May 15, 2020
Dear Members of the Scripps College Community,
As we close this academic year, I hope that this message finds you and your families safe and healthy. This extraordinary semester has challenged the Scripps community in unprecedented ways while also highlighting our strength and tenacity. As we reflect on our experience navigating the past eight weeks, I would like to share the following news and updates.
Commencement and Senior Celebration
On behalf of Scripps trustees, faculty, and staff, I’d like to congratulate the Class of 2020! Commencement is typically the highlight of the academic year here on campus, and I share the disappointment felt by seniors, families, and friends due to the postponement of the annual commencement ceremony. Over the past couple of weeks, the College community has joined together to celebrate our graduating seniors’ accomplishments virtually through signature events such as Capstone Day, special programs dedicated to our seniors, and virtual versions of long-standing traditions such as the Graffiti Wall mural. We are proud of our remarkable graduates and excited about their rewarding futures.
The College surveyed seniors about their preferences for celebrating Scripps’ Commencement, and a majority indicated a desire to return to campus for the ceremony when it is safe to do so. Based on government officials’ and public health experts’ current projections about the arc of the pandemic, we will likely reschedule the commencement ceremony in the spring of 2021, probably in May. I’m looking forward to seeing our graduates in their caps and gowns on Elm Tree Lawn, and I believe the event will be even more special due to the challenges this class has overcome.
The College received more than 3,000 applications for admission this year, and approximately 300 first-year students are currently enrolled, which is in line with next year’s class size goal. Our enrollment team deserves congratulations for successfully recruiting an exceptional class. I look forward to meeting the Class of 2024 this fall!
Endowed Faculty Chairs
It is always a pleasure to establish new endowed faculty chairs, as these generous gifts honor the distinguished scholarship of our faculty and sustain academic excellence for future generations of Scripps students. I am thrilled to announce the appointment of Christopher Towse to the newly established Herron Family Chair in Mathematics. This chair, funded by Jeannette Pierson Herron ’45, mother of past Board of Trustees chair Mark Herron, is designated to support and honor an existing professor in the Mathematics Department. It is wonderful to recognize Professor Towse’s accomplishments and to thank him for his distinguished teaching, scholarship, and service in support of Scripps students.
I am equally delighted to announce the creation of a new named chair gifted by Professor of Italian emerita Sara Adler and her husband Bob Adler. The Sara M. Adler Professor of Italian endowment will recognize and support the work of an outstanding faculty member in the Department of Italian and/or Italian Studies at Scripps College. The Adlers’ gift was also supported by funds from the Sidney J. Weinberg Jr. Foundation.
Scripps College will offer a limited number of remote classes taught by our faculty as a pilot summer session program this year. This program will provide opportunities for intellectual and community engagement for our continuing and admitted students, and will offer courses in a range of disciplines from introductory to advanced levels.
The summer session will begin on July 2 and end in early August. Further information will be provided soon.
Dining Services Provider Selection
I would like to thank the Dining Services Advisory Committee—composed of students, faculty, and staff—and the Business Affairs team for their work to recommend a dining services provider. The committee selected three semi-finalists to deliver presentations to the Scripps community, participated in site visits, conducted multiple interviews with the companies, and narrowed the field to two finalists for my consideration. As the evaluation progressed through March and April, concern for COVID-19 best practices and global experience in health, safety, and leadership emerged as essential requirements for the dining services provider. The global health pandemic and its implications for campus life and particularly, communal dining on campus, heavily influenced my decision.
Bon Appétit, a leader in the industry with an abundance of resources, will serve as Scripps’ dining service provider effective July 1. Bon Appétit has a proven record of superior dining service delivery within higher education institutions, including two in Claremont. Their high-quality menu, competitive financial proposal, and sustainable and socially responsible business practices impressed the committee. Their thorough and advanced planning for dining changes necessitated by COVID-19 further secured their spot as the best choice for Scripps at this time.
COVID-19 Response and Planning
CARES Act Student Grants
Scripps College has received the initial installment of federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education through the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which provides some assistance for student expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Education requires that the CARES Act funds be disbursed broadly among degree-seeking students, while prioritizing Pell grant recipients and other high-need students. In compliance with the federal guidelines, the College will allocate the total amount of these funds to students as grants ranging from $150 to $600 based on FAFSA income documentation.
Scripps College is aware that students who are ineligible to receive CARES Act funding have also incurred expenses related to the COVID-19 disruption. Accordingly, the College will distribute equivalent institutional grants to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and international students based on need. Checks will be sent to addresses attached to student accounts, so please be sure your address is accurate.
Fall Semester Planning
One of the difficult aspects of the times we are in is the uncertainty about the severity and duration of the pandemic, the resulting fluidity in public health guidelines, and the implications for residential communities such as colleges and universities. Given these unknowns, the senior team and I are engaged in preparations for various scenarios for the fall semester, including on-campus operations, remote instruction, modified schedules, and/or a hybrid approach.
Our greatest hope is that we will be able to have all students return to campus this fall. We are working hard to shift our operations because we can be sure that whenever we reconvene on campus, we will have to maintain a level of physical distancing and comply with limits on the size and frequency of gatherings. Decisions made about the fall, our campus, and our operations will be determined by:
- our desire to protect the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff;
- the extent to which we can continue to fulfill our educational mission and create the conditions under which our community will thrive; and
- our ability to adjust physical spaces and operations to adhere to evolving public health and safety standards.
In order to achieve the goals for our intent to return to campus this fall, we are expanding residential space to reduce density in our residence halls, mapping our outdoor space to create outdoor “rooms” to be used for classrooms and other gatherings, producing new sanitation protocols, redesigning the dining experience, and considering many options for schedule modifications. We will share our plans for the fall sometime in July. We are working closely with the other Claremont Colleges to arrive at shared decisions to sustain the consortium experience and create a safe environment that preserves what makes the Scripps experience distinctive, stimulating, and fulfilling.
Alumnae, Families, and Friends
I always enjoy meeting with the broader Scripps community members during the College’s annual events like Family Weekend and Reunion Weekend, or through the fascinating Behind the Scenes regional events that take place in cities around the country. While our signature spring events were cancelled, I appreciated the opportunity to connect with more than 500 alumnae and families in virtual teas and town halls in April. I hope to be able to see our extended Scripps family in person as we aim to reschedule annual events next spring.
I’m grateful for the countless expressions of kindness and generosity toward our students, faculty, and staff. The Scripps community remains strong, united, and optimistic about the future as we know that our commitment to one another, to the power of learning, and the value of community will endure.
This will be an unusual summer for us all. I hope you find opportunities to be refreshed and rejuvenated this summer and to connect with those close to your heart. I look forward to sharing more news and information with you in the coming weeks.