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Fall 2020 Plan

A Caltech Commitment

"...Caltech is committed to providing the educational, research, and residential experience that is at the core of our mission. In turn, we all have a responsibility and must commit to practices that protect the health and well-being of the entire community and mitigate the spread of infection on campus."
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Updated July 15, 2020

On July 14, Caltech's president, provost, and vice president for student affairs updated the Caltech Community in an email message about the Institute's plans for the upcoming academic year, with a focus on the fall term. These plans, which were informed by recommendations from the Committee on Reconstituting On-Campus Instruction and by the results of a survey of both undergraduate and graduate students, are subject to change pending changes in the pandemic and guidance from local and state health authorities.

The following outlines integral aspects of Caltech's intended approach; this includes information on instruction, housing, dining, the student experience and activities, and required health and safety measures.

It is incumbent on each member of our community to remain apprised of current campus guidelines, to take responsibility for their actions, and to do everything possible to slow the spread of the disease within our research and learning community.

The Undergraduate FAQs, community messages, and health guidelines and processes will continue to be updated to reflect current developments.

Academic Instruction

We are committed to ensuring that faculty and instructors continue to meet Caltech's high academic and educational standards independent of instructional format, and that students, wherever they are, will be able to succeed.

With these principles in mind, we have developed the following instructional framework for fall term:

  • Instruction will take place through a hybrid model with a combination of remote and in-person instruction.
  • A pre-approved list of courses that require in-person activity will be offered on campus, with all other courses being conducted remotely. A variety of online tools and resources will be available for instructors and students to enhance learning. Special opportunities for collaboration and discussion will be introduced.
  • The term will start as scheduled on September 29. However, all in-person instruction will be completed before the Thanksgiving break, at which time students will be expected to travel home and stay home for the remainder of calendar year 2020. The final week of classes, and all final exams, will be delivered remotely.
  • Graduate students should continue to be enrolled fulltime with a combination of instruction and research courses as appropriate. Graduate students in PhD programs should continue to work with their research advisors to plan a course of study and research activities consistent with the campus return to work guidelines.
  • All international students (graduate and undergraduate) must be enrolled fulltime and be registered for at least one in-person course per term to maintain their immigration status and remain in the United States. The usual graduate research courses taken for credit with research activities conducted in some measure on-campus will satisfy this requirement.
  • Caltech will continue to develop a robust technological infrastructure, suite of online tools, and a staff-support structure that enhances remote education. This may include the implementation of a new learning module system, as well as the expansion of the iPad and pencil-loaner program which has provided students with critical access to learning tools.

We anticipate that the winter and spring terms will follow a similar instructional model, but will continue to assess the situation and provide more information as we move into the fall.

If you have additional questions, please see the Academic Instruction FAQ.

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Undergraduate Housing

Physical distancing and reduced density in shared environments are essential to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. For this reason, we will reduce the number of undergraduate students in Caltech housing from full capacity to up to one-third of the undergraduate student body for the fall term.

Rooms in all on-campus undergraduate residences will be limited to single occupancy. This will reduce student density in the residences and will maintain an appropriate student-to-restroom ratio. For fall term, and perhaps for the remainder of the 2020-2021 academic year, Avery and the South Houses will be reserved as quarantine and isolation spaces for residential students in the event a student falls ill or becomes symptomatic.

To support the limited re-occupation of on-campus residences, we expect to invite undergraduate students to campus in the stages that follow. It is important to emphasize that changes in public health conditions and government directives at any time may restrict our ability to accommodate all groups of students.

  1. Continuing students whose essential academic progress this year requires enrollment in courses with in-person components.
  2. International students whose presence on campus is required for maintenance of immigration status.
  3. Students who demonstrate that their personal, financial, or academic situation requires special consideration for on-campus housing.
  4. First-year and new transfer students, along with some upper-class student advisors to support the residential experience of other students.

Depending on availability of space, continuing students who may have a nonacademic reason to be on campus, such as student athletes, also may have an opportunity to return to campus.

Undergraduates who are invited and elect to live on campus on the basis of essential academic progress will be able to reside in housing on a term-by-term basis. At the point at which first-year, transfer, and international students would be invited to live on campus, we expect to be able to offer them residence for the full academic year.

No student will be required to come to campus; those who prefer to remain away from Caltech and continue to attend remotely will be allowed to do so.

