A message from Deans Flot and Sternberg in advance of online classes beginning on Monday, including links to useful resources created for online learning.
Normally, a return from spring break marks another milestone in the ebb and flow of the academic year. Students return refreshed from a needed break, ready to face the academic challenges of the second half of the semester, and for some, the culmination of their college careers. However this year, we find ourselves in a situation that no one could have imagined. There is nothing more disappointing to us than having to eliminate the communal residential component of the Oxy experience. Intellectually, we know it’s the right thing to do to slow the spread of the coronavirus locally and nationally. But that doesn’t lessen the pain. We’ve heard from many of you. We’ve seen the faces of those few who remain on campus. We know this transition is not easy on anyone. But there are some aspects of this semester that will be fundamentally the same as a typical spring. Your classes will resume, you will continue your academic progress, and you will have every opportunity to finish the semester successfully. You will learn interesting things, you will have enriching discussions, you will write thoughtful and insightful papers, you will master new skills, you will complete in-depth projects, you will create music and works of art. In short, you will continue to be an Oxy student!
We want to use this message to explain what lies ahead and provide some perspective that may be useful to you as you begin to navigate some unfamiliar territory. (Separately, be sure to visit Oxy’s COVID-19 hub where we have added a new section summarizing everything you need to know about learning remotely).
First, a special message to seniors. From a purely academic perspective, Oxy faculty and staff are fully committed to supporting you in completing your requirements for graduation. While you may take some comfort in that fact, we understand that this pales in comparison to the lived experiences you planned to have, and imagined you might have, when you thought about what your final weeks at Oxy would be like. Some time in the future, things will get better -- and you will be telling stories for years to come about the extraordinary circumstances of your senior year of college. But in the meantime, we want you (and all students) to know we are here for you. Your professors are here for you. And every employee of the college feels part of the pain you are feeling, and we are rooting for your success.
The remainder of the spring semester may be in unusual physical surroundings and you may be using perhaps some unfamiliar tools, but we hope that you will find enjoyment in the time you spend focused on your academic pursuits in the weeks ahead.
Importantly, out of sight is not out of mind! Your professors are still here, committed to their courses, and to you, as much as ever. Stay connected. You are probably already accustomed to communicating with your professors via email or during office hours. Those modes of communication will continue just as they always have. Most will be interacting with you “face-to-face”, at least some of the time, through video-chat, which will help reinforce that they are still here for you, even if they’re not physically in the same room with you. And stay connected to your friends, classmates, and hallmates. Social distancing is hard--but it will not last forever. We need to maintain the relationships that sustain us, even if we are not in close proximity to one another.
As Oxy students, you will continue to have access to all of Oxy’s academic and student support services. The Writing Center, AMP, Peer Learning program, SSAP, the Advising Center, pre-health advising, pre-law advising, fellowships advising, the Dean of Students office, student success coaching, health and wellness support, disability services, and the resources of the Library and the Hameetman Career Center will continue to be available to you in a remote format.
Planning is in process for virtual workshops that will offer support such as academic coaching, skill-building, time management, and related skills. Stay tuned for a schedule of workshops to be announced via email and the COVID-19 bulletin.
We know that there will be some bumps in the road ahead. Technology may be glitchy, it will take some time for you (and your professors) to get the hang of the new tools. We ask that you be kind and patient with one another (and report all technical issues, promptly, to ITS helpdesk or direct questions to the email@example.com email address). Faculty have been reminded of the profound impact this transition has had on all of you, and we have emphasized to them that many of you may still be in the process of relocating and may need a few more days to get ready to return to class. If you will be “returning late” from spring break, as always, you will need to notify your professors of your absence and catch up on any work that you may miss. But we have asked for flexibility, patience, and compassion from our faculty in recognition of the impact of this crisis on students.
While we have encouraged this approach from our faculty, we ask that you practice the same. Our faculty were tasked with something extraordinary, in a hurry--and they have delivered. In the face of a scary public health crisis, our faculty (with the help of Oxy’s amazing technical and academic support staff) have pulled out all the stops to retool their courses to adapt to this extraordinary situation. We are impressed and inspired (but not surprised) by what they have been able to accomplish. And they have done so while having to manage ever evolving circumstances and disruptions to their personal, not just their professional, lives, with kids out of school, and the health and safety of family members on their minds. So it may not be perfect, at least not at first. We are all going to need to be patient with one another in the weeks ahead.
Please be well, and let us know if you have any questions. We are here for you.
Dean Flot and Dean Sternberg