Students came together in a virtual town hall with Cal State University Chancellor Timothy White hosted by Zahraa Khuraibet, president of the Cal State Student Association, to answer questions surrounding virtual instruction.
In a message to students, White announced on Sept. 10 that all 23 CSUs would remain primarily virtual through the 2021 spring semester, a decision that White said would give students and their families time to plan for the next semester.
Some questions for White from students, staff and faculty were submitted ahead of the town hall. White also took questions from the meeting’s attendees after the scheduled questions.
White reported that over 17,000 faculty members in the CSUs completed over 250,000 hours of professional development courses, which taught them different ways to utilize the technology available to them and tune their course materials to better fit the virtual classroom setting.
He added that approximately 600 faculty members who were proficient in technology and the online setting became mentors for those who were less experienced. He also touched upon how the system was teaching student life leaders to engage through resource centers, such as the LGBT Queer or the Veterans resource centers, in a way that would still be helpful to the students they serve.
“The American Council on Education, which is a national group, was suggesting that the standard should be 20% of a given university’s faculty should engage in professional development like this and for us, it was over 60%,” White said.
White said that staff continues to provide virtual services for students through advising and counseling sessions that are available through meetings, consultations, physical and mental wellness and financial aid. He said that an estimated $100 million is being spent annually on student well-being across the CSUs and is broadening with access to different programs.
“We’ve led the nation in the amount of money that we're spending on student well-being and mental health,” White said.
Even with 20,000 laptops and tablets issued and 10,000 hotspots along with other resources, White addressed the concerns students may still have about virtual learning and internet access.
White mentioned that students are able to park on campus and use the system-wide Wi-Fi, but Khuraibet brought up the issue of parking fees and that many campuses are still charging to park on campus, which is a concern, as many students are not able to afford the price.
At CSUF, parking passes started at $334 at the beginning of the semester and decreased 25% every 30 days, and must be paid in full at the time of purchase. A daily permit costs $10.
Last semester, White made the decision to offer students the option of obtaining a letter grade or credit/no credit for each of their classes. This semester he is leaving it up to the CSU presidents to give the option, with CSUF deciding not to offer the credit/no credit option for the fall semester.
The next Cal State Student Association virtual event will be a conversation with the two CSU Student Trustees on Monday at 3 p.m.