An update on housing information and related policies for Spring 2021.
Dear Oxy Community:
As we approach the end of this semester and anticipate the start of spring semester, we want to update everyone about a number of housing issues. Because the College is still awaiting formal guidance from Los Angeles County public health officials, we aren't in a position yet to announce a final decision regarding what the entire on-campus housing situation will look like this spring. However, there are many aspects of the housing program and related health and safety measures that we can share with the community now.
We currently have approximately 100 students living in Berkus Hall this semester. Under county guidelines, we were able to offer housing to international students and those students facing significant housing hardships, and the county has assured us that we can continue to house students under these conditions through the spring. Based on our best estimates, we expect that an additional 75 - 200 students may require housing next semester (a mix of international students that could not make it to campus in the fall due to travel restrictions, first years with housing hardships, and returning students with housing and home life hardships. Berkus simply isn't large enough to accommodate all of these students.
Instead, based on the recommendation of Oxy's Health and Safety Committee, Berkus will be reserved as an isolation and quarantine space for the spring semester. Berkus is the only residence hall with single rooms and private bathrooms that meets the county's requirements for quarantine space. That's why it was originally designated for that purpose this fall, until the number of on-campus housing petitions we received turned out to be far smaller than we anticipated and we were able to consolidate everyone into a single hall. For the health and safety of the Oxy community, and to be in compliance with public health guidelines, we believe that it is prudent and necessary to reassign Berkus for this purpose.
The use of Berkus as an isolation and quarantine space means that students currently living in Berkus will need to move to other residence halls, a decision that was communicated on November 13 to students on campus. Understandably, students have raised questions about the need for the move as well as concerns about congregate living, including moving from rooms with private bathrooms to residence halls with shared bathrooms.
The Health and Safety Committee, in consultation with infectious disease expert Dr. Kimberly Shriner '80, and based on the guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control, the state of California and the county, has been working diligently to develop plans and procedures for creating a safe living and working environment for students and staff. We want to assure everyone that the safety of our community has been at the forefront of our decision making.
Because we have relied on the latest and most up-to-date scientific understanding of the virus, the Health and Safety Committee, Dean of Students office, and Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS) believe that our spring housing plan is prudent and safe, provided all College policies and guidelines are followed. These include the following:
We plan to continue housing students in singles-only rooms and limit the number of rooms occupied on each floor. This will help reduce hall density, the number of students assigned to each restroom and risk of transmission.
Students will be required to wear masks at all times while in residence halls, with the exception of being alone in their private room. Masks will also be required to be worn in the restroom, with the exception of when engaging in hygiene activities where masks are impractical such as showering and brushing one’s teeth.
Each restroom will have a posted maximum capacity depending on the size of the space, will be retrofitted with plexiglass barriers between sinks where necessary, and will close stalls to ensure sufficient distance from the person next to you. These safety measures are consistent with the recommendations from the state and county departments of public health.
Hall and restroom cleaning protocols follow best practices developed by the CDC that reduce potential exposure to COVID-19. These best practices include increased cleaning frequency, routine disinfection of high-touch surfaces, and the installation of hand sanitizing stations.
The no-visitor policy for all residence halls will continue.
Aside from these res hall specific policies, there are other factors that will contribute to safety everywhere on campus:
Over the break we plan to shift to a new testing program which will include weekly, self-administered COVID-19 testing for students, faculty, and staff who are on campus. When the spring semester begins, the frequency will increase to twice per week.
Students, faculty, and staff who are on-campus will also be expected to continue to complete the daily health check app.
REHS and others from the COVID operations group will be meeting with current on-campus students later this week. Our respective offices are also available should anyone have further questions or concerns about housing. Thank you, and we wish you all a safe and healthy winter break.
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Senior Director of Student Wellness
Assistant Dean of Students and Director of REHS and Student Conduct