Classes will remain primarily online during the fall term throughout the California State University system, Chancellor Timothy White announced Tuesday, saying predictions of possible surges in COVID-19 cases later in the year mandate steps to protect students and faculty.
There are about 482,000 students spread across 23 campuses in the CSU system including local San Diego State University and California State University, San Marcos.
Speaking to members of the CSU Board of Trustees during an online meeting, White said there will be "limited exceptions for in-person activities that cannot be delivered virtually, are indispensable to the university's core mission and can be conducted within the rigorous standards of safety and welfare."
He said such exceptions could include clinical nursing classes, life-science laboratory courses and interactive architecture or engineering programs.
"But anything done on a campus this fall won't be as it was in the past, it will be different," White said. "This is a new and expensive reality for us. For those limited courses where in-person instruction is indispensable and can be justified, enrollment per section will be less."
He said social-distancing guidelines will also be mandated, along with personal protective equipment and heightened cleaning standards.
The CSU system moved to online instruction in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic heightened.
SDSU President Adela de la Torre confirmed details about its fall semester including the new "SDSU Flex model" program for students to stay in close virtual communication with their professors and peers. She said the model will also provide extensive time for faculty to prepare courses.
The school confirmed it will offer certain lab, art studio and performance-based courses in person, including clinical offerings required for licensure for the fall semester, the president said.
Chancellor White said planning for the fall term has focused almost exclusively on continued virtual learning, based on expert predictions about the virus's continued impact.
He said infections and deaths are "beginning to plateau or subside in some, but not all, regions of California.''
"The nonpartisan academic researchers and medical and public health experts forecast a second smaller wave later in summer, followed by a very significant wave coupled with influenza forecast for late fall, and another wave in the first quarter of 2021,'' White told the board. "Experts also point out that immunity in the population is now approaching the 2 to 3% range, and needs to be in the 60 to 80% percent range to begin to achieve the so-called 'herd immunity.' That won't happen in the next 18 months, and there's no vaccine yet. And while hope springs eternal, it is unlikely that one will become widely available during the coming academic year."
SDSU also said, "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 University of California Board of Regents is meeting next week and is expected to discuss plans for the fall. The UC system already decided to provide summer instruction online with the expectation that COVID-19 restrictions will likely continue.