By Provost Liz Beaven April 21, 2021

Dear Students,

As we prepare to bring this exceptional academic year to a close, we are also finalizing plans for Fall semester. We understand that timely information about your Fall classes is crucial for your planning.

Our goal remains to protect the health and safety of our CIIS community and to deliver students an uninterrupted, quality educational experience. We continue to consider current health and safety guidelines, the trajectory of the virus and vaccinations, the wishes of students and faculty (gathered through surveys, meetings, and conversations), and the pedagogical needs of each subject and program. 

Fall Classes: Schedules and Delivery Formats

Fall semester will be a hybrid of in-person, virtual, and online teaching, learning, and community. Please review the following information and consult your program’s plan, which will be visible when you view schedules and prepare to register. 

  • All programs that are currently online will remain unchanged. Depending on the program, you can expect some mixture of synchronous (all at the same time) and asynchronous (flexible access) delivery.
  • Intensives and retreats will remain virtual. We recognize the vital role that intensives and retreats play in many of our programs. We will use everything we have learned in this past year to ensure that these gatherings continue to provide a rich academic and community experience. Safety, access, and equity factors guided our decision to keep intensives virtual; for instance, the likely safety and availability of communal or shared retreat settings, travel for many, and visa considerations for international students. We expect that Spring 2022 will allow for a mixture of virtual and in-person intensives, depending on the needs of each program.
  • ACTCM will continue to offer a mixture of in-person clinical classes and virtual didactic classes. The clinic will continue operation as an essential health service, providing required clinical experience for students and health support for patients. Current health and safety protocols will remain in effect.
  • The School of Undergraduate Studies (SUS) will remain largely virtual or online. Both undergraduate degrees have online components, with the BS having both fully online and residential formats. The cohort of students newly entering the BA this Fall will have three of their five weekend sessions in-person during Fall semester; the remaining weekends will be virtual. All other coursework will remain virtual or online, providing greater clarity and convenience for students in a time of uncertainty and removing the need for travel.  
  • The majority of courses in SCT (School of Consciousness and Transformation) will be online or virtual. The majority of our SCT programs are now fully online; most of our typically residential programs have elected to remain virtual to provide a seamless experience for students who are located across the country and the globe.
  • Many classes in the School of Professional Psychology and Health (SPPH)will remain virtual. This decision was reached after carefully weighing the advantages and constraints of both in person and virtual formats. Several classes need an in-person component; these were prioritized for appropriate space and health and safety considerations.
  • Our counseling clinics hope to have a gradual return to face-to-face appointments.This will depend on authorization from our accreditors and health and safety guidelines. We believe that some mix of telehealth and slowly increasing face-to-face activity is likely. We will update students as we get more clarity from our regulators.
  • The campus will be open with health and safety restrictions in place. We expect that guidelines will continue to change; they are likely to include limitations on total numbers in the building, requirements for face masks, and health clearances that will include consideration of vaccination status.
  • University offices (for example, Financial Aid, Registrar, Student Affairs, Provost) will be available in-person with posted, regularly scheduled hours, and virtually. The Library will be accessible with posted hours but will not yet be available as a study space.

Factors that affected our Decision-making

The CIIS community is united in a desire to build a more just future. Part of justice includes the consideration of multiple points of view and communicating decisions with transparency. To help you understand our decisions for Fall, we are summarizing some of the factors reported in the community survey that we used to guide us:

  • During the pandemic, many of our students and faculty temporarily relocated from the Bay Area. Surveys have shown a reluctance to return quickly, the reality of a commute for most of our students and faculty, and hesitation about resuming traveling on public transportation at this stage of the reopening process. This was the most consistent input across programs and groups.
  • Our wonderful building does not offer outdoor spaces for classes or for informal gathering outside of classes. Students asked where they would go between classes. This is an important consideration as there are few suitable gathering spaces. We have upgraded our HVAC systems to provide better air flow, but a number of our rooms are small and so are not suitable with physical distancing.
  • International students. We have many international students at CIIS. We anticipate issues with timely issuance of visas for several countries and continuing travel restrictions. We are also aware of the uneven global distribution of testing and vaccines. Find more information on the international students section of our website. 
  • Health and safety requirements. Our SPPH programs examined the relative benefits of in-person, masked, and distanced classes (e.g., for clinical preparation) and virtual classes. For many classes, they concluded that they could provide a superior education virtually, where faces are fully visible.
  • Quality of instruction. This was a significant and repeated concern as we made decisions. In-person classes will almost certainly require virtual access for some students; this can be the most challenging teaching format. We have learned a great deal about virtual delivery due to the pandemic and are confident that we can offer strong teaching and learning through the Fall Semester. 

This past year has presented many challenges, and we thank every student, faculty, and staff member for the flexibility and goodwill that was repeatedly demonstrated. We recognize that, in making a decision about Fall, we will not meet every wish or hope. We honor the longing to be back together, to resume the important activities and conversations that take place “in between” scheduled activities, whether in a hallway on campus or over a meal at an intensive. We acknowledge that many of us miss community life and the support of like-minded travelers. We empathize with those who have experienced grief and are struggling; we know well that making meaningful connection is even more important than ever. Please know that we have taken great care to balance these desires with our commitment to the health and safety of our community and ensuring the continuity of our students’ education.

More details will follow, and we will keep you updated as planning continues. In classrooms that will hold in-person classes, we are ensuring safety protocols are in place. We are also upgrading technology to be more suitable for virtual or hybrid delivery. We are providing an enhanced studio space for faculty to record webinars. And our Office of Online Education will continue to provide support and training for students and faculty.

Fall semester will be a transitional semester, but we expect to be robustly in-person in Spring. We know that circumstances will continue to change, as they have throughout the pandemic. We will continue to remain vigilant, flexible, and hopeful.

Best wishes,
Liz Beaven,
Provost

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