Office of the President

April 24, 2020 – Update From the President

To: Faculty and Staff
From: President Gayle Hutchinson

It’s been roughly five weeks since Governor Gavin Newsom told us to stay home in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. I know what you’re thinking—the weather is warmer and everyone, including me, is growing weary of physical distancing. It’s a struggle; I get it. Yet, I strongly encourage you to continue heeding the advice of our governor to stay safe by sheltering in place. 

I do encourage you, though, to take a break for a moment. Imagine this point in the semester as the 7th inning stretch in a baseball game. Stand up. Step away from Zoom and Blackboard. Step away from your computer and stretch. Reach out to friends and remember that physical distancing does not mean social isolation. It’s more important than ever for you and your family to engage in healthy nurturing activities at home before settling back into your chair to finish out the academic year. 

Practicing physical distancing and staying at home has helped California slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and protect the state from the tragedy seen on a larger scale in other states across the nation. Yet, the number of California cases continues to climb and it’s unclear how long we will be under stay-at-home orders given the uncertain trajectory of the virus. Frankly, life as we knew it will not be returning for a long while. Now, with three weeks left in the spring semester, our thoughts are turning to summer. Will telework continue? Might we return to campus in some capacity? And, what about the fall semester? Will we be virtual or hybrid?

Let’s begin with summer. Virtual delivery of instruction, student support, and other activities will be sustained from June 1 through August 18. Summer Orientation will be completely virtual and orientation fees waived. On-campus operations have been reduced to a minimum, and construction projects will continue on a limited basis. Employees who are on campus with their manager’s approval have been directed to practice physical distancing and wear face coverings. 

The campus Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will continue to monitor the public health environment with respect to COVID-19, coordinate campus planning and operations, and identify policy considerations. EOC planning teams are assessing key topics, including academic programming, and academic and student support, using Governor Newsom’s six indicators for modifying California’s stay-at-home order. Next, the EOC will outline virtual and hybrid instruction and service scenarios that could be implemented during the fall semester or sometime thereafter. Campus consultation will occur before any scenario decision is finalized. It is my hope to announce a decision about the fall semester before the end of May.  

I’ll close with a metaphor that I heard earlier this week on a podcast featuring science reporter Don G. McNeil Jr. McNeil described “The Hammer and the Dance,” a process first explained in an article by Tomas Pueyo by which communities will reconvene activity. As stay-at-home orders—the hammer—are relaxed, communities will reopen slowly—the dance. Because the virus is dangerous and unpredictable, it’s likely to resurge in communities that have reopened. When it does, communities will tighten the rules of social distancing—the hammer. This process will continue until either enough people have developed immunity by having the disease, a vaccine and other medications are developed that help people stave off the virus, or both. The take-away here is that regardless of the decision made for the fall semester, we must remain flexible and nimble with the ability to change our plans as quickly as possible and adjust to public health concerns.

Under these most difficult circumstances, I want to express deep admiration and gratitude for the response of the Chico State community to the ongoing crisis. It is with our hard-earned resilience and determination that we continue to deliver a high-quality education and emerge from this transformed for a brighter future.