Spring Semester Plans


An update on our determinations for the spring semester, given the resurgence of COVID-19.

Dear Oxy Community:

I hope that you all have enjoyed your break and time away over the holidays. I write now to update you on our determinations for the spring semester, given the resurgence of COVID-19.

As you are aware, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant is profoundly influencing lives and daily interactions across the globe, including impacting our plans for the start of the Spring 2022 Semester at Occidental. After successfully completing an in-person fall semester, we fully intend for an equally effective residential spring. However, we now face a different challenge with a COVID variant that is decidedly more transmissible. Record-breaking numbers of new cases in Los Angeles County and our own testing on campus over the winter break bear this out. And yet, public health guidance and the science-to-date continue to stress that vaccination, including the additional booster, plus masking remain a very strong defense against infection, severe illness and hospitalization. Accordingly, rather than shutting down until the virus disappears, we will resume an in-person residential experience knowing that this return depends on developing flexible, safety conscious, preventative measures of living responsibly with the realities of COVID.

After meetings and discussions over the past days and weeks with Oxy's COVID Operations Group (COG) and Dr. Kimberly Shriner '80, our epidemiology consultant, we have decided to delay the start of the spring semester one week, until January 24, and that the first week of classes, January 24 through January 28, will be remote. This additional time will enable us to better orchestrate and observe the return of students and regulate the density of the campus. It will also allow us to assess the direction of the virus and where the surge is heading. (Experts have suggested that Omicron should peak by the end of the month.) Our hope is to prepare for and protect against Omicron so that other than the first week, the semester can operate in person without interruption. In addition, we have decided on the following:

  • We are strongly recommending that students consider returning between January 18-28, if your plans allow. (Residence halls will still open on January 15 as scheduled.) A staggered return to campus over this longer period of time will help us reduce crowding and more effectively manage positive cases that present themselves.

  • All students will be tested upon return (details are below).  

  • As was the case last semester, everyone must be masked while indoors on campus, as required by state and county health authorities.

  • Dining facilities will still be open, with reduced indoor seating. 

With these adjustments, we believe an enriching in-person spring semester is achievable. As always, it will take a collective effort by all of us, especially in the first few weeks, for us to be successful. As a community, we have shown time and time again that we can adhere to the necessary protocols to keep ourselves and our fellow community members safe. I ask you to redouble these efforts, especially early in the semester as we first come together again. Flexibility is also key, as we must be ready to make other adjustments as the semester unfolds. I understand that this is a start to the spring that none of us expected, and I thank you in advance for your consideration and cooperation. I look forward to seeing you all on campus in the very near future.  

Please see below for a recap of the latest health and safety measures. Community members may continue to check the Back at Oxy website for additional information. Questions may be directed to oxy@oxy.edu

President Elam

COVID Operations Group

Harry J. Elam, Jr., President
Sharla Fett, Faculty Council President, Professor of American History
Rob Flot, Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students
Amos Himmelstein, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
Nora Kahn, General Counsel
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 

______________________________________________________________________

Additional Return to Campus Details

Academic:

  • Classes will begin Monday, January 24, rather than Tuesday, January 18, with the first week of classes being remote. Spring break (March 7-11) will take place as scheduled, as will Commencement on Sunday, May 15. Based on a handful of small schedule changes later in spring, the semester will retain the same number of instructional days as planned.

  • In-person instruction will begin during the week of Monday, January 31, ramping up to an expected full return to in-person instruction by Monday, February 7.

  • We will continue to utilize the tents we set up last semester for professors who choose to take advantage of outdoor classroom instruction.

  • As was the case last semester, we anticipate that students may need to miss class on occasion due to illness, isolation or other circumstances. The Dean of Students office, Disability Services, and individual faculty members will work with students who require accommodations or academic flexibility due to such absences. 

Student Return to Campus:

  • We are strongly recommending that students consider returning between January 18-28, if your plans allow. A staggered return to campus over this longer period of time will help us reduce crowding and more effectively manage positive cases that present themselves. (Residence halls will still open on January 15 as scheduled.) To help our planning, Residential Education and Housing Services will be sending a questionnaire to students via email asking for your intended return date. We ask for a response no later than Monday, January 10.

