Mills College Plan for Fall 2020

Oakland, CA—July 9, 2020

Dear Mills College community,

A yellow "Welcome" banner hangs from a telephone pole on the Mills College campus surrounded by greenery.During a moment in which the resurgence of the coronavirus has caused many of us to reevaluate our priorities, I write to share how we will meet Mills’ priority this fall: providing a transformative education to students amidst the shifting terrain of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fall 2020 semester will be unlike any we’ve encountered before. To reduce the risks of COVID-19 while supporting our educational mission, we’ve crafted a plan for fall 2020 that combines the flexibility and personal attention that have long been Mills hallmarks with new approaches to space, time, and social interaction.

Three teams of staff and faculty created our fall reentry plan, relying on public health guidelines from the State and Alameda County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the guidance of higher education experts, and the work of a pre-recovery planning group. I am grateful to committee leads Renée Jadushlever (operations), Allie Littlefox (pre-planning), Sheila Lloyd (academics), and Chicora Martin (campus life), and their teams (fifty members strong, plus the others at Mills consulted) for their dedication. They spent countless hours working through critical, novel problems without clear solutions.

Our fall 2020 academic year will follow a low-density, hybrid educational model, contingent on Alameda County public health orders. The majority of classes will be online, with select in-person classroom experiences. Taking advantage of Mills’ expansive campus, in-person classes will follow public health guidelines while providing opportunities for personal connections, particularly for students new to the Mills campus. Should the public health situation require all online instruction, Mills will adapt courses and co-curricular activities.

Classes

Academic year 2020-21 classes will be offered in four modalities:

  • Online: Classes meeting entirely online using Canvas and Zoom video conferencing.
  • In-person: Classes of 16 or fewer, including some science labs and some art, music, dance, and first-year classes, meeting in classrooms under physical distancing, face covering, and maximum occupancy protocols.
  • Hybrid A: Larger classes split into two sections meeting once in-person and once online per week.
  • Hybrid B: Classes meeting online except for two or three in-person classes during the semester.

Instruction will begin on August 26, and classes will either wrap up before the Thanksgiving break, or else end the year in an online format.

Housing

Students will be able to live on campus with single occupancy only rooms. Occupancy in independent living situations will be reduced as well. To maintain physical distancing and contain risk, only 75% of residence hall spaces will be used this year, capping student occupancy on campus at approximately 400 Mills students.

Staffing and Support Services

Many Mills College staff will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future. Some student services will be by appointment or via chat or other electronic means, and in-person services will be modified to reduce risk for both staff and students.

Health and Safety Guidelines

Recent weeks have made it even clearer how important it is to accept the responsibility to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities from spreading this disease. We’ve developed health and safety guidelines that will help us reduce COVID-19 transmission and risk. Practicing physical distancing, wearing a face covering, frequently washing your hands, conducting daily wellness checks, and adhering to other necessary restrictions will benefit our entire community.

Whether you are returning to Mills or new to our campus, there is much that will appear unfamiliar as we re-open. This reimagining of Mills’ academic and residential environment will continue as the start of classes approaches, and we will provide regular updates for those who will join us on the campus. Extensive work has been underway since last spring to prepare new learning and living spaces: classrooms and public spaces have been reconfigured, physical distancing and maximum occupancy signs in buildings posted, floors marked with tape to identify 6-foot spacing, barriers set up in customer service areas, hand-sanitizing machines installed at building entrances, and much more.

Our team created a website to compile all of the important information relevant to Mills and COVID-19 at mills.edu/coronavirus. This site will be frequently updated, so please do check regularly, and send unanswered questions and concerns to questions@mills.edu.

While I’m proud of the intensive COVID-19 planning and response process that Mills has committed to, please know that we remain open to possibility and risk both, and will continue to listen and adapt as the contours of learning during the pandemic shift. I ask you to help us by remaining flexible, taking others’ well-being into account, and caring for yourself as we face these new circumstances together.

Stay safe and resolute as you enjoy the rest of the summer,

Hillman signature

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Elizabeth L. Hillman
President, Mills College