Claremont Community Prepares for Students’ Return

Photo of Pitzer residence halls.

After over a year of distance learning, all 5 of the Claremont Colleges have announced their intention to reopen in the Fall. Although there will be some changes to ensure a safe return to campus, many community members anticipate that students’ return will return a sense of normalcy to the colleges and broader Claremont community.  

In preparation for a return to campus a Covid-19 taskforce was created to coordinate between faculty, professors, students, and the larger Claremont community. The taskforce has provided updates to the 7c community including detailed reports on the state of Covid-19 in the world, US, and Los Angeles county. Their last update was on April 1st of 2021.

“On April 15th college students are eligible [for vaccination]. Moving in the Orange Tier will allow indoor lectures… dining halls will match restaurants at 50%, [and] libraries can open at 75% capacity.”

Professor Scott, Director of the Pitzer Writing Center, described her pride at witnessing students connect with each other and create a sense of community despite the challenges of a virtual learning environment. 

“I feel like Pitzer students are so wonderful and so mindful of each other. I appreciated the resilience and the social responsibility and the care of the community in this difficult time,” she said. 

Diana Vicezar PZ ‘24, an international student from Uruguay, described her virtual experience at Pitzer as a first-year international student. 

“Even though we are in this [online] setting I still have been able to feel that welcoming community that is Pitzer” said Vicezar. 

Vicezar went on to describe some of the difficulties of her first year. 

“I have been able to talk to other international students and I think that we all agree that it has been very challenging, especially because of the difference in time-zones.” she said. 

In an email statement on April 21st,  Laura Troendele announced the collaboration between Covid-19 Task Force, Staff Council, and Cabinet in setting out seven guiding principles for the reopening of campus. 

“Continue proactive support of students who may have needs due to international travel restrictions, housing insecurity needs, or other essential needs,” said guiding principle number six.  

Professor Rose Portillo of the Theatre and Dance Department at Pomona described her experience with using Zoom to bring together students from the  5C’s together with the Pomona Unified School District. 

“I would say [Zoom] has been pretty successful in terms of emboldening youth to find their voice and to believe that they matter and that their opinions matter and their thoughts matter and that they have some artistry inside of them,” she said.

Moving forward, Professor Portillo also has cautious hope about the return to campus in the Fall. 

While there is no doubt that there will be challenges to face in returning a large body of students to campus life in the fall, those challenges are not insurmountable. 

“I feel like the 5C’s are very responsible, and that students that go there tend to be very responsible, also in general, but I don’t know what to expect in the community of Pomona you know. So many [in Pomona] are essential workers, so many are unemployed right now . The impact of that on the kids,  we don’t know what that’s going to look like yet,” Portillo said.  

According to The Weather Channel Covid-19 updates, as of May 22nd 2021 there are just over a thousand new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Los Angeles county compared to a high of around 45,000 new daily cases late last winter, according to the LA Times. With the decrease in cases in LA County and the increase in vaccinations, Claremont Officials anticipate that students’ return will bring a sense of normalcy to the city.

Bevin Handel, Public Information Officer for the town of Claremont, described what students’ return to Claremont meant for the city. 

“We’re looking forward to the students coming back, it really impacts the community, especially the village. It creates that kind of synergy between the students and the village,” said Handel. 

Mayor Jennifer Stark PZ ‘98 echoed the importance of the Claremont Colleges from a financial standpoint. 

“Claremont the town is not the colleges, but indeed the colleges are a huge part of our identity, and our biggest industry, and our biggest employer, and the population of the students adds so much to this town, and we missed you guys,” she said.

In an effort to help return students to campus, Sandra Vasquez, interim Vice President for Student Affairs, sent an email  on March 31, 2021 encouraging students to get vaccinated in the Claremont area as soon as possible. 

“We have learned that student employees who reside in the local area are now eligible to receive that vaccine. They can do so through Student Health Services (SHS) and other local vaccine providers with proof of student employment (such as a W2),” said the email.  

 On February 25, Pitzer Housing announced in an email that Pitzer they are planning on a return to full occupancy for the Fall. For both the class of 2023 and 2024, this will be the first time they are navigating this process. 

Professor Scott laughed as she commented on how residential life might change from having two classes of students experiencing campus life for the first time together. 

“I think we’ll see people excited about doubles in ways they might not have been, if that’s possible. To share a bathroom with four people for example,” she said.

Jack Friedman ‘23 is from New York City and desperately misses bagels. The cream cheese, the everything seasoning… He also is often distracted by food and gets lost in his own thoughts. He is very undecided but planning on being a Political Science major.

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