UPDATE: COVID-19 sparks CSUB petition, provost signals possible transition to online classes


Amy Pachla, Copy Chief

  This week, the administration of CSU Bakersfield has been actively responding to COVID-19 as it spreads through California.  

  On March 9, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Vernon Harper, after meeting with California Faculty Association President Charles Toombs and CSUB Academic Senate Chair Deborah Boshchini, sent an email to faculty about the university’s intention to “preserve academic continuity” through the use of offcampus and online teaching solutions, including Canvas and Blackboard, email, Zoom videoconferencing, and even postal mail if need be. 

  Harper’s email was followed by an email from Director of the Faculty Teaching and Learning Center Rebecca Weller offering enhanced resources and guidance to assist professors and lecturers in making a smooth transition to online and remote learning solutions. 

  On March 10, CSUB President Lynnette Zeleznyat the request of the CSU Office of the Chancellor, suspended all international and non-essential domestic travel for all CSUB employees until at least the end of May. 

  This announcement was paired with a change to the policy for CSUB students currently studying abroad. Originally, the plan had been to bring those students back, as the number of COVID-19 cases recorded in the United States had been relatively low. As the number of cases rises, however, the administration has decided to evaluate whether it would be safer for students to return to California or to stay where they are for the time being on a case-by-case basis. 

  This decision preceded President Trump’s March 11 announcement of a federal suspension of travel to and from most parts of Europe for the next 30 days. 

  The California Faculty Association also highlighted action at all CSU campuses in response to COVID-19. In the March 11 newsletter, the CFA reminds its members that, “At this time (March 11), there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at any CSU campus, but some campuses are considering or have decided to suspend in-person classes to help slow or stop the spread of the contagious virus. 

  As of March 11, nine of the 23 schools in the CSU system have ceased face-to-face, on-campus activities in response to the spread of COVID-19: Northridge, Fullerton, Long Beach, San Diego, Chico, East Bay, Dominguez Hills, and San Francisco. 

  News of the closures at other CSUs have sparked a Change.org petition to “Demand CSU Bakersfield to switch to online classes due to Corona Virus risk”. The petition is labeled as having been started by three CSUB students and is to be delivered to Zelezny and others in the administration. At the time of this posting, the petition has gathered more than 2,100 signatures and counting.