In March, Cal State Fullerton was forced to go fully online due to the continued spread of the coronavirus. It has now been six months and the majority of classes are still online. On Thursday, the decision was made by Cal State University Chancellor Timothy P. White to keep all 23 CSU campuses primarily virtual throughout spring 2021.
While virtual learning may have its pros and cons, this hurried decision wasn’t necessary, as primarily in-person classes would be the best option for next semester.
White made this decision far too early given that only three weeks had passed since the start of the fall semester. Circumstances could change before the next semester as a COVID-19 vaccine is projected to be complete by late October. It would have been better timing to make a decision in November or December due to the rapid changes throughout the course of the pandemic.
The choice to prolong virtual instruction has a huge impact on students for numerous reasons. Tuition costs for CSUF students haven’t been lowered since online courses began earlier this year. If classes continue with online instruction, a reduction in tuition fees need to reflect the lack of an on-campus experience.
Another factor that will negatively affect the university is lack of profit. Without in-person classes, the need for student housing has decreased by 88% in addition to profits from parking passes. These two services alone yield a huge loss of revenue.
College sports are also in jeopardy since classes will remain primarily virtual in the spring. Being that there won’t be many people attending in-person classes, there might not be any college sports played at any of the CSU campuses. In addition, it may affect college athletes who are trying to pursue their careers in sports.
White’s sudden and hasty announcement leaves a big question mark on whether sports will even continue during the 2020-21 school year.
However, there are other ways to work around this and make in-person classes possible next semester. For example, the University of Southern California had a plan to hold in-person classes this semester, but scaled back its proposal. Instead of a full semester, it would have ended a month early in November, which may have aided in safety and avoided the flu season, which usually hits its peak around December.
If all goes well and in-person classes become viable, CSU campuses can follow a similar plan next semester by shortening the school year. Summer would start sooner and students would be able to interact with each other face-to-face rather than through a laptop screen.
It is completely understandable that White wants all the students to be safe, but, it’s just too early to be making these decisions, especially when fall semester has just begun.
Spring semester is four months away so there’s still time for things to change and for the CSU chancellor to change his mind later during the semester. It all depends on how the coronavirus plays out the rest of the year and if the vaccine is successful. If the opportunity to reopen in-person classes is available, it needs to be taken.