  • We encourage all students to complete and receive results of a PCR test within 48 hours prior to their planned arrival to campus. Students who test positive may benefit from knowing this before departing for campus, and isolating instead at home.

  • Students should report to the AGC testing center for testing on the day of your arrival (or day after if you arrive after hours). Current hours of operation are Mon-Fri. 8:00am - 3:45pm, however we may announce extended hours next week. Students will be required to sequester in their room until they are cleared with a negative result. (Leaving the room to get food or exercise outside is permitted).

  • Students who are COVID-positive at the time of their return should not return to campus until they have completed isolation per CDC guidelines and are symptom free.

  • Students who had COVID over the break can return if they have completed all required isolation requirements. 

  • If at the time of your return, you are experiencing COVID-like symptoms, you must test to rule out COVID prior to your return.

Employee Return to Campus:

  • We will continue with the guidance from December 31, which recommended that all employees who do not need to be on campus work remotely for this week and next week.

  • In addition, we will be scheduling separate info sessions for faculty and staff on the morning of Monday, January 10. A separate Zoom invite will be sent later.

Ongoing Testing:

  • All students will be tested weekly, with certain student cohorts testing twice weekly for at least the first month of the semester. 

  • All faculty and staff will also be tested weekly, until further notice. Details will be provided in a separate message. Employees working fully remotely do not need to come to campus for testing.

  • Occidental currently has in hand an adequate stock of testing kits to carry out this testing regimen.

Boosters:

  • As communicated previously, we are requiring the booster vaccine by January 18 for students and employees who do not already have approved exemptions.

  • If you are not yet eligible for the booster vaccine, you are expected to obtain the booster within 30 days of becoming eligible. Note that the FDA recently changed its eligibility guidance to 5 months from the date of your second Pfizer/Moderna vaccination shot, and 2 months after vaccination with Johnson & Johnson. 

  • For those individuals who are currently eligible but unable to get a booster in your home city, Oxy is not able to provide boosters on campus at this time. Continue to check the website for resources close to campus.  

  • Once you have received your booster, please upload a record to myhealth.oxy.edu. Instructions can be found here.

Exposure Management: Isolation and Quarantine

  • Oxy has followed and will continue to follow federal, state and local public health guidance. Guidance has changed in recent weeks, and there may be further changes in the coming weeks given current data and the evolving public health evaluation of the pandemic.

  • Oxy is following the current L.A. County guidance of a 5-day isolation period for individuals who test positive. A negative test result is required to exit the isolation period. 

  • We will continue to follow county protocols for close contacts and known exposures. 

Masking:

  • Masking continues to be one of the most important mitigation measures.

  • In line with state and county health requirements, we continue to require masking indoors, except when eating, drinking or alone in a private work space. Students are not required to wear masks inside their rooms.

  • Outdoors, we strongly recommend masks in crowded spaces when appropriate distancing is not possible.

  • Consistent with new county guidelines, employees who work indoors and come into close contact with other employees are required to wear surgical grade quality masks or higher quality (N95 or KN95). Cloth masks are no longer considered effective in these situations. The College will send follow up communication regarding mask availability and distribution.  

Dining: 

  • To start the semester, we will reduce indoor seating capacity in dining halls.

  • Students are not permitted to eat in the Marketplace or Cooler until they have received a negative result from their return-to-campus COVID test.

  • Even after students receive a negative result from their return to campus test, we encourage food to be taken to-go to be eaten outside, utilizing tents, picnic tables and many other available outdoor spaces. 

Other/Additional Guidance:

  • At this time there are no new changes to campus event guidance.

  • Until February 1, we ask students, faculty and staff to limit socializing among large groups off campus.

  • Until February 1, there will be no catered events by Oxy Dining in order to maximize utilization of dining staff.

  • REHS will be sharing an updated COVID-19 Student Compact soon, which will include new information about the guest policy and indoor lounge access.