Year of pandemic has led to challenges, innovation and hope


Ellen Kommel

Volunteers prepare bags of food for community members at CSUB’s monthly food distribution on March 15.

Guadalupe Avalos, Giselle Gamez, Rosa Salazar, Runner News Team

  It has been a year since CSU Bakersfield transitioned from in-person learning to online instruction. What was once believed would be an extra week of spring break quickly turned into an entire year of online learning. Sports were brought to a halt but then resumed with safety restrictions.

  Students completing their degrees didn’t get to experience a graduation ceremony. Most students missed out on the experiences of campus life.

  On March 18, 2021, CSU Bakersfield President Lynnette Zelezny sent an email to the entire campus community, noting the one-year anniversary of leaving campus to begin virtual instruction.

  “But as we see signs that we are turning a corner in this pandemic, I look back in wonder at all that has happened and I see grace and determination from every member of our CSUB family. I see a community that has made sacrifices time and again for the greater good,” Zelezny wrote.

  Although the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was documented in January 2020 in China, it was March 2020 that marked many national changes for the United States and, thus, for all of us living here.

New health protocols

  After the spring semester, when school resumed in the fall, about 90% of instruction remained virtual. All visitors have had to complete a daily health survey prior to coming to campus; signs encourage parking cars in every other space. The Runner Café is open for pick-up only. Computer Lab A in the Walter Stiern Library has continued to operate with safety precautions including social distancing. Masks are required everywhere.

  If an individual who has been on campus is diagnosed with COVID-19, the university notifies those who were in close contact with the person. Then University Police Department Chief Martin Williamson sends an email to the entire campus community

  Since the first email alert was sent on July 7, 2020, there have been 28 total reported positive cases of COVID-19 on campus, according to CSUB’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Damian Lopez

  Now, the university is just starting to offer vaccines. On March 19, they held a clinic in conjunction with Express Pharmacy to give a limited number of vaccines to faculty, staff and student employees on campus. Starting today, CSUB is taking registrations for its new mass vaccination clinic that will open for the community next week.

Student support

  Along the way, the university has provided many services in order to make this difficult time a little easier. The food pantry stayed open the entire year in order to ensure students, staff and faculty. The university also continued holding its monthly food distributions.

  The university continued to provide students with laptops that could be rented for those in need, as well as Wi-Fi hotspots. A total of 199 Chromebooks, 285 Dell Laptops, and 646 hotspots have been checked out to students since February 2020.

  The university also continued holding meetings and social events through Zoom. Zelezny’s monthly Runner Walk & Talks continued on Zoom as well, offering a way for students to ask important questions.

  Associated Students Inc., which is the student government at CSUB, and many other organizations throughout campus continued their involvement with students through virtual meetings.

  Students also benefited from two rounds of financial support through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and CSUB’s own funding. On Feb. 23, CSU Bakersfield announced the finalization for the second wave of coronavirus relief funding. Students received anywhere from $150 up to $1,600 depending on their enrollment status and financial need.

  According to the CSUB website, students who were ineligible for funding, including DACA students, international students, AB 540 students, and students who did not submit a 2020- 21 FAFSA document, still received a partial amount of aid.

What’s next for the fall

  As the university prepares for the 2021-22 school year, the goal is to bring back more faculty and more students for a hybrid mix of in-person and virtual learning.

  Vernon Harper, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said that classrooms are being retrofitted for the fall semester.

  “Well we’re adding technology to facilitate flex instruction, which would allow there to be a face-to-face cohort as well as a virtual cohort at the same time,” Harper said.

  Faust Gorham, chief information officer for the university, said they are using about $1 million in CARES funding to modify classrooms.

  “There are many in different buildings. We are focusing on the larger rooms. We are making them able to teach students both in the classroom and online. So cameras, microphones, touchscreens that can both use Zoom and also can support writing on the whiteboard,” he said.

  Gorham also said they are adding 26 mobile stations to the 15 they already have to support labs.

  Besides the classroom modifications, the university is making changes to ensure a safe return to campus for students, staff and faculty.

  Faculty will work with the administration to determine how many students will be allowed in the classroom.

  Faust said this will depend on the size of the classrooms and precautions set by the CDC, the state, the CSU system, Kern County Public Health and campus leadership.

  Additionally, Harper said they are finalizing many health and safety measures on campus. This will be led by a campus preparedness council and risk management at CSUB.

  Meanwhile, the university is taking strides to offer vaccines to all campus community members who want them.

  Starting Friday, March 26, the university will be hosting a large COVID-19 vaccine site that will be run in partnership with Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health and Adventist Health, with support by Hall Ambulance. The clinic will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week in the Student Recreation Center. Community members can register online at

  For students who plan to return to in-person instruction next semester, they will have to complete the online assessment prior to stepping foot on campus.

  “The students should look forward to a great fall term,” Harper said.