Mills College Shifts to Primarily Online Classes for Fall 2020

Oakland, CA—July 27, 2020

hands typing on a laptop

Dear Students,

Each fall, our faculty wait eagerly for our incoming class to arrive and for our continuing students to return. We are excited to be part of your transformative learning journey and look forward to learning, creating, and exploring together on our beautiful campus.

During the past several weeks, the impact of the pandemic has worsened in Alameda County, where Mills is located, as well as across California. As a result, California Governor Gavin Newsom has announced restrictive reopening requirements for counties, like Alameda, that are on the State’s watchlist. In addition, instructions issued by the State of California require a 14-day period of decreasing infections prior to reopening schools for in-person instruction. In the light of this news—and with the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff foremost in our minds—we have no choice but to shift our plan for instruction in the fall 2020 semester to be primarily remote.

This means nearly all academic courses—including many classes that we had planned to teach in hybrid or in-person mode—will be offered entirely online. We hope to offer limited in-person learning opportunities in programs that do not translate well into an online environment, such as art and dance studios and science labs. However, this depends on local and state public health directives. You will be notified separately if any of your classes will include an in-person component. International students residing in the US will be able to take remote classes safely this fall following the rescinding of the Department of Homeland Security’s order requiring them to take in-person classes.

The majority of faculty and staff will work remotely, and advising and student services will continue to be made available online. Since there are no signs of a timely recovery in infection rates in the state and locally, and because pivoting to a different modality mid-semester can be detrimental to student learning, the majority of classes will remain in remote mode throughout the fall semester.

We can imagine how disappointing this news will be to many of you who found remote learning in the spring challenging and who yearn for a return to normalcy. Others of you may find this news to be a relief, depending on your personal circumstances and your family situation. Please be reassured that we are working hard to make your learning experience engaging, active, and filled with opportunities to build connections and learn from one another, just as you would in an in-person classroom. Your faculty have dedicated a great deal of time over the summer taking training and workshops on online teaching, and redesigning your classes using our enhanced new platform, Canvas.

We are aware that many students depend on campus housing, and this need may be amplified by circumstances surrounding COVID-19. We will be required to limit the number of students in residence for the fall to abide by social distancing and other Alameda County and State of California public health guidelines. All students will be assigned to a single room.

Residential housing agreements are based on an academic year, covering both the fall and spring semesters. Students with residential housing agreements for the academic year 2020–21 will receive additional communication and details from Housing Management Dining Services (HMDS) via email next week.

Community building is an important part of student life. Those of you who are part of cohorts such as SAW and the Hellman Science and Math program have already started to meet virtually, and will continue to do so during the fall. Student clubs and affinity groups will also continue to gather virtually, and our Division of Student Life, Mills Performing Arts, and Mills College Art Museum will offer online activities that will keep you connected to the cultural and intellectual life of the College through a rich menu of choices.

I know that many of you have been planning your return to campus and must now consider how this news impacts your plan for the fall. We will be updating the COVID-19 web pages to address these new changes and answer many of the questions that may come up as you consider your plans. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions at provost@mills.edu or deanofstudents@mills.edu or vpsp@mills.edu.

Sincerely,

Chinyere Oparah, Provost and Dean of Faculty, Professor of Ethnic Studies
Chicora Martin, Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students
Renee Jadushlever, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships
David Bernstein, Faculty Executive Committee Chair, Professor of Music