California State University announced Tuesday that its 23 campuses will officially be conducting classes online this fall semester, with a few possible exceptions, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
CSU is the nation’s largest four-year public university system, with around 480,000 students enrolled in schools that stretch the state and include San Francisco State, Cal State Los Angeles, and San Diego State University.
Courses will be “primarily delivered virtually” during the fall term, Chancellor Timothy P. White said at Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting. “Limited” exceptions may be made for classes that can’t be done online, such as clinical sessions for nursing students or labs for students in the sciences, he said. He added that in those cases, the classes will follow “rigorous” social distancing and other protective protocols.
“Our university, when open without restrictions and fully in-person, as the traditional norm of the past, is a place where over 500,000 people come together in close and vibrant proximity to each other on a daily basis. That approach sadly just isn’t in the cards now,” White said.
The chancellor cited the “health and safety and welfare” of students, employees and local communities as a priority in the decision. He noted the lack of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, as well as experts’ forecasts of waves of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, later this summer and again in late fall.
To eliminate the chance of the disease spreading further, the university system “must do its part,” he said.
At a Senate hearing Tuesday in Washington, federal infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned about the dangers of businesses and school systems reopening too quickly, leading to a possible spike in the spread of the coronavirus.
California has reported more than 69,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Tuesday, and over 2,800 deaths. The state reached a new milestone of administering over 1 million tests, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), but infection and death rates have plateaued rather than declined in recent weeks.
CSU’s campuses moved to virtual learning in March, along with most colleges and universities, due to the pandemic. One of its campuses, Cal State Fullerton, announced in mid-April it was preparing to conduct classes online in the fall.
So far, most of the nation’s colleges and universities have said they intend to reopen with in-person classes in the fall, but are making plans for conducting courses online if needed, according to The New York Times.
In his remarks Tuesday, CSU chancellor White acknowledged the double-edged sword of canceling in-person instruction, noting that the decision will “positively affect” the community by minimizing the spread of the virus, but “negatively affect” local economies by reducing commerce. He added it would have been irresponsible to wait until the summer to make the announcement.
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