Report on First Week Back on Campus (9/6/21)

Dear Pomona College Community,

I’m writing to report on our first week with students back on campus after so many months of empty classrooms and remote learning in the pandemic.

Let me share good news:

The return to campus provided our first chance for widespread testing of students. In the week of Aug. 29, we tested nearly all of our more than 1,700 students, with only three students testing positive for a positivity rate of 0.17 percent. Weekly testing for all students is now underway, and a new case reporting dashboard including student testing data will be available on our website this week. (Along with student testing data, it will also compile results for the faculty/staff testing we’ve been conducting for months.)

Last week, we also conducted 185 tests on faculty and staff, with three positives for a 1.6% positivity rate.

With our comprehensive vaccination campaign and mandate, more than 99 percent of our students (a handful have approved medical or religious exemptions) and 93.5 percent of faculty and staff are fully vaccinated. All faculty or staff without medical or religious exemptions must complete vaccination this month. Vaccination, testing and masks help form our multi-layered strategy to promote safety for our community, and additional details can be found on our COVID-19 website.

I am so glad to see students once again learning in-person and on campus for the residential liberal arts experience at the heart of a Pomona education. Our new outdoor classrooms, found throughout campus, fill me with pride for our community’s adaptability and energy. And even as the delta variant brings a surge of cases nationwide, I see some hopeful signs as Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has recently reported that while transmission remains high in our county, case rates have declined more than 20 percent over the past two weeks.

I also want to be clear: Our success in containing the virus in these first days at Pomona has been hard-fought, and we will all need to work together like never before to continue it in the weeks and months ahead.

Already, some higher education institutions across the nation have faced significant outbreaks that have forced them to temporarily shift, once again, to online classes. Pomona’s comprehensive measures, such as requiring vaccination and a community agreement on standards for all, are intended to go the extra mile to promote safety and avoid disrupting in-person education for our students.

I recognize there has been significant attention on social media regarding our response to a violation of the College’s COVID-19 safety protocols for student move-in. As a matter of privacy as well as fairness, I cannot discuss or dispute the details of an individual case.

I can, however, affirm that our community has put painstaking work and intentionality into preparing community standards for this crisis. We take disciplinary decisions with the utmost seriousness, and always seek thorough consideration of the implications of the choices involved for the community and the individual. We also work to support and restore individuals to our community when sanctions end.

In this time of pandemic and loss, the COVID-19 safety steps our community has agreed to must be mandatory. If we don’t maintain them, safety will be jeopardized and in-person education could be disrupted.

Not so many months ago, our community was scattered around the globe in the pandemic. Now we are back in our labs and classrooms and on our beloved Marston Quad. The first days have shown we can make a safe return, and I and my colleagues will work tirelessly to keep that momentum. We will need the help and engagement of every member of our community.

With gratitude, I ask for your continued commitment to our safety measures and mutual cooperation as new challenges arise in the days and weeks ahead.

This pandemic will end. In this pivotal moment, let us press ahead together. I’ll be in touch again with another update next week.

 

With best wishes,

Gabi