Students who are invited to return to campus will be issued email invitations from Student Affairs in stages. Students will be expected to either affirm their decision to return or decline the offer of on-campus housing in accordance with the deadlines shared in the invitation. This will allow for an accurate accounting of rooms at each stage and consideration of invitations to other student groups.

The timeline for that process is as follows:

  1. July 20: Invitations will be sent to continuing students whose essential academic progress this year requires enrollment in courses with in-person components. Students must reply by July 23 at 5 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).
  2. July 23: Invitations will be sent to international students whose presence on campus is required for maintenance of immigration status. Students must reply by July 27 at 5 p.m. PDT.
    [Note: July 23: A survey will be sent to all remaining upper-class students, in order to identify those who feel they have an explicit need to return. These students must submit a request to reside on campus by July 25 at 5 p.m. PDT. These requests will be carefully reviewed.]
  3. July 27: Invitations will be sent to those upper-class students who demonstrate that their personal, financial, or academic situation requires special consideration for on-campus housing. Students must reply by July 29 at 5 p.m. PDT.
  4. August 3: Invitations will be sent to first-year and new transfer students, and to some upper-class student advisors who will support the residential experience of other students. Students must reply by August 7 at 5 p.m. PDT.
  5. August 14: The date by which all students should know whether they will have on-campus housing in the fall term.
  6. September 15: Residential assignments will be released.

All students who are on campus will be expected to agree to health and safety policies that limit social interactions to mitigate the spread of infection. The details of these expectations and policies will be set out in the Caltech Community Commitment. Specific aspects of this commitment will be incorporated into on-campus housing agreements and Student Affairs policies.

Students who elect to return to the Pasadena area and find their own accommodations in the community will have access to campus facilities in ways that are consistent with current guidelines for faculty, graduate students, and staff. It is important to note, however, that movement around campus will be significantly limited and these students will not have access to the campus undergraduate residences.

If you have additional questions, please see the Residential Life and Housing FAQ.

House Affiliations and Rotation

While we understand that house affiliation in an important part of the residential experience for many undergraduate students, the current limits on occupancy and requirements for maintaining quarantine and isolation space will not allow us to offer rooms in all of the houses. For this reason, we will be making spaces available in the undergraduate residences in the fall term, but we will not be reopening the houses. House communities and the house experience will remain virtual for the fall term and likely for the coming academic year.

Similarly, the restrictions on social gatherings and activities prohibit Caltech from being able to allow for Rotation, a valued Caltech tradition that helps welcome new students to campus and inaugurate the academic year. Rotation activities are intensively and extensively social in ways that are risky and inappropriate given COVID-19 conditions. For these reasons, Fall term rotation has been cancelled, and the assignment of incoming students to house communities will be discussed with student leadership during the fall term.

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Graduate Student Housing

Graduate student housing will continue to operate in accordance with the Institute's policies and public health measures.

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Undergraduate Cost of Attendance

Previously announced tuition costs for the 2020-21 academic year will remain in effect. Room and board fees for those who live on-campus will be prorated to reflect early dismissal from housing at Thanksgiving break. Incoming students' orientation fee and the house activity fee assessment that is currently part of all undergraduate students' mandatory fees will be waived for the upcoming academic year.

In addition, students' financial aid offers will be calculated using a COVID-19 on-campus living allowance of $5,779 per term to help defray living expenses for students even if they live off-campus.

Caltech is fully committed to ensuring that our academic programs are accessible to our students during this challenging time and encourage students and families to reach out to the Financial Aid Office with questions or concerns they may have.

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Orientation and other activities for incoming students will be conducted online, in advance of a limited re-opening of the residences for the fall term. Information for participating in orientation and convocation activities is forthcoming.

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Residential and On-Campus Dining

Campus dining facilities have been adapted to align with health and safety guidelines and to accommodate for physical distancing, with separate entry and exit points and requirements that food be served for take-away or outdoor dining only. These changes, as well as enhanced cleaning and sanitation procedures, will continue in the fall term.

Students living in campus residences will be required to be on a meal plan and will be directed to access meals with their residential cohort in their respective dining facilities.

If you have additional questions, please see the Dining FAQ.

