San Diego State University is quiet and nearly deserted while classes are not in session.
San Diego State University, quiet and nearly deserted while classes are not in session. Photo by Chris Stone

San Diego State University leaders informed the campus community Thursday evening that the greater California State University system would seek to continue online learning for the spring semester due to the pandemic.

CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White called the decision “the only responsible one available to us at this time.”

Officials made the move, according to an email sent by SDSU President Adela de la Torre and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Salvador Hector Ochoa, due to the “fluid and unpredictable” nature of COVID-19, despite hopes of a vaccine.

“Given our ongoing and active management of the pandemic, we must begin planning for instruction during the Spring 2021 semester without the guarantee of a timely vaccine in mind. Today, the California State University (CSU) system shared that each of its 23 campuses would continue with coursework primarily delivered virtually in Spring 2021,” they wrote.

Despite the decision, they said, both the system as a whole and San Diego State “will continue the current practice of allowing certain limited exceptions for in-person instruction for courses that have very specific requirements to do so.”

They expect to release SDSU’s spring class schedule by October.

De la Torre and Ochoa also shared a statement from Chancellor White: “We have learned from experience that announcing this decision now will allow faculty and staff to continue or start professional development to be even more effective in the virtual space. We also know that deciding now will allow our students and their families time to plan appropriately. This decision is the only responsible one available to us at this time. And it is the only one that supports our twin North Stars of safeguarding the health, safety and well-being of our faculty, staff, students and communities, as well as enabling degree progression for the largest number of students.”

San Diego State has experienced a surge of COVID cases. On Thursday, San Diego County reported another 69 linked to the campus. That raises the number of confirmed infected students to 509 since instruction began on Aug. 24.

About 75% of students testing positive live in off-campus housing not managed by the university, with 73% of the cases among the freshman and sophomore classes.

A stay-at-home order for students living on campus continues through Sept. 14.

The university, according to the president and provost’s letter, has had success with measures to address general prevention and off-campus gatherings. They are looking at additional testing too, they wrote.

“These actions will serve us well going forward, and we must develop a spring 2021 plan that continues to prioritize our commitment to individual health and community wellbeing,” they concluded.

Staff reports

Updated 6:45 p.m. Sept. 10, 2020