Occidental COVID-19 Update for Parents


A note to parents summarizing the unprecedented steps the College is taking to ensure that our academic program continues as we seek to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff.

Dear Parents:

In just the past week, the COVID-19 coronavirus has in many ways reshaped American society, disrupting the structures and routines that we all have taken for granted. We know that’s true for you, as you cope with sweeping changes in your home, job and community. We are dealing with the same daunting challenges here at Oxy, where we have had to take unprecedented steps to ensure that our academic program continues as we seek to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff.

As you know, the result has been enormously disruptive to our students. It is particularly devastating for our seniors, whose culminating semester has been turned upside down as a result of the pandemic. All of us at Oxy share their acute sense of loss. The rapidly evolving situation has required a series of painful—but necessary—decisions over the last several days. As Dean Flot noted in his message to campus yesterday regarding campus housing, the growing number of local, state and federal guidelines issued to limit the spread of the virus are beginning to constrain our decision-making process. (Just last night we were informed that food service in the Marketplace must now be conducted on a “to-go” basis only.)

We hope you have been keeping track of the latest updates that have been posted daily on our COVID-19 website. However, given the speed with which developments have unfolded, we wanted to give you a comprehensive overview of how we are delivering a substantive academic experience and other key updates for you and your student. As we have said before, we don’t claim to have answers to all the questions that confront us. But the extraordinary efforts faculty and staff have made, and continue to make, together with the remarkable resilience of our students, buoys our confidence that we will successfully work our way through this crisis.

Here’s where things stand today:

Academics

Oxy’s excellent and dedicated faculty and academic support staff have been hard at work preparing for the remainder of the semester, which is set to resume on Monday, March 23. We have been so impressed with the thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and creativity that they have brought to the task of translating course learning goals to a remote format, and we have every expectation that our faculty will deliver a rich and rewarding academic experience to our students, regardless of their location.

In addition, academic support services will remain available for students, and faculty are also preparing to resume advising through remote means. The Office of National and International Fellowships, the Pre-Health Advising Office, and the Hameetman Career Center are available for consultation and we encourage students to continue utilizing those resources. Although we’ve moved to remote instruction, the faculty take their course learning goals seriously and we are confident they can achieve them. We are also evaluating changes in grading policies for the spring semester that will help them focus on their studies in light of these unusual circumstances.

Campus Housing

As you know, health and safety concerns for students as well as faculty and staff led us to make the wrenching decision to ask students to move back home by this Friday, March 20. Roughly 200 students with compelling personal circumstances will continue to live on campus for the remainder of the semester. (Students remaining on campus will be taking the same remote learning experiences as everyone else.)

Student Financial Issues

All work-study students will be paid their full spring semester stipend, whether or not they are able to continue to work. In addition, every enrolled student who was living on campus this spring and has to go home as a result of the coronavirus move-out will receive a $300 credit for incremental expenses.

Study Abroad

All but a handful of Oxy students have returned home (not to campus) from dozens of study abroad sites.

Campus Operations

Dining Services, the Bookstore, the Postal Center remain open, albeit with modified hours. Services of the Emmons Student Wellness Center have largely moved online.

Athletics

All spring varsity sports have been cancelled. All athletic facilities are closed until further notice.

Commencement

No decision has been made on whether the College will move forward with Commencement. A decision will be made no later than April 13. If we are unable to hold Commencement as scheduled, we are committed to finding an appropriate time and manner to honor the Class of 2020.

In this time of disruption and anxiety, we deeply regret the necessity of sending messages like this one. Knowing the impact that this has on your and your student’s lives, we all wish it could be otherwise. But we are convinced that the steps we have taken are the best course of action to take in this crisis to help reduce the spread of the virus and ultimately help us all get past this.

We are deeply grateful to you for your patience, your understanding, and your own resilience in the face of these challenges.

Jonathan Veitch
President

Wendy Sternberg
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College

Rob Flot P’21
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students