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Colleges considering online curriculum for fall courses

UCs, CSUs, private universities and community colleges are discussing what the fall semester, and possibly the whole school year, will look like.

By Lexie Macias, Valley Life Editor and Sarah Best, News Editor

Illustration by Gene Wickham/The Valley Star

The Chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District announced Tuesday that the 2020 fall semester will be online, leaving students everywhere else wondering if their schools will follow suit.

Having no choice but to adapt to the rapid transition to online learning, many colleges have confirmed that classes will remain online for the remainder of the spring semester as well as summer, but the question on everyone’s mind is about what’s going to happen in the fall. With the uncertainty of the future still looming over staff and students, California colleges have yet to reveal what the upcoming school year will look like. If schools resume in-person classes in the fall, reforms will likely need to be implemented to uphold a degree of social distance.

San Jose State, Cal State Fullerton and the Claremont Colleges are some of the first California colleges to give insight into fall plans. However, it was unclear whether Cal State Fullerton was the first school to kick off the commencement of online learning for the entirety of the fall, but Provost Pamella Oliver from Fullerton clarified such reports in an update on April 22.

“There were reports I said that Fullerton is canceling classes and going fully virtual for the fall. Let me be clear, that is false,” wrote Oliver. “Our goal is face to face, on-campus instruction, however, we are asking faculty to be prepared to start the semester teaching virtually. This is the correct and prudent choice.”

Fullerton undergrad Katie Flores isn’t a fan of the plans for the upcoming fall semester, saying, “It’s hard to stay focused and actually do work. I get easily distracted when I’m home.”

“They told us that we’re going to start the semester online and if things start going back to normal then we’ll be switching to normal classes,” added the Fullerton sophomore.

Private California universities, also, have given equivocal responses to those asking about plans for the fall. Chapman University said that they are “optimistically planning for safe return in the fall with social distancing and safety constraints in place,” according to the list of colleges’ plans from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Schools on the east coast like NYU, Harvard and Haverford College all have similar plans of resuming in-person classes for the fall.

On Tuesday, LACCD Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez sent out an email to faculty, staff and administrators communicating plans for the upcoming commencement, summer session and the fall semester. According to The Roundup News, the Pierce College student newspaper, both the summer and fall sessions will continue online, with “hard to convert” courses possibly being offered for the latter, depending on health and safety restrictions.

The University of California Admissions released a statement on the UC website regarding their plans for the 2020 fall semester, along with concerns about tuition, student housing and campus reopenings. As of right now, they have not made any decisions because “it is too soon to predict and evaluate the impacts of COVID-19, if any, on UC instruction beyond summer”. When they receive sufficient information from the federal government and public health departments, the UC will release their course of action for fall.

The statement also addressed whether or not tuition and mandatory fees would change if all instruction were to be delivered online for the fall. The UC says that everything has been “set regardless of the method of instruction and will not be refunded in the event instruction occurs remotely for any part of the Academic Year.” This comes after students demand a reduction in tuition as online instruction is not nearly the same as the experience that comes with in-person instruction.

The status of UC student housing is still up in the air at the moment, because it is too early to determine what impact COVID-19 will have on their student life and residential housing operations. Due to this, a housing guarantee is not being offered to students.

Along with the UC statement, individual UCs have released statements of their own regarding how individual campuses plan for the coming term. According to the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper, there are no plans for fall 2020 but there have been discussions regarding the possibility of online instruction. UC Berkeley shares similar plans to release the date of their fall term at a later time until more information is available to make a decision.

UC San Diego aims to reopen the campus in September for in-person instruction, but the possibility of a surge in COVID-19 cases in the fall could alter that decision. Other UCs are grappling with the decision to allow students to return to campus come fall because if a second wave of COVID-19 were to occur, they would have to send students home again.

Only time will tell what universities plan to do for the fall term as the threat of the coronavirus continues to loom over higher education.


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