California State University system announces plans for a virtual fall semester

Doha Madani and Ali Gostanian

The California State University System, which runs 23 campuses, plans to offer most of its courses for the fall virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Most classes for the 2020 fall semester will be held online with few exceptions for in-person activity, Chancellor Timothy White said during a Zoom conference with the board of trustees on Tuesday. Research labs, for example, would continue on campus but with small class sizes and with students wearing personal protective equipment, White said.

White confirmed the plans for a “hybrid approach” in a statement posted to the school’s website Tuesday.

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“Virtual planning is necessary because it might not be possible for some students, faculty and staff to safely travel to campus,” White said. “Said another way, this virtual planning approach preserves as many options for as many students as possible.”

Any in-person activities must meet "compelling educational and research needs" while also committing rigorous safety measures, White said in Tuesday's statement.

CSU is among one of the largest 4-year-public university systems in the country, educating about 482,000 students a year, according to the school’s website.

The system's best known campuses include San Diego State, San Francisco State, Long Beach State, Fresno State and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. San Jose State is the system's founding campus and Cal State Fullerton has its largest enrollment.

Also on Tuesday, the California Collegiate Athletic Association — an NCAA Division II conference that includes a dozen CSU schools as members — called off fall sports for this upcoming season.

The decisions come as schools across the country consider what to do for the academic year after spending the last several weeks transitioning to virtual classes.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the country’s top virologists, told the Senate on Tuesday during a coronavirus hearing that it would be unlikely to have medical responses to the pandemic ready in time for the new school year.

“In this case, the idea of having treatments available, or a vaccine, to facilitate the re-entry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far,” Fauci said.