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Campus Facilities and Spaces

Returning students will find that access to campus facilities has been restricted, and that outdoor spaces and gathering points across campus have been adapted to support physical distancing measures and to safely manage for the flow of individuals. Changes that have been implemented include:

  • Building access is by keycard only, with access restricted to those whose presence is necessary. Currently this includes research and other essential services. Access will be expanded in the fall term to include necessary instruction, but students should expect to enter campus facilities only for approved activities.
  • Campus and building signage has been added to designate entry and exit points for buildings, and to remind community members and visitors to adhere to physical distancing measures and to wear cloth face coverings.
  • There are enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols across campus, especially for high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces.

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Campus Activities and Gatherings

Caltech recognizes the value of student social activities and appreciates that these are an integral part of the college experience. That said, current guidance from city, county, and state health authorities restricts such activities and requires strict enforcement of physical distancing and additional preventative health measures.

The Office of Residential Experience will develop and distribute guidance around the rules and requirements for informal and formal interactions. All residential students will be expected to follow the established guidelines. The use of lounges and other shared spaces will be prohibited.

Staff will create opportunities for students to interact with faculty and instructional staff members and, where feasible, to engage with in-person and virtual experiences in athletics, physical education, and the visual and performing arts.

While we hope to be able to relax some restrictions and expand social interactions over the course of the academic year, the fall term plans include the following changes:

  • Caltech Athletics will not have a regular competition schedule, nor will student athletes be permitted to come to campus early. Depending on public health guidelines, there may be opportunities for limited training and other modified competition. The Athletics Director and Institute leadership will continue to monitor and evaluate local and national approaches by the NCAA Division III schools and return to competition only when it is safe to do so.
  • As in this past spring term, limited physical education course offerings will be available remotely. In-person activities will resume on a case-by-case basis, and only when health officials have indicated that it is safe to do so.
  • In accordance with current public health directives, portions of the athletic facilities are available by appointment for recreational use by students and other members of the Caltech community.
  • Performing and Visual Arts will continue to provide remote programming for students who are not on campus, and will also work to create safe environments for in-person programming by utilizing alternate venues, adapting content, and limiting numbers of participants.
  • The Office of Residential Experience will develop clear guidelines for informal student interactions, and for scheduling and registering any formal interactions. All students will be expected to follow these guidelines. The use of residential lounges and other shared spaces will be restricted.

If you have additional questions, please see the FAQs on Events and Activities, and Athletics.

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Health and Safety Measures

It is the responsibility of all members of the community to support the health and wellbeing of the entire community and to mitigate the spread of infection on campus. For students who will reside on campus, this is especially important given their interaction with individuals across the community.

As a condition of enrollment, all students will be expected to abide by the terms of A Community Commitment. This will establish a shared understanding of, and commitment to comply with, outlined principles and preventative health measures that can help ensure the entire community's health and wellbeing. These measures include agreeing to perform regular self-symptom checks and temperature monitoring, to complete daily reports of campus locations visited, to wear a cloth face covering at all times when in the presence of others, and to maintain appropriate physical distance with individuals in residences and across campus. In addition to this Commitment, students in residence must abide by the terms of the Undergraduate Health and Hygiene Policy for the 2020-21 Academic Year.

If you have additional questions, please see the FAQs on Health and Safety Guidelines.

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Testing and Contact Tracing

Campus COVID-19 testing is currently limited to students, but staff and faculty are working to develop testing protocols to support the limited return to in-person instruction and the undergraduate residences in the fall. Students are expected to report any illness or COVID-19-like symptoms to Student Wellness Services immediately.

The Institute has also expanded its contact tracing and testing capacity in order to take swift action in the event of a confirmed case on campus. There are dedicated processes for responding to potential illness within our community, and for implementing quarantine and isolation procedures. We are working closely with Pasadena Public Health officials to implement timely contact tracing for any confirmed cases of COVID-19.

In the case of any illness consistent with symptoms of COVID-19, community members and their close contacts will be directed to isolate and quarantine for a period of approximately two weeks. Students residing in Institute-owned housing will be relocated to dedicated isolation and quarantine space and provided meals, medical monitoring, and other support resources. Individuals who reside off campus will be provided with instructions for isolation and quarantine. In all cases, access to campus buildings will be restricted during any isolation and quarantine period.

If you have additional questions, please see the Testing and Contact Tracing FAQ.

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