Looking Ahead to Spring Semester (10/9/20)

Dear Pomona College Community,

Right now, it seems, in this year of uncertainty around the globe, with winter still to come, we are all looking ahead to spring and looking for firmer ground in this crisis.

More specific to Pomona, as we reach the half-way point in our slightly accelerated fall semester, we know members of our community are wondering about spring semester. We know how much it matters for those students who are eager to return to campus. We also know it deeply matters for those students who need or prefer to continue remote education at this time.

Back in early July, as the COVID-19 public health crisis escalated in California, we announced that we would not be able to return students to campus for fall. Our decision was dictated by the spread of the virus in our region at that time. A month later, our path was reinforced when Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued guidelines that barred colleges from returning students to campus except in very limited circumstances.

Those public health guidelines remain in effect right now and, at this point, we do not expect an update until the end of November or early December. In the meantime, we continue the urgent work of planning and preparing the campus. We are seeking to learn everything we can from institutions elsewhere in the country that have been able to return students, while we work to promote the ongoing safety of our community.

As it was for fall, the decision about spring will be dictated by the public health situation and how it applies to Pomona as a residential college. We hope to be able to make an announcement by mid-December.

If students do return to campus for spring, instruction is likely to continue online with students taking courses from their computers in their residence halls and maintaining many social distancing requirements to promote safety.   

Compliance with public health guidance will likely require lower population density in residence halls, with one person per room, lower student-to-bathroom ratios, and space set aside for quarantine and isolation purposes.

For this reason, if we are able to re-open campus next semester, it’s unlikely that the entire student body would return for spring. We’ll be getting input from faculty, staff and students for help determining the process for return to campus—if we are indeed able to move ahead for spring. It’s important to reiterate that, at this point, we simply don’t know what will be possible until we receive further public health guidance from Los Angeles County.

In this time of challenge and uncertainty, Sagehens are supporting one another. I am grateful to the alumni, trustees, faculty, staff and students who have joined together to launch a fund to financially assist employees who have been temporarily furloughed with the campus closed.

I am heartened to see how our students, pursuing their education from locations across the nation, also are maintaining their civic engagement through student-led efforts to get out the vote.

I also want to express my gratitude and thanks to the alumni, parents and other members of our extended community working on the front lines in this global crisis. Finally, I want to once again congratulate Jennifer Doudna ’85 on receiving the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this week—she is one of countless Sagehens changing the world for the better, even in this difficult moment.

I am deeply grateful to all of you for your commitment to our community, and I so look forward to the time when we can all be together on our campus again.


All the best,