May 20 Letter from HMC Board of Trustees

College Community:

The Harvey Mudd College Board of Trustees held its May meeting May 15–16. In addition to our normal business, the board spent much of our time together discussing the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on the College as well as the possible options for resuming instruction this fall.

At the outset, we sincerely thank everyone who dove in this spring to make the final two months of classes successful in the rapidly evolving climate the pandemic presented. The faculty and staff made great efforts to make the transition to online learning work, and we appreciate both our students’ and families’ engagement in, and support of, this process. We also would like to congratulate our amazing Class of 2020 on the successful completion of their coursework at Harvey Mudd. We know this has been a particularly challenging time for our seniors, and we look forward to the time when we can all gather together on campus to celebrate all you have accomplished during your time at the College. Until then, we wish you all the best as you begin the next phases in your careers.

As we look forward to the fall semester, there are some things we know, some that are unclear, and some that we recognize will be outside our control. In the absence of a vaccine, it is very likely that the COVID-19 virus will be with us for some time and that we will have to consider the implications of that in whatever plan we ultimately choose regarding fall instruction. The status of the infections, the presence of quality testing, and likely government guidance and approval for opening are as yet undetermined. With that as our backdrop, we have three large-scale options to consider:

  1. in-person classes beginning in the fall (relatively back to normal),
  2. students return in the fall, but we employ a hybrid instructional model that makes use of both in-person and online strategies to allow greater physical distancing, and
  3. offering courses online only.

We have a solid operational model for the normal approach, and we have some idea of what would be required should we have to shift to online learning, but we do not yet have a model for an in-person, hybrid approach. Recognizing that the situation is still evolving rapidly, we believe this approach is the most likely scenario under which we will need to operate this fall. We recognize that our students, faculty and staff—as well as our students’ families—are anxious for a decision on what plans might be for fall 2020. The board believes many of the variables will be clearer over the next several weeks. In order to prepare for a fully informed decision, we are asking our community to look closely—and as specifically as possible—at the options for a hybrid approach and what we all will need to do should that approach be selected.

Our priorities in making a decision about fall instruction include:

  • Resources and procedures that emphasize a way for faculty and students to engage in learning together as safely as possible while providing the educational experience we treasure. These measures include not only robust preventative processes, but also functional means of dealing with infection, should it occur, and of minimizing the risk of spread within our population.
  • Consideration for our most vulnerable and at-risk populations to engage the process in an effective way.
  • Maintaining a conservative stance to business operations and finances that allows us to support whatever is needed in the short term, while preserving our long-term and currently well-situated status.
  • Open and ongoing communications on the status of our efforts and opportunities to adjust and improve them.
  • A recognition that we will need to be flexible to adapt to whatever changes occur in the status of the epidemic, medical treatment, or regulatory efforts that will come over the next year and possibly beyond.

We hope to provide additional information to our community in the coming weeks. In addition to our discussions on COVID-19 and fall planning, the board received a number of updates and made some additional decisions we would like to share with you.

Campus Improvements

  • The Physical Plant and Campus Planning Committee (PPCPC) received an update on construction progress for the Scott A. McGregor Computer Science Center. The governor’s executive order granted construction essential status and allowed projects to continue. The project remains on budget and on time for a spring 2021 opening.
  • After considering feedback from board leadership and others, the PPCPC agreed to delay this summer’s anticipated roof and HVAC system replacement on the Platt Campus Center. The Committee allocated funds to cover patching the roof and asbestos abatement in the intervening period. The PPCPC agreed to place Jacobs-Keck Phase Three renovations on hold for the time being. However, the PPCPC also agreed to monitor the COVID-19 environment and consider restarting both these high-priority projects as soon as the situation allows and it is practical to do so.

Trustee Actions

  • James C. Bean ’77 was elected to serve as chair of the board beginning July 1.
  • Wayne Drinkward ’73 was elected Advisory Trustee and will continue to advise the board and administration for the next six months as the College continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Trustees Matthew Ferri, Laura Larson P20, and Mike Schubmehl ’02 were re-elected for three-year terms. Vice Chair Kevin Schofield P13, P13 was re-elected for a one-year term. Also, the board elected Howard DeShong ’89 P21 to return as a trustee from advisory trustee status.
  • Joining the board as Recent Graduate Trustees are Lindsay Wray ’08, chief science officer for Eighteen B, and Karen Morrison ’08, assistant director, California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Wray earned her bachelor’s at HMC in biology and her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Tufts University. Morrison earned a bachelor’s with high distinction in Chemistry from HMC and her PhD in Organic Chemistry from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Chosen to join the board July 1 are Ramona Sequeria P23 and Mar Hershenson P24. Sequeria serves as president of the U.S. Business Unit of Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. She has a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Genetics & Molecular Biology from the University of Toronto and an MBA from McMaster University. Hershenson is founder and managing partner for Pear VC based in Palo Alto, California. She earned her master’s and PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. We thank everyone for their leadership and willingness to serve the College as members of the board.

Faculty Actions

  • The Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) has approved the renewal of Danae Schultz (Biology), Timothy Tsai (Engineering) and Werner Zorman (Annenberg Professor of Leadership – Engineering) to serve an additional, two-year term as assistant professors.
  • The board approved the AAC’s recommendation to grant tenure and promote to the rank of associate professor Julie Medero (Computer Science).
  • Kash Gokli (Engineering) was granted tenure and awarded the Oliver C. Field Professorship of Manufacturing and Engineering Economics.
  • Karl Haushalter (Chemistry) was promoted to the rank of full professor. The board congratulates all of the faculty mentioned above and thanks them for their continued service to the College.

In closing, the board recognizes that our community’s most important asset is our culture of caring deeply about each other and about the College. Our planning and decisions all will emanate from that shared sense of values. The board believes that Harvey Mudd College’s mission, as well as our collective willingness to tackle challenging issues, make us well-suited to engage and solve this most challenging of problems. We look forward to partnering with you as we continue to advance the educational mission of the College together.

Sincerely,

Wayne Drinkward ’73
Chair, Harvey Mudd College Board of Trustees