Why Covid disruptions at California colleges and universities differ from March 2020
January 14, 2022
Michael Burke and Ashley Smith
Another academic term at California colleges and universities has been upended by the coronavirus.
At campuses across the University of California and California State University systems, in-person classes have been suspended and won’t resume until the end of the month — or later in some cases — because of a surge of Covid-19 infections brought on by the omicron variant.
For some students, the current shutdown is reminiscent of the initial suspension of in-person classes in March 2020, when campuses announced they were shutting down for just a few weeks but ultimately ended up doing so for the remainder of the academic year.
In some ways, this term is already similar to 2020. For example, seven UC campuses where classes started Jan. 3 initially announced that they were suspending in-person classes for two weeks. At six of those campuses, the pause on face-to-face instruction has been extended until the end of the month. (UC Santa Barbara is allowing faculty to decide whether to teach their classes online between Jan. 18 and Jan. 31.)
The two UC campuses on the semester schedule, Berkeley and Merced, start classes Jan. 18 and will also be primarily online until Jan. 31. At CSU, one campus, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, chose not to shift classes online and welcomed students back for face-to-face classes on Jan. 3. The campus is now dealing with a spike in infections.
Meanwhile, among the other 22 CSU campuses, the vast majority of them have chosen to delay in-person instruction.
But officials at some campuses say there is reason to be optimistic that the shutdown will indeed be a temporary one this time around. Covid-19 vaccines are required of UC and CSU students, who also must get booster shots. In 2020, there were no vaccines. More important, officials project that Covid-19 cases in California will soon peak, followed by a steep decline in cases. If that prediction holds true, the public health situation will be much more manageable by late January.
“I don’t understand anyone who can’t tell the difference between this and March 2020. If this were a class of mine, we would slow down and do an analysis of how we’re not in the situation that we were in two years ago,” said Jody Greene, associate vice provost of teaching and learning at UC Santa Cruz.
“Nobody wants remote instruction,” Greene added. “The students don’t want it. The faculty don’t want it. The administration doesn’t want it. And so we are going to do everything we can to not have it.”