From the President, re: Spring Semester to Begin On-Ground

January 6, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

Following lengthy consultation with the CSCU System Office, the state Department of Public Health and our sister CSU institutions, Southern will begin the spring semester on-ground, as scheduled.

Student move-in will take place on Jan. 18, with in-person, hybrid and online classes commencing Wednesday, Jan. 19, as planned.

As notified yesterday, all staff members apart those with existing telework exemptions are expected to report to campus on Monday (Jan. 10).

The vaccination requirement for all students and employees will remain in place, with those who have medical or nonmedical exemptions required to undergo weekly testing.

The decision to resume on-ground operations for the spring semester was made in the context of providing the best possible learning environment for our students, while ensuring the continued health and safety of all members of our campus community.

While the rapid spread of the Omicron variant is driving record positivity rates across the state, it is causing less severe illness in most cases, with the vast majority of those infected experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms. As a result, efforts against COVID are now shifting from full containment to a mix of containment and mitigation strategies at both state and national levels.

At least in the near-term future, COVID is something that we will have to live with. So we must continue to be nimble thinking and flexible in our actions, even as we work, teach and learn in as regular a manner as possible.

As we prepare for the new semester, I urge everyone to continue to be compassionate and understanding in your interactions with your colleagues, and especially our students as we adjust to this “new normal.” Faculty in particular are asked to be flexible with attendance policies during the first weeks of class, given anticipated absences due to quarantining or isolation.

While in-classroom teaching will resume as scheduled, we will take small steps in other areas, limiting large, in-person gatherings or receptions and encouraging food-to-go strategies in the dining halls. As we continue to promote social distancing, Week of Welcome activities will also be held remotely or postponed to a later time in the semester.

Before the semester begins, it is important to check that your technology (both personal and in-classroom) is in good working order, as there were power outages and several upgrades during the break. Please report any issues to the OIT Help Desk at ext. 2-5123.

In the coming weeks, it is vital that we maintain the high levels of vaccination and observance of health protocols that have helped maintain the safety of our campus community throughout the pandemic. 

I again emphasize the need for masking and social distancing on campus. Masks are available at the Adanti Student Center Information Desk, Buley Library Circulation and Security Desks, and Wintergreen Information Desk. We recognize that masks with a close facial fit and more efficient filtration are especially preferable with the Omicron variant.  The use of these are encouraged and we are working to secure KN95, N95 or KN94 masks for distribution.

Those of you who have not started or completed a vaccine regimen (including a booster shot) are strongly encouraged to do so as soon as possible.

Griffin Health will provide a walk-in vaccine campus clinic on Tuesday, Jan. 11 from noon to 6 p.m. in the Schwartz programming space. Weekly testing of unvaccinated employees will be conducted at the same location next Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon and every Tuesday thereafter. 

If you have COVID-like symptoms or have come into contact with someone who has become infected, you should test before returning to campus.  Anyone who tests positive off campus should stay home and self-report. Please take the opportunity to refresh your knowledge of our campus COVID Protocols and Mitigation Strategies, which include a self-monitoring checklist if you are feeling ill.

I will continue to update you on any changes to our protocols as we work with the state Department of Public Health and review CDC guidance. In the meantime, if you have questions about our spring reopening, please submit them here and they will be responded to promptly.  

As we work together to prepare for the start of the new semester, let us continue to be Southern Strong: committed to student success, while taking care of ourselves and each other.

Sincerely,

Joe Bertolino
President