Welcome to the Fall 2020 Semester

August 25, 2020

Dear Scripps College Community Members,

This fall marks the beginning of an academic year like no other in the College’s history. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended many individuals’ and families’ health and finances, disproportionately devastating Black and other communities of color, and sparked a global uprising with widespread protests against systemic racism and inequity. In different ways, the pandemic and unrest have affected colleges and universities across the nation, providing an opportunity to re-think our approaches to curricula, instruction, and community engagement. Learning is always at the center of what we do at Scripps and that will be even more true this semester. As we carve out new modes of teaching, learning, playing, and creating community, I hope we will be flexible and compassionate with one another as we face and overcome challenges and changes endemic to this time.

This season of uncertainty has been a time of change for Scripps. Our faculty have designed rigorous, engaging, remote educational experiences for our students this summer and fall, and our Student Affairs team has worked diligently to create virtual programs that encourage and strengthen connections between new and returning students, despite the physical distance. I’m happy to share the following recent College news, updates, and announcements that highlight the ways in which Scripps has continued to provide a foundational interdisciplinary liberal arts education:

Campus News

New Community Members

Please join me in welcoming new students, faculty and staff to the Scripps community. The Student Affairs team has worked hard to fortify Scripps’ strong support networks and create virtual events and programming that will build and engage our community online.

Faculty and staff welcomed first-year and transfer students through an extensive slate of virtual New Student Programs and Orientations (NSPO) programming. Through our online NSPO events, students met with academic advisers, were introduced to the Core curriculum, learned about campus and consortial resources, and were provided with opportunities for new students to meet one another and begin to define their community. The success and accessibility of this year’s programming has provided a new model for welcoming new students to Scripps, and we anticipate that virtual elements will continue to be incorporated into NSPO programs for future incoming classes.

Scripps is fortunate to welcome highly qualified faculty who enrich the educational experience for our students and staff who contribute their expertise to help build a more vibrant community. We value their ideas, energy, and knowledge, and we are glad they’ve chosen to be at Scripps. A complete list of faculty and staff joining Scripps this academic year is available online.

Virtual Learning

For the first time, Scripps College provided new and returning students with the opportunity to take online classes over the summer, offering 11 undergraduate courses from a range of disciplines in an accelerated four-week session. Course titles included Issues in Environmental Economics, Human Rights and World Literature, and Pandemics and the Globalized World. Our faculty are eager to bring remote instruction innovations to their fall semester courses as well. Faculty will enhance this semester’s online learning with innovative distance-learning solutions, including in-home kitchen chemistry kits, community engaged projects, and an increased focus on students’ engagement with their home environments. The Claremont Colleges’ Center for Teaching and Learning also has offered workshops, grants, and other support to faculty to augment our virtual curricula.

I invite you to join us to commemorate the beginning of the academic year at Academic Convocation on September 3 at 12:15 p.m. Professor of Mathematics Christopher Towse, Herron Family Chair in Mathematics will deliver the keynote address, entitled “For the Love of Learning: Math as a Liberal Art.” Click here to watch the event live on Zoom!

Summer Programs

This year a team of staff, student, and faculty representatives designed and implemented Scripps This Summer (STS), a series of ongoing remote programs aimed at engaging incoming students in a new way. STS programming included virtual events, social media engagement opportunities, community-building sessions facilitated by faculty, campus traditions, campus resources, art competitions, Zoom social hours, and “Discover Scripps” content, organized and disseminated in a weekly newsletter. Programs and events were synchronous and asynchronous, enabling students to participate live or as they were able.

Spring 2021 Semester Planning

While we continue remote instruction and operations for the fall 2020 semester, our Facilities Department is making the improvements needed so that our campus will operate consistent with COVID-19 public health and safety guidelines. HVAC units are being updated with an advanced filtration system that uses UV light and ionization to optimize sanitization and to mitigate the potential for indoor spread of the coronavirus. Facilities updates also include the implementation of touchless technology, such as motion-sensor lighting and touchless faucets and toilets, as well as installing plexiglass barriers in some spaces.

Academic Year 2020–21 Budget

The financial consequences of our decision to operate online for the fall 2020 semester have been severe, given the loss of revenue associated with suspending on-campus housing and dining operations, and the significant investments required to make Scripps’ campus compliant with COVID-19 public health and safety measures for our eventual return to campus. The Presidential Budget Advisory Committee and Financial Stewardship Committee worked over the course of the summer to recommend revisions to the 2020–21 budget that address the shortfall while minimizing the impact on our academic programs and our employees. I deeply appreciate their participation in this process.

The Board of Trustees has approved the recommended 2020–21 budget reductions, cutting costs by $18.2 million through the following measures:

  • increased endowment spending rate;
  • decreased divisional operating budgets;
  • maintained salaries at 2019-20 levels;
  • enacted hiring freeze for most new and vacant positions;
  • reduced senior staff and president salaries;
  • decreased TCCS formula funded expenditures;
  • temporarily reduced hours for some remote fall-impacted employees;
  • and suspended retirement contributions for all employees.

