic, we pledge to keep you apprised of key developments along the way. We remain in close contact with county health officials and are carefully monitoring local conditions. If conditions continue to improve, there may be opportunities to gradually open more campus facilities in the coming weeks. We understand that in this environment, circumstances can change and our plans must remain adaptable. 

I am so grateful to all our faculty and staff for your dedicated, caring, resolute work with our students, both inside and outside of the classroom during the pandemic. Students, we  recognize that this hasn't been an easy time and we remain committed to supporting your physical and mental health. We greatly appreciate the flexibility, creativity, and perseverance you have demonstrated under these extraordinary circumstances. 

With best regards,
President Elam