by Victoria Maneske
On Sept. 10, CSU Chancellor Timothy White sent out a letter to all the faculty, staff and students of the CSU system, confirming that all CSU campuses will continue forward with primarily virtual instruction and reduced campus housing populations for the spring semester beginning in January 2021. This was in consideration with the state of the pandemic and its impact on the universities, along with other factors influencing university operations.
With making the decision for campuses to have predominately virtual instruction in May for the fall 2020 semester, White said that the early decision allowed time for students, faculty and staff to plan accordingly. White attributed the maintenance of these strong fall term enrollment numbers within the CSU to this early decision.
This reflection encouraged White to make the decision to continue primarily virtual instruction for January 2021 sooner rather than later. “First, although we have just begun the fall term on most campuses, academic plans must soon be finalized for the term that begins in January 2021,” White wrote in his message. “Starting in a few weeks, campuses publish course offerings for the new year, students make their course selections, and campuses make appropriated adjustments to their course inventories to meet student demand.”
The second main reason for instituting the decision now was because of the impending December deadline for the waiver that was put into motion by the U.S. Department of Education for fall 2020, which excused the requirement for campuses to seek authorization for courses offered in the virtual field.
This requirement is established by the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC), which is the CSU accrediting body. WASC works in assessing, planning, implementing and monitoring school improvement based on student achievement. It validates the integrity and accomplishments of school programs, providing for further accomplishments through viable education.
The waiver will not be renewed, and campuses are required to submit their January online course schedules in September and October of 2020 for authorization.
Regarding the pandemic, White said, “We know far more about it now than we did back in May. The virus continues to spread. There is no vaccine and there likely will not be one widely available any time soon.”
According to the letter, there is the prediction of an uprising of COVID-19 cases between October and December, partnered with seasonal influenza, along with another spike projected in March 2021. Also, the crucial expansion of testing capacity, through a program including a third party, will begin in November, but will not be at capacity until March 2021.
Furthermore, California fires have pushed for evacuations, and multiple people being placed into housings together may cause the potential to further increase more COVID-19 cases.
As for CI, President Erika D. Beck sent a follow up email to White’s message on Sept. 12. “As a result of this decision, we will reconstitute our campus Planning Task Force and begin to prepare for a primarily virtual spring term with limited in-person instruction that maintains the health and safety of our campus community and continues to offer an exceptional educational experience for our students,” President Beck wrote in her email. “We will also continue to provide campus updates as our collective work advances on our website.”
The inability to return to the normal in-person schedule in January 2021 stems from the consistent and unwavering threat of the pandemic that continues to surge. With deadlines, tight resources and lack of a relieving vaccine, the safest choice is to postpone returning to complete in-person instruction. So far, the plan is to continue with a primarily virtual instruction until the fight with COVID-19 becomes more manageable.