COVID-19 Planning Update


The following is an excerpt specific to COVID-19 planning that is drawn from a recent community update emailed by President Elam.

In July, shortly after I arrived, one of my first steps to ensure a proper focus on COVID-related planning was to implement a COVID Operations Group (COG). Distinct from my weekly senior staff meeting, the COG is tasked with overseeing implementation of our operational plan this fall as well as planning for the spring semester. The COG is co-chaired by Marty Sharkey, vice president of communications & institutional initiatives and James Uhrich, vice president of information technology services. The other members include Rob Flot, dean of students, Amos Himmelstein, chief operating officer, Wendy Sternberg, dean of the College, John Lang, president of the Faculty Council, and Sara Semal, senior director of student wellness.   

To help us think through the pertinent issues related to this spring, we have also formed a Spring 2021 Working Group, which just had its first meeting Friday. Health and safety concerns will be our top priority as it was when we decided to go remote for this semester. For spring, guidance from state and county health officials will be a key factor in whatever we do. Much of the good work that was done in preparation for fall will help inform our plans for spring. We want to be prepared as conditions allow for various scenarios, ranging from a continuation of our current condition to some level of incremental return to  in-person residential experience and in-person instruction. The Working Group, with guidance and oversight from the COG, is tasked with the following: 

  • Determine the operational needs and/or prerequisites for various potential spring scenarios 
  • Develop robust executional plans that support the various scenarios.  
  • Determine how/when to seek broader input from the College community.
  • Determine timing/scope/nature of any subgroups necessary to achieve the goals of the working group.

The membership of the Spring Working Group includes:

Caro Brighouse, Dean’s Office

Ron Buckmire, Dean’s Office

Mary Christianakis, Critical Theory & Social Justice

Emmanuelle Despagnet-Ayoub, Chemistry

Salvador Fernandez, Dean’s Office

Rob Flot, Student Affairs

Susan Gratch, Theater

Amos Himmelstein, Finance & Operations

John Lang, Sociology & Faculty Council

Desiree LaVertu,  Music

Kitty Lu, Student/Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC)

Maria Mancera-Yamanaka, Dean’s Office

Amy Munoz, Hospitality Services

Gabriela Ortega, Administrator Staff Council & Information Technology Services

Tom Polansky, Facilities

Julie Prebel, American Studies; Writing Programs & Writing Center

Sara Semal, Emmons Wellness Center

Marty Sharkey, Communications & Institutional Initiatives

Aleksandra Sherman, Cognitive Science

Wendy Sternberg, Academic Affairs

Isaiah Thomas, Residential Education & Housing Services (REHS)

James Uhrich, Information Technology Services