Dear Beach Community:
After careful consultation with medical experts, stakeholders across our campus, and the CSU system, I have reached the conclusion that we must plan to primarily offer remote instruction during fall semester 2020.
All of us look forward to the full reuniting of the Beach family on campus, but until that day comes, we will continue to rally and deliver, largely through alternative means, the education and services for which we are so well known. The power of a Beach degree and the educational experience our university affords remain unquestioned.
This decision about fall heeds prevailing public-health guidance, and also helps safeguard those with underlying health conditions and the 12% of faculty and staff who are 65 and older. Our aggressive action this past spring in pivoting to remote instruction was responsible for keeping COVID-19 from spreading widely across our campus. It likely also protected members of our larger community by greatly reducing population density, thus reducing transmission risk.
Due to the complexity that characterizes our work, there are necessary nuances associated with this decision. For example, the provost, working with the deans and Academic Senate, will develop criteria to allow for the face-to-face or hybrid delivery of a small number of courses. In student housing, we will likely allow for about half of our normal residential population with procedures in place to allow for physical distancing. Campus dining, both for residential students as well as the options from our many food vendors, will need to be modified to ensure safety.
All of these details will emerge in the coming weeks as planning groups continue their work in extensive consultation with the appropriate health advisory organizations and our employee unions.
As we approach fall, we will also need to look at how the balance of our staff not already deemed “essential” can return to working on campus. This will begin only after the Safer at Home order is modified. Once we are able to begin, it’s likely that we’ll stagger the return of staff to add to campus density gradually, and safety precautions will be required. Meanwhile, staff members whose work is primarily associated with direct interaction with students will be asked to continue reimagining how to be effective using remote techniques. Workshops will be offered to increase our comfort levels with remote delivery of student services.
The financial consequences of COVID-19 to our campus, system, city, and state will, no doubt, also cause some disruption to our usual expectations. Because the biggest portion of our campus budget goes toward employee compensation, we should expect very little new hiring to occur, and longer periods of time to replace faculty and staff who separate.
Our educational mission, our commitment to inclusive excellence, and our campus values associated with teaching and learning, diversity, compassion, creativity and innovation, and responsibility for the public good are not changed. The core of our university remains steady, but we’ll look and feel different for at least the first eight weeks of the semester.
Of course, public health evidence may cause us to further adjust our methods over the summer. Only scientific evidence will guide our actions. I’m reminded of a Robert Frost quote: So when at times the mob is swayed, to carry praise or blame too far, we may choose something like a star, to stay our minds on, and be staid.
Our star is the health and wellbeing of our community. We will be staid in that commitment.
We remain OneBeach.
Jane Close Conoley, Ph.D.
California State University, Long Beach