By Sandra G. Leon
The entire California State University system will close its campuses for the Fall semester as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause disruptions in the normal course of life.
The 23-campus system, including San Diego State University, will continue to offer online classes and it working to create schedules for some coursework that must be done in person, such as nursing and other classes that require labs or other hands-on training.
“Our university, when open without restrictions and fully in person, as is the traditional norm of the past, is a place where over 500,000 people come together in close and vibrant proximity with each other on a daily basis,” CSU Chancellor Timothy White said. “That approach, sadly, just isn’t in the cards now as I have described.”
Each individual campus will determine the levels of in-person and virtual learning that may work for each of their school. State officials did not set uniform standards for all campuses.
Chancellor White said he discussed the decision with health care experts and the CSU Board of Trustees before making a final determination to keep the schools closed due mostly to the uncertainty of the virus and concerns of a second wave of infections in the summer and fall. CSU campuses have a combined enrollment of nearly 500,00 students.
“There are some people today who say we are moving too far and too fast in our planning,” White said. “I acknowledge and respect that point of view, but we sit with a different reality. … It would be irresponsible to wait until summer to plan for virtual learning.”
In response to the system-wide closure, SDSU announced its plans for virtual learning called SDSU Flex, focused on lecture-based instruction. The school said the program is intended to provide flexibility for faculty to reduce the number of courses to transition to virtual and extensive time to prepare and modify courses for the fall.
“As we continue to develop SDSU Flex, our priority will continue to be to share information in a timely and transparent manner,” SDSU officials announced in a school-wide email. “We know that our current students and their families need to make personal decisions soon, which will require decisions to be made about individual courses by our faculty and colleges.”
The email listed goals of the SDSU Flex as:
- Offer certain lab, art studio, clinical offerings and performance-based courses in person. Lecture-based instruction will occur virtually.
- Expand online teaching training for faculty members, with a focus on accessibility and inclusivity, through a virtual training institute.
- Significantly expand online activities and student support service, including financial aid.
- Carefully open the campus in phases based on the criteria released last week. This will include collaborating with local government officials to bring students and faculty back to campus as soon as it’s safe.
“Ultimately, we cannot gamble that testing and treatment will be so substantially improved by August that we may return to full or majority in-person classes, and therefore position ourselves for another large and emergency move away from campus, if required by the county or state,” the email read.
The email committed that these challenges will not stop SDSU from fully investing “in the classroom, technology, testing, and health and safety infrastructure necessary to ensure we can deliver in-person courses and experiences in fall for those areas that most need it.”
CSU will continue to monitor the COVID-19 crisis and make determinations to either re-open campus or continue with closures depending on the number of virus cases, deaths, and development of vaccines or medications in the near future.