Zelezny heeds students’ concerns during virtual Runner Walk and Talk


Amy Pachla, Copy Chief

  CSU Bakersfield President Lynnette Zelezny’s first virtual Runner Walk and Talk took place on Thursday morning, March 26. The event was attended by what Director of Public Communications Jennifer Self called “a record number of students, faculty, and staff” in CSUB’s virtual daily update email. Indeed, there were 50 participants waiting even before Zelezny’s scheduled 10:30 start time, and attendance peaked at more than 150 people. 

  The Walk and Talk started with a tiny crash course in Zoom, as Zelezny explained why participants were auto-muted and how to take part in the question and answer session. This precaution follows the email sent Wednesday by Faust Gorham, associate vice president of CSUB Information Technology Services, detailing the rise of Zoom trolls and explaining how Zoom hosts can manage virtual meeting participants. 

  For many attendees, the main concerns regarded different aspects of commencementThe spring 2020 commencement ceremonies have been postponed at the request of CSU Chancellor Tim White. Many students were concerned that they might not get to walk or won’t have enough lead time to plan for family and friends to travel for the rescheduled ceremony. Others were curious about details of the rescheduled ceremonies, such as where they would be held and whether spring 2020 graduates would be sharing commencement with the Class of 2021. 

  Zelezny’s response was to take note of all the suggestions given and assure students she would bring them to her next meeting with the chancellor’s office. More than once, Zelezny said she simply had no answers yet as to when the postponed ceremonies will take place or any specific details. She encouraged students to continue offering their suggestions for graduation by email and they would all be considered. 

  Along with graduation, the topic of specific refunds was discussed. Students asked not only whether they could get refunds for caps and gowns they had already purchased, but refunds for other campus amenities they no longer have access to or use for, such as lab fees and parking passes. 

  Zelezny said the cashier’s office was already working on prorated refunds for parking passes, housing, and meal plans and is creating a system for issuing those refunds. Partial refunds for lab fees and other non-tuition student expenses are also being considered, and students with specific questions about that were encouraged to contact Provost Vernon Harper. Refunds will not be issued for tuition or general student fees because classes are ongoing, and services funded by student fees, such as the Student Health Center and Counseling Center, are still open and available for students. 

  Regarding the continuation of classes, many students had concerns related to the online transition. Some were worried that they would not be able to maintain the technological connection required, whether for lack of hardware or inadequate internet service. Others were concerned about a possible change in the quality of instruction due to the transition, expressing that they specifically chose in-person instruction for their own academic interest. Concerns about instructors being uncomfortable with the technology impacting classes, how instructors will maintain academic integrity online, and situational coordination among faculty were also discussed. 

  Zelezny defended the faculty but remained sensitive to student concerns. She urged students to stay in contact with their department deans and chairs, and again to share their academic concerns with Provost Harper. Zelezny also repeated her assurance that she would be sharing all these concerns with the chancellor’s office at their next meeting. 

  Many students asked about withdrawing from classes, dropping out entirely, or converting the semester classes from letter grades to credit/no credit course evaluations. Some are experiencing family obligations that restrict their time, while others are afraid the change from in-person to online instruction will simply be too disruptive to their success. 

  Zelezny strongly encouraged students not to give up on the time and effort they have already put into their education, and again urged any students considering withdrawing at this time to contact the provost at [email protected] with their concerns.  

  Zelezny was also skeptical of the value to students of accepting a pass/fail evaluation as opposed to a letter grade, especially in core classes. She did not entirely discount the idea of switching some courses to credit/no credit but said it would be on a class by class basis. 

  The next virtual ‘Runner Walk and Talk is scheduled for Thursday, April 9 at 2 p.m., however, Zelezny expressed her wish to schedule more virtual student forums due to the high turnout for this Walk and Talk.