College to announce spring semester decision in December

Thorne Hall at Occidental College. Sarah Hofmann/The Occidental

President Harry J. Elam Jr. announced in a campus-wide email Oct. 16 that the college will make a decision regarding spring semester instruction in December, which is contingent on guidance from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH). The email follows similar announcements by peer institutions Pomona College, Scripps College and Pitzer College, who all plan to announce their decisions for the spring semester in mid-December.

“We currently hope to announce our plans in December, following the timing of updated county guidance,” Elam said in the email. “We would like to bring back as many students as health and safety will permit, but it is simply too soon to know how many students we will be able to house on campus. We ask for your continued understanding and patience.”

Due to the continuous spread of COVID-19 in Los Angeles, LA community colleges have already announced their decision to remain online for the remainder of the academic year. According to the LA Times coronavirus case tracker, the county has averaged 1,069 new cases and 15.3 new deaths per day over the past week, as of Oct. 16.

Occidental first moved all instruction online in response to coronavirus March 12, announced a hybrid-instruction model for the Fall 2020 semester June 15 and then reversed its decision by shifting back online July 15.

For institutions of higher education in LA, the decision to reopen campuses hinges on the LADPH. The department announced Aug. 15 that most academic instruction for colleges and universities must be conducted via distance learning, only necessary in-person instruction is permissible and students may only live in campus-housing if they have no alternative housing.

Occidental is currently housing about 100 students on campus, according to Director of Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS) Isaiah Thomas.

According to the public health department’s Aug. 15 announcement, people between 18–30 years old accounted for 25–30 percent of new infections. A new dataset from LADPH released Oct. 12 shows that infections between those 18–29 account for nearly 25 percent of those across LA.