Dear Members of the Scripps College Community,
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked unprecedented havoc on our society, attacking the health, finances, and social fabric of individuals and families, and disproportionately ravaging Black and other communities of color. In the face of the daunting challenges posed by the pandemic, Scripps College has invested enormous energy in preparing for a residential campus experience in the fall. We have been designing new outdoor classrooms, expanding our residential capacity, creating testing and contact tracing protocols, reenvisioning dining, replacing air systems in our buildings, and employing many other approaches to create a safe campus environment where students will continue to thrive intellectually and emotionally.
As we planned for the return to campus, we have continued to monitor the current public health situation in Los Angeles County, which over the last couple of weeks has worsened dramatically. Upon a sober examination of the environment, the College has arrived at the following decision: The Administration and Board of Trustees of the College have determined that our community can best achieve its mission and maintain safety by offering Scripps classes online during the fall 2020 semester and a residential experience in spring 2021.
Mounting evidence clearly indicates that bringing a thousand students and hundreds of faculty and staff back to campus for a residential experience in the current pandemic environment creates an unacceptable safety and health risk for members of our community and the broader community that surrounds us. Some of the data informing this decision follows:
- Virulence and transmission rates for COVID-19 remain at the same level or greater as existed in March 2020. Currently, cases in Los Angeles County are doubling every 29.2 days.
- Los Angeles County Department of Public Health now estimates that 1 in every 140 persons in Los Angeles County is infectious. Two weeks ago, that same estimate was 1 in every 400 persons.
- The recent spike in cases in Los Angeles County reflects a significant increase in diagnoses among younger people—50% of new cases are 18-40-year olds.
- Hospitalizations of patients with confirmed coronavirus infections in Los Angeles County have jumped nearly 50%in the last three weeks.
- California Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered establishments that were previously allowed to open to close or modify operations in Los Angeles County and multiple other neighboring counties. These orders will be in place for another two weeks at least, delaying the later stages of the state’s phased reopening plan until the end of July, at the earliest.
- To date, Los Angeles County has not authorized on-campus instruction and residential life for institutions of higher education, and it remains unclear whether they will do so in sufficient time for the College, students, and their families to make plans.
- No vaccines have been introduced to date.
Our concerns about the surge of infections in our surrounding community have been amplified by public health officials’ warnings that congregant living environments such as residence halls are among the most virulent settings for COVID-19 transmissions. Current epidemiological models suggest that at any given point in the semester, many students would be required to be in isolation or in quarantine in their rooms, prohibited from contact with others for weeks. The feedback from students who remained on campus in spring 2020 suggests that confining students to their rooms with limited social interaction is isolating, stressful, and not conducive to their academic success or mental and emotional well-being. The farther our plans for an in-person semester progressed, the more apparent it became that public health imperatives would preclude the residential experience we aspire to deliver.
We know that when organizations open too soon, they risk contributing to rapid and tragic spread of the virus. We are not alone in determining that although the financial consequences may be severe, it is our responsibility to prioritize the health, well-being, and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and the citizens of Claremont. This decision further seeks to uphold our civic and social responsibility by ensuring that the College is not contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and beyond.
As the Scripps College community prepares for an academic year like no other in our history, we are guided, encouraged, and inspired by the foundational elements that define a Scripps education. When we contemplate the essential attributes of the Scripps experience: our rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum, faculty-student connections, and close-knit community, we are confident that, even remotely, these aspects will thrive.
In the months ahead, the College will continue to plan for the 2020-21 academic year by prioritizing the following goals:
- protect the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff;
- provide an outstanding liberal arts education in a remote environment in fall 2020 with as much residential experience in spring 2021 as circumstances will allow; and
- preserve as many jobs as possible during the fall 2020 semester while ensuring the long-term financial stability of the College.
Our faculty will be focused on providing rigorous and engaging remote educational experiences for our students in the fall while planning for spring in-person classes to ensure Scripps students’ academic progress and success. Our Student Affairs team will provide a variety of virtual programs this fall to sustain connections between students and bridge the distance across states and continents. Our staff will continue to work diligently to support the fall educational experience, while making the necessary adjustments to campus that will give us the best chance to return to a safe in-person spring 2021 semester.
Like many of you, I’m eager to return to the Scripps we know and love. I understand that some will face difficult decisions about enrollment for the fall semester, and I encourage you to choose what is best for you and for your families. We ask that you inform us of your plans by July 31 by completing this survey.
In the midst of our uncertainty about the future, fears about the impact of the pandemic, and frustrations about racism and inequality, Scripps’ commitment to education, transformation, and a more just world remains intact. Your participation in Scripps’ mission to educate our students and prepare them for lives of confidence, courage, and hope is more vital than ever.
Please monitor your Scripps email and the Scripps Strong website for timely updates as the fall semester approaches.