How California state guidance affects the CAS spring semester

November 19, 2020

To:  Faculty, staff, administrators, and College of Arts and Sciences students
From:  Kendrick Brown, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS); Steve Wuhs, Incoming Interim Dean of CAS; and Donna Eddleman, University Dean of Student Affairs
Subject:  How California state guidance affects the CAS spring semester

How will the state’s guidance and four-tier system impact the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) spring semester? In response to questions on this topic, we are writing to help clarify the connections between current regulations and our academic classes; labs and studios; and residence life.

What is the California tier system?

As many of you know, State representatives assign every county in California to a tier, based on data about local test positivity and adjusted case rate. The data are reviewed at least weekly (recent changes allow frequent reviews) and inform any update to each county’s designation. Counties must remain in a tier for at least three weeks and must meet the next tier’s criteria for two consecutive weeks before moving to a less restrictive level.

The County of San Bernardino, where the main Redlands campus is located, is currently designated as Tier 1/purple.

The State’s guidance for institutions of higher education asserts that in:

  • Tier 1/purple, in which COVID-19 is “widespread,” lectures are prohibited.
  • Tier 2/red, in which the disease is “substantial,” lectures are permitted but must be limited to 25% capacity (or 100 people, whichever is fewer), with safety modifications.
  • Tier 3/orange, in which COVID-19 is “moderate,” lectures are permitted but must be limited to 50% capacity (or 200 people, whichever is fewer), with safety modifications.
  • Tier 4/yellow, in which the disease is “minimal,” lectures are permitted, but must be limited to 50% capacity, with safety modifications.

What is considered a “lecture” in the tier system?

The State’s definition of “lecture” is a potential point of confusion, especially as many classes at the University of Redlands consist of small-group discussions; however, in this case “lecture” refers to any in-person academic classwork. In other words, in San Bernardino County’s current designation, academic classes are not allowed on the main Redlands campus.

What are the exceptions in the tier system?

In contrast, experiential learning activities, such as labs and studio arts, are permitted in all tiers, with safety precautions such as face coverings and six feet of distance between individuals.

Likewise, current guidance from the State indicates that on-campus housing is permitted regardless of tier, provided there are safety precautions such as physical distancing, mask-wearing, restriction of building access to limit guests, and prioritization of single room occupancy.

How will this work for undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences?

Our key takeaways from the current State guidance for the College of Arts and Sciences spring semester are:

  • Experiential classes, such as labs, studio art, theatre arts, and Communication Sciences and Disorders clinics, are permitted to be in-person, regardless of the county’s tier. Nevertheless, the College continues to give faculty members in these disciplines a choice of whether these classes will be taught in-person, online, or hybrid (with both modalities). The College plans to move ahead with spring experiential classes in the modality (including in-person and hybrid) that faculty members choose to teach in.
  • Residence halls are permitted to open, and the University is planning to do so with an array of safety precautions. As recommended, the University has reduced residence hall density by offering only single-occupancy rooms (charged at the double-occupancy rate, except for Brockton or Grove Apartments) and waiving the requirement that students live on campus. The first early arrivals in the residence halls are expected on January 4. Students who will be living on campus will move in at predefined, staggered times to control traffic in and out of buildings and promote physical distancing.
  • For academic “lecture” courses to be held fully or partly in-person, the County of San Bernardino needs to move to a less restrictive tier—Tier 2 or above—based on its COVID-19 case data. As described in our Nov. 2 memo, all classes in the College of Arts and Sciences are scheduled to begin online in January to facilitate quarantine and testing; in-person and hybrid options are scheduled to begin February 1.  However, as above, the move to in-person and hybrid modalities is dependent on the County’s COVID-19 status.

We understand that the uncertainty of this situation can be frustrating, as we all want to plan ahead. In the meantime, we are monitoring the County’s status as well as staying alert for any potential changes in State guidance. In addition, we are in discussions with the County to have an on-site testing facility during the spring semester that will provide greater testing access to our community. We will keep you up-to-date on details and new information as it becomes available, and we expect to provide another update on the status of classes in the College by January 5, 2021.