Sonoma State University president says decision in the works on fall 2020 semester
Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki says she has little more than one month to sort through all the factors and uncertainties that will go into her decision about how students will resume classes during the fall 2020 semester.
Sakaki, in an interview Monday, said she’s looking at three basic options: in-person classes with pronounced physical distancing and enhanced hygiene; continued remote learning through the rest of the calendar year; or some combination of the two, where large lecture classes might be held online but smaller groups in certain courses might meet on the Rohnert Park campus.
Part of it depends on state and county health orders, part on guidance from the California State University chancellor, and much hinges on what happens over the next few weeks with the coronavirus outbreak in the region and any resulting public health orders.
But Sakaki clarified Monday that the determination about SSU’s approach to fall classes is hers to make, with input from her closest advisers.
“We know we need to make a decision fairly quickly,” Sakaki said, adding that she expected to reach that determination the end of May or early June at the latest.
Awaiting Sakaki’s verdict is a student body that is normally about 9,000, though this year that could vary based on enrollment decisions, and not only for would-be first-year students. Also waiting on word are hundreds of faculty members and college employees unsure about the exact shape of their jobs next semester.
Another influential group in the campus community: the parents of college-age children whose own return to SSU may be part of the equation.
So there’s no question about the pressure to urgently resolve the issue.
But, amid a deadly global pandemic, it’s no easy matter to balance the kind of uncertainties now facing those who run institutions of higher education. Some have already made their call.
Santa Rosa Junior College announced last week it would extend its remote instruction through the remainder of the calendar year. San Jose State said it is planning to offer online courses and a mix of those taught remotely and in person. The University of California system, meanwhile, said it would only reopen for on-site instruction “when it is safe to do so” — a benchmark that UC officials signaled would be set based on talks with federal, state and local health authorities.
Many are in a similar limbo, according to a list maintained by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
“We are really eager to make the decision,” said Paul Gullixson, an SSU spokesman. “But more than that, we want to make the right decision.”
The scheduled start to fall classes remains Aug. 18.
Incoming freshmen normally would have had until Friday, May 1 to commit make a deposit on tuition and housing if they wanted to reserve a spot.
But as with many schools, SSU has delayed the deadline a month so students can wait for more information before committing.
That hasn’t stopped parents and students from contacting the university and pleading for news so they can make decisions on housing, travel and overnight lodging tied to move-in dates, Sakaki said.
“So we’ve got a little bit of time, and not a lot,” she said.