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Claremont colleges are now closed to the public

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

The Claremont Colleges have closed their campuses to the public as part of a coordinated effort to comply with the governor’s stay at home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The decision was made last week by officials at the Claremont Colleges Services to include all five undergraduate colleges and the two graduate universities. Signs at Pomona College announcing the closure were first seen on Wednesday.

Laura Muna-Landa, director of communications for the Claremont Colleges Services, issued a statement on Monday regarding the closure.

“In an effort to do our part to ‘Stop the Spread’ and ‘Flatten the Curve’ and in accordance with the ‘Safer at Home’ orders by the State of California and Los Angeles County, The Claremont Colleges Campuses (all seven institutions) are closed to the public. This includes all buildings, courtyards, walking paths, athletic facilities, and other outdoor amenities. For the safety of our entire community, only specifically authorized students, faculty, staff and vendors are currently allowed on campus. We look forward to welcoming the community back on to campus when conditions will safely allow it,” the statement read.

She said roughly 300 people currently remain on campus compared with 8,500 students and 3,270 faculty present during a typical semester.

Campus safety at the Claremont Colleges asked the City of Claremont to spread word of the closure, according to Public Information Officer Bevin Handel. In response, the city posted a statement on its official Facebook page Thursday, asking residents to stay away from the Colleges.

“Please be aware, the Claremont Colleges have closed their campuses to the public to protect students, faculty, and staff. This includes walking on the campuses and using the fields and recreational spaces,” the statement read.

The Claremont Colleges are a popular place for Claremonters to walk, and with the nice weather last week there apparently was an increase in the number of visitors. Some Claremont residents have disputed that, describing recent walks thorough the Colleges as resembling a “ghost town.”

Lifelong Claremont resident Barbara Schenck, a 1975 graduate of Scripps College, walks or bicycles through the Colleges daily with her husband Steve. She forwarded an email to the COURIER she sent to Pomona College officials.

“My husband and I have been walking through the Colleges for the past 43 years. We report broken water pipes [to maintenance] and suspicious people to Campus Safety. Our home is on Elder Drive, so Pomona College is our neighbor—we live literally 400 feet due south of the chickens. We would like to know why the blanket closing of the College (my father’s alma mater) is necessary? Campus Safety can ask those congregating to disperse, as the State requires. To ask us to stop walking seems to unfairly target those of us who are following the State guidelines for social distancing,” the email read.

Ms. Schenck suggested an amendment to the closure to allow the public to walk or bicycle through the campus without stopping to congregate.

Residents have expressed confusion about what exactly is closed, citing the many city streets that bisect nearly every college. According to Ms. Handel, public byways such as the sidewalks on College Avenue and Sixth Street will remain open as long as people avoid congregating. Other streets such as Dartmouth Avenue as well as Eighth and Tenth streets are also public roadways, however, the Colleges have asked that people respect the intent of the closure by avoiding areas that are on campus.

“The private streets within the campuses adjoin public streets. There is no indication, for example, at College Way north of Sixth Street that it is private. There is no tiny plaque embedded in the street at that corner and the street signs are city signs. Yet, I believe that street from Sixth to Dartmouth at Eighth, is private. Will we be asked to leave, cited by Campus Safety, if we traverse College Way? Ms. Schenck said.

“In short, we would appreciate our community consider walking the perimeter of the campuses, and recognizing the very general boundaries of College Avenue, Foothill, Claremont Boulevard and First or Sixth Street. By using these streets, everyone will be helping the colleges and themselves to ensure social distancing measures are effective and that the closure of the colleges remains honored,” Ms. Muna-Landa said.

Campus safety has been instructed to contact people found to be on campus and simply remind them of the closure.

“We have every expectation that the people will comply with the various orders and do not anticipate removing people from campus or taking any other actions. In the rare instance that someone does not see the signage, our campus safety has been politely informing that the campuses are indeed closed and people are leaving on their own.” Ms. Muna-Landa said. “Almost without exception, the response from the community has been met with understanding and cooperation.”

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