Ashley A. Smith and Michael Burke
August 23, 2021
Uncertainty is the new reality tens of thousands of students face this fall as campuses repopulate residential halls, classrooms and other facilities while the coronavirus pandemic rages for yet another academic year. At any point, campuses could shift back to remote learning, if that’s what public health authorities recommend or if a significant outbreak of Covid-19 spreads.
Some California State University campuses have already begun fall instruction, but many start Monday. Seven of the University of California’s undergraduate campuses are on the quarter system and don’t start classes until Sept. 23.
The CSU and UC systems require students to be fully vaccinated when they return to campus in person and are mandating that masks be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status. Campuses will also routinely test students and staff who are exempt from the vaccine mandate for religious or medical reasons. Some CSU and most UC campuses will also regularly test vaccinated students.
In the UC system, campus leaders are optimistic that it won’t be necessary to fully return to remote learning.
“If we need to make adjustments, we will,” said Sarah Latham, the vice chancellor of business administrative services at UC Santa Cruz. “However, we believe that the things we have in place will allow us to stick to our initial approach of in-person instruction and a highly residential experience.”
Even with vaccine mandates, UC campus leaders acknowledge that positive cases will occur. But they also anticipate that those cases won’t be as disruptive to campus life. Last year, any student in close contact with someone with a positive Covid-19 case needed to be quarantined. This year, that won’t necessarily be the case, largely because of vaccinations, but rules vary.