While the budget reduction plan eliminates the need for layoffs and preserves all current jobs, the painful implications of these decisions for our valuable and committed employees and for the broader Scripps community are undeniable. The College will implement schedule reductions for staff affected by the suspension of on-campus residential programs in the most supportive manner possible. Affected employees will continue to receive medical benefits, accrue paid time off, and be eligible for wage replacement benefits based upon the reduction in hours. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to campus in January as we hope to resume in-person classes for the spring semester.

Scripps Centennial Plan

Innovative Learning Initiatives

I’m excited to announce that Scripps has instituted a new data science minor, designed to support students in existing majors who are interested in developing their computational capabilities, data skills, and deductive and ethical reasoning abilities. Data science is a growing interdisciplinary set of analytical and inferential approaches that exerts influence in government, industry, law, medicine, the academy, and non-governmental organizations. Students in the data science minor will learn to understand and interpret biases in existing data and gain awareness of and experience in ethical reasoning about data science technologies.

New courses this fall also include two Mellon Interdisciplinary Humanities Initiative (MIHI) clinics designed to transform undergraduate teaching and learning in the humanities through community engagement.  Assistant Professor of English Michelle Decker will teach a class in collaboration with dA Center for the Arts, and Associate Professor of Politics Mark Golub will offer a course in partnership with Critical Resistance. Faculty and students will also continue to participate in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, a national program in which college and incarcerated students come together in an integrated learning environment inside the prison. This semester, Lecturer Suchi Branfman is teaching Choreographing Our Stories as an Inside-Out Course in the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, California. These courses, along with all of our other courses, will be offered remotely and will demonstrate the creative and engaging ways in which an innovative liberal arts curriculum can come alive in our new circumstances.

Community Engagement

Meaningful, thought-provoking programs will still be a hallmark of our community engagement this year. Scripps Associated Students (SAS) and Student Clubs and Organizations (CLORGS) will feature virtual programming. Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE) will be led by a new director who will work with SCORE interns to engage and connect student communities. Opportunities to engage across The Claremont Colleges remain, including the Office of Black Student Affairs (OBSA)Chicano Latino Student Affairs (CLSA), and 5C Clubs and Organizations. Additional information about community resources is available on our Scripps Strong webpage for students.

IDEA Initiative

The Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Initiative will continue its critical work to facilitate community dialogue and provide support to BIPOC members of our community. Through the initiative, the College monitors and assesses its existing practices, policies, and initiatives, to deepen our collective understanding of critical issues on race and racism on our campus. The Committee on Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (CIDE) is part of the IDEA Initiative and advises the College on how we can continue to make progress toward our goal of an anti-racist campus. Last year, CIDE members formed three working groups—Decolonizing Scripps, Project Together, and Wellness at Scripps. The groups made recommendations for improving College practices, a number of which are being implemented, including an inventory of all College activities regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, exploration of leadership models across the College promoting pathways for professional development to expand IDEA capacity, recognition of Indigenous people on the College’s historical timeline, land acknowledgment, free subscription app-based wellness resources, and the revised Principles of Diversity. I invite you to apply for the staff, faculty, or student openings on the committee by September 15. I also encourage you to review and comment on the Revised Principles of Diversity drafted by the Project Together working group of CIDE.

As part of its ongoing work to eradicate institutional racism, the College has begun implementing the plan to address systemic racism shared with the community in June. We will continue to work within and beyond the Scripps community to expand support for Black students, elevate the community’s consciousness about race and racism, and measure and communicate the progress of our efforts to address inequalities experienced by students, faculty, and staff of color. Updates will be provided during the year.

Public Events

This year, Scripps Presents is partnering with programs around the country to explore the theme of “The Future,” addressing topics such as the future of language, race, food, science, and more. Four Scripps Presents events in partnership with PEN America were recently announced as part of the fall 2020 season, with guest speakers including authors Claudia Rankine, Yaa Gyasi, Roxane Gay, and Alexander Chee. Additional events for the season will be announced throughout the academic year.

In addition, the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery will present the virtual exhibition Mirror Mirror: The Prints of Alison Saar from August 29–December 6. The exhibition celebrates the printmaking of renowned artist and alumna Alison Saar ’78, whose work confronts issues of race and gender, and who co-founded and contributed works of art to the Samella Lewis Collection of Contemporary Art at Scripps. The exhibition will include a guided virtual tour of Saar’s artwork, led by Saar herself.

Olive Grove

This fall, the Office of Alumnae Engagement, the Laspa Center for Leadership, and Career Planning & Resources (CP&R) will launch Olive Grove, an online networking platform for Scripps students, families, and alumnae to connect with one another for mentoring, insight, and support. Additional information about the Olive Grove launch will be forthcoming this semester.

For more College news and updates, please visit our website.

Your contributions and dedication to our community is even more vital as we move through this unprecedented semester with confidence, courage, and the hope of returning to a residential experience in spring 2021. As we continue to adapt, adjust, and re-envision our campus in ways that will give us the best opportunity for a safe, in-person spring semester, perhaps now more than ever is the time to reflect on the promise imbued in the College’s motto: Incipit Vita Nova.

Lara Tiedens