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Office of the President

August 21, 2020 – California Wildfires

To: Campus Community
From: President Gayle Hutchinson

As we prepare for the start of classes Monday and grapple with the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, my thoughts are also on the wildfires ravaging our state and the impacts they are having on so many in our Wildcat community. More than 18 complex fires are burning across California, a significant number that has overwhelmed firefighting resources. Many are burning in communities that have experienced painful devastation in recent years and are suffering anew. 

Whether you call those affected areas home or have loved ones experiencing evacuations or working as first responders, I know these fires are deeply troubling. For those of us who experienced the Camp Fire or other devastating wildfires, the saturation of smoke in the air is triggering a depth of emotions. Many of us are already experiencing immense stress and uncertainty as a result of the global pandemic, and for some, these fires may be the difference between manageable and overwhelming. To all those struggling, I extend my deepest sympathies and support.

I emphasized in my Convocation address yesterday the need to stay connected with one another and to practice patience and grace. I urge you to check in with your peers and colleagues, offer support if you can, and ask for help if you need it—give a little extra grace, use a calmer way of interacting, and allow time and space for people to take care of their emotions. In our virtual world, this has never been more important or more challenging. For those who have difficulty focusing, contact your faculty or supervisor directly if you need accommodation. I trust you will be treated with flexibility and compassion. 

Students can also access support services from the Counseling Center 24/7 by calling 530-898-6345. Faculty and staff can contact LifeMatters at 1-800-367-7474 or www.mylifematters.com for counseling and other services. Password: csuchico.

In addition to our Wildcat community, seven of our sister CSU campuses have been significantly impacted by these wildfires. Some have closed due to poor air quality; structures at one campus have been lost; and others are supporting their communities by preparing to operate emergency shelters, staging equipment, or supporting law enforcement with evacuations. These campuses stood with our community during the Camp Fire, and we are prepared to return the favor with whatever support we can offer. My heart goes out to the students and employees across the CSU who are facing the impacts of wildfires in tandem with the start of an already unusual fall semester. 

Unfortunately, I expect these will not be the last wildfires to test us this fire season. As I have said before, we are resilient and will rise above the challenges that confront us. Compassion is what makes us a Wildcat family, and we will continue to stick together even in the toughest of circumstances. Take care of yourselves and others today and every day.