Dear HMC community,
During the HMC board’s meeting yesterday, the board authorized students returning to campus this fall for a hybrid semester involving both in-person and online courses, assuming that we are permitted to do so by the State of California and Los Angeles County. California is still in the early stages of Phase 2 of its re-opening plan, and in recent days, we have seen a concerning trend in Los Angeles County of increasing infection rates and hospitalizations.
While we continue to monitor these developments, we believe that the College’s leadership, faculty, students and staff have developed a plan for the fall semester that will allow students to return to campus and the College to provide a collaborative and supportive on-campus educational experience. The two guiding principles that have focused our planning process are protecting the health and safety of all members of the HMC community while providing the collaborative educational experiences we treasure. While we realize that the state still hasn’t given colleges and universities permission to open this fall, we hope that by releasing information about our preliminary plans now, we can provide students and families with enough details so that they can make plans that best align with their individual needs and situation.
We acknowledge that we will need to adjust these plans as the situation continues to change. We also anticipate that if the spread of COVID-19 does not slow down in Southern California, then despite our planning efforts we could be forced to move to an online-only fall semester.
Some of the recommendations in our preliminary plans may seem in conflict with our position as a member of The Claremont Colleges consortium. While we are in near-constant communication with our counterparts as we continue to share and coordinate our respective plans, as of the writing of this message, some of the other colleges have not yet made their decisions on how to proceed for the fall semester. We respect their right to deliberate further on this difficult decision. We are moving ahead now with a decision for Mudd because all members of our community – including students and their families, our faculty and staff – need both time and accurate information in order to plan for the fall semester. We believe that we can best protect our community when we are able to provide a living and learning haven to the roughly 1,100 Mudders (students, faculty and essential staff) who would most benefit from being physically on our campus.
The world has changed dramatically, placing us in an extremely challenging situation with no perfect answers. While we would like for things to be different, we realize that it is better temporarily to safeguard our campus community by sheltering here and limiting our potential exposure so that we can #StaySafeAtMudd. We are still committed to maximizing the Consortium experience to the extent possible, and as the other colleges determine their plans for the fall, we will look to see whether we can make adjustments to our own plan to align in ways that will enhance the educational experience for our students while keeping our community safe.
A Collaborative Living and Learning Community
We anticipate the 2020-2021 academic year will be unlike any other in the College’s history. We are a collaborative community of lifelong learners, and we need that community in order to thrive. We believe that there are many benefits to offering students the opportunity to return to campus. On campus, we can ensure that we create a shared, equitable and supportive environment for living and learning along with collaboration opportunities with fellow Mudders—all critical components necessary to ensuring continued academic success.
I would like to thank the many members of our community—the faculty, staff, students and families both at Harvey Mudd and across the consortium—who have helped guide these planning efforts. We are grateful for the input of all members of our community, including those who wrote letters. We recognize that this is an incredibly challenging time for everyone. We hear your disappointment that we cannot return to normal, and we appreciate your patience and understanding.
As we have reviewed the list of possible unknowns that we will face together this fall, it has often seemed daunting. We recognize that we will begin the next academic year in a changed world and that everything we will do involves some level of risk. We are committed to safeguarding the health of our students, faculty and staff by following the guidance of scientists and medical professionals. As the virus continues to spread in Southern California and across the U.S., we know that we can expect members of our community to contract COVID-19. We must be ready so that when it happens, we can support those who most need our help, while continuing to provide the highest quality educational experience possible for our students.
We are committed to protecting the most vulnerable members of our community. We are using as our guide the state’s initial Safer At Home order, which asked Californians to limit their exposure to COVID-19 by limiting their time away from home to essential activities only. We want our students taking in-person classes at HMC to feel like the College is their home during the semester and to follow similar guidelines. While we would like students to remain on campus or in campus-provided housing and not have visitors, we fully support our students who need to travel off campus to access essential consortial services such as those available at Student Health Services and Monsour Counseling and Psychological Center. We do ask that they follow the recommended measures for protecting themselves and others while off campus.
