The safety of students, staff and faculty members amidst a surge of COVID-19 cases was the focus of Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn’s spring semester welcome address.
The day before classes at California State University, Stanislaus began virtually, leaders welcomed the campus community to the spring semester and highlighted achievements reached during the pandemic.
The welcome address streamed over Zoom on Thursday. The university, earlier this month, moved the first two weeks of the spring semester online after consulting with local public health officials and “out of an abundance of caution,” Junn said in the address. She said “it feels as if we’re experiencing a sense of deja vu.”
Students, faculty and staff return to in-person learning in mid-February, with 71 percent of courses entirely or partly in person, Provost Rich Ogle said. The remainder will remain completely online for the rest of the semester.
Junn reassured that safety protocols and vaccination rates are “dramatically higher” for the Turlock and Stockton campuses than they are for Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, where the two campuses reside.
“Our campus is perhaps one of the safest places to be in our two counties,” she said.
People coming to campus, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a surgical, N95 or KN95 mask indoors. The university has thousands of masks available for students and employees.
Junn said that currently 77 percent of all students are vaccinated, and of those enrolled in face-to-face classes, 82 percent are vaccinated. In addition, students, staff and faculty will be required to show proof of receiving a booster shot by the end of February or once they’re eligible.
Stanislaus State allowed new freshmen to start in the spring semester for the first time, according to Gitanjali Kaul, vice president for strategic planning, enrollment management and innovation.
Fifty-two first-time freshmen will begin and 639 students transferred this semester, Kaul said. The overall student headcount dropped by 5 percent compared to last spring.
“Given our pandemic situation, that number is a lot better than it could have been,” she said.
First-time freshman applications from the fall were up 6 percent from the year before, though that number is difficult to put in context by the overall declining enrollment during the pandemic. CSU campuses nearby show increases of 10-20 percent in undergraduate applications, Kaul said.
“We have our work cut out for us,” she said.