Most Courses, Programs Will Be Virtual in Fall Due to COVID-19 Safety Concerns

At Tuesday’s CSU Board of Trustees meeting, Chancellor Timothy P. White announced plans for campuses to provide most instruction and support program via virtual modalities for the Fall 2020 term.

The move is based on guidance from public health officials forecasting a small wave of COVID-19 cases over the summer, a large wave in late fall, and another wave in the first quarter of 2021 as the country waits for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.  Campuses are planning for: limited in-person classes for clinical courses; lab work for physical and life sciences; creative arts; engineering, architecture, and agriculture capstone projects for seniors; and hands-on training for maritime programs.  These exceptions will adhere to “rigorous safety measures,” White said.

“While we can appreciate Chancellor White’s push for a cohesive, advanced plan – to learn from mistakes made during the Spring 2020 term – the planning, content, and delivery of instruction comes from faculty who must be brought into the conversation,” CFA President Charles Toombs.  “We expect to see faculty participation every step of the way in the various departments and colleges on the campuses. We expect the highest levels of health and safety for those faculty, staff, and students who will work and learn on the campuses.”

Unions were built to protect workers in times like these. CFA will continue to work on behalf of the front line lecturers, tenure-track faculty, librarians, counselors, and coaches in the CSU system to make sure that they have the resources, training, and opportunity to provide the education and support programs our students need to complete their schooling and succeed in their careers and dreams.  Campuses are working on programs to help faculty improve their virtual course offerings, but CFA reminds all faculty that off-contract work over the summer should not be work that is performed for free.

CFA laid out our path forward to protect the health and safety of faculty, students, and staff, higher education, student access to the CSU, racial and socioeconomic equity, and faculty contractual rights, jobs, and benefits.  CFA will achieve these objectives by continuing to work with campus administrations and the Chancellor’s Office.  We will demand a role in decision making to protect the rights and health of our members.

CFA’s advocacy will also strategically target the Capital as lawmakers grapple with the economic fallout from COVID-19.  Last week, Governor Newsom announced a projected $54 billion budget deficit. With this deficit, it is estimated that California unemployment will reach 18 percent, compared to 12.3 percent during the 2009 recession. The deficit is equal to about 37 percent of General Fund spending in 2019, according to the California Department of Finance. We know from the recession more than a decade ago that these numbers will reflect heavily in the lived experiences of our faculty, current students, our recent graduates, and the students to come.

The Department of Finance wrote that “the projected deficit as a percent of General Fund spending is modestly smaller than the budget deficits faced by the state in 2003 and in 2009. This is due largely to the state’s prudent fiscal management and strong economic recovery since 2011.”

We know we must learn from the past recession so we do not make the same mistakes again.

  • Cuts to the budget should protect our campus labor force, and faculty should not be cut first;
  • Faculty members should not “volunteer” for work that must be paid for;
  • We should not “race to the bottom” again, leaving California’s students in debt and short-changed;
  • Faculty should continue to stand by one another in solidarity;
  • We cannot pit tenure track against contingent faculty, who work off the tenure track but are nevertheless the bulk of the faculty.
  • Faculty should not sign any individual or department-wide intellectual property or other academic freedom rights agreements before consulting with your union.

The Governor plans to release his 2020-21 budget May Revise Thursday, and CFA will be in touch once we know more about what this means for our state, for higher education, and for the CSU.  For regular updates, visit CFA’s COVID-19 website.