An Ever-Changing Environment
One challenge for our planning process has been the constantly shifting nature of the pandemic itself. While initially, younger people seemed to be less vulnerable to COVID-19, in recent days we have seen the number of infections among this age group increase. That is why we have made the difficult decision to not allow students from the other campuses to take in-person classes at HMC or to allow our students to take in-person courses at the other Claremont colleges. We will be providing online access to students for most courses, and we expect a large percentage of courses at many of the other colleges to be offered online as well. We also are committed to working with students to help address their individual needs through the academic advising process. In addition, we have made the difficult decision to not allow our on-campus students to participate in CMS athletics this fall, but we will re-evaluate this for the spring semester as we see how things progress. We know that not being able to participate in athletics is very disappointing and frustrating for our student athletes and their families, and we are sorry. Please know that this decision weighed heavily on the board as we discussed our options and the anticipated guidance from the county.
We know that not everyone will be comfortable returning to campus for in-person classes. Because of this, we are making every effort to offer as much of our curriculum online as possible so that students who are more vulnerable due to health conditions, international students who are unable to physically come to Claremont, or students who choose not to return to campus in the next academic year may continue to work toward their degrees online from an alternative location. In addition, we realize that some students and student-athletes may prefer to defer their enrollment for a year in the hopes that a vaccine will be developed that will allow a return to a more normal on-campus experience.
Required Health Measures
As we embark on our re-entry plan, #StaySafeAtMudd, we ask that all community members commit to taking the steps and following the measures with which we can help keep each other safe and healthy. Some of these include:
- Students quarantining on the residential end of campus for two weeks at the beginning of the semester and completing all coursework online during this time (limiting social interactions)
- Agreeing to daily symptom monitoring and reporting and to being tested when symptoms develop
- Wearing a mask or face covering when on campus in public areas and outdoors
- Following physical/social distancing recommendations to stay 6 feet apart at all times
- Assisting with contact tracing efforts if requested
- Committing to self-isolation for those who test positive for COVID-19
- Adhering to a program of increased cleaning of our facilities as essential components of a comprehensive system of virus monitoring and outbreak prevention.
We plan to provide students coming to campus with an updated suggested packing list and will provide all students with reusable masks and other health-related items. In regard to testing, the College will follow the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College Health Association and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which recommend testing only when individuals are symptomatic or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
The Revised Academic Calendar
We shared on June 11 the revised academic calendar for fall, with courses beginning Aug. 24 and instruction ending Tuesday, Nov. 24. Our goal in ending instruction before Thanksgiving was to provide students and families with options so that they can decide on the best course of action given the normally busy Thanksgiving holiday travel time. Students who would like to remain on campus over the holiday weekend to complete their coursework and finals from HMC will be allowed to do so. Those who decide to return home for the holiday will need to complete their exams and assessments from home. Students who choose to return home prior to the Thanksgiving holiday will receive a room and board credit on their student account. We anticipate not having a Fall Break and will instead use that time for instruction. In addition, we anticipate the possibility of using two Saturdays for instruction so that we can fulfill the educational objectives our academic program requires.
Housing, Move-In and New Student Orientation
All students (new and returning) will be assigned a window of time that they will be able to arrive on campus for a contactless move-in this year. Move-in times will be staggered and limited based on residence hall occupancies. New international students and new Summer Institute students will be assigned move-in times for Friday, Aug. 21. The rest of the new students will be assigned move-in times on Saturday, Aug. 22. Returning students will likely be assigned move-in times on Sunday, Aug. 23. Each student will be permitted one person who may assist them with moving into their residence hall rooms. More details on New Student Orientation and move-in schedules will be communicated over the summer. We will be reducing the number of students living in dorm rooms to comply with anticipated residential density requirements from public health officials. The College has identified alternative housing for some students in apartments close to campus.
Courses and Modalities of Instruction
We anticipate courses will be delivered using a mix of modalities this fall, including in-person, online and a hybrid format mixing both modalities. In order to comply with anticipated guidance from the county and state, we expect all larger courses will be delivered online to allow for required physical/social distancing. We also anticipate offering as many as 70% of our courses through online formats so that we can allow our students to continue progress toward their degree if they are forced to self-isolate or if they become ill.
We have created a new website at StaySafe@Mudd where we will post important announcements and frequently asked questions as we continue finalizing our fall semester plans. I encourage you to continue checking the site and your email as we progress through the summer.
Thank you again for your patience and support as we work through the complicated process of adapting to the new reality we all are facing. We will continue to provide updates to you as the situation warrants and plans continue to be refined or adjusted. We all very much look forward to welcoming our students to campus this fall.