Planning for Fall Semester (5/7/20)

Dear Pomona College Community,

With the spring semester reaching a close, I am writing to offer an update on our thinking regarding fall semester as global efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic continue. I hope that you and those you love are faring well in this difficult time.

I’m devoting much of my time to planning for the semester ahead, speaking with public health officials, epidemiologists and colleagues here on campus as well. I’ve accepted the challenge of chairing the Restart Higher Education Planning Task Force for the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, the main group for private colleges in our state. So I am in constant touch with other leaders of institutions also dealing with the issues involved in responsibly restarting in-person education in the fall. 

The challenges include practical questions such as how we will conduct testing for the virus, how we will promote physical distancing and care for any students who do become ill and whether we will need to use more and or different spaces to hold classes and house students. Those are just a few of the many questions we are tackling.

On a wider level, educators at all levels not only are working to finds paths to responsibly restart in-person instruction but also to stave off the learning loss brought on by this extraordinary situation affecting hundreds of millions of students around the globe. We must be thoughtful on both fronts, promoting public health and tending to our society’s future by providing the most impactful education possible in the circumstances. 

For Pomona, our hope and our expectation for fall is to be able to resume in-person classes and restore the on-campus residential community that is a central part of our liberal arts education. We are consulting with public health experts and looking at ways we could modify some of our practices and spaces to make this possible. 

If developments made it necessary, another possibility for fall would be to delay the start of the semester by a month or two, allowing for more preparation for the return to campus. A related option would be to begin for a month or two with remote instruction before students come to campus for the remainder of the semester.

If the public health crisis were to worsen in coming weeks and months, or physical distancing requirements preclude a return to typical practices, there remains the possibility we could be called to carry on in remote form for fall semester. 

Should we need to continue remotely for a time, we are committed to enhancing our technological support as well as opportunities for faculty to explore, share and hone approaches for online teaching and learning. 

Whichever direction we go, Pomona will not be alone as we consult with public health officials, national and state educational associations, peer institutions nationwide and partners in The Claremont Colleges consortium. Higher education institutions nationwide and across the globe face the same choices. 

For practical purposes, a choice on our path for fall will need to be made early in July at the latest.

While our hope for fall is to be able to resume in-person classes, we will continue to evaluate the situation and develop more detailed plans – and continue to provide our community with updates. I deeply appreciate the caring, adaptability and commitment of our entire community during this time of great challenge. 

Pomona’s 133-year history and experience dealing with major crises in the past has proven invaluable in this pandemic, and we are committed to moving forward with our academic mission in a way that is well-planned and beneficial to our community. Stay safe, stay in touch and share kindness whenever you can. 

With best wishes,