After 18 months of virtual instruction, Cal Poly Pomona welcomedmany students back to campus for the start of the fall semester as part of the university’s phased reopening. The start of the phased return comes with a series of regulations and guidelines aimed to keep campus community members safe.
There are three alternatives, outlined in the Safer Return website, that students may take instead of submitting proof of vaccination. Individuals can request exemptions from the vaccine mandate for medical or religious reasons and students can self-attest that they will not be on campus during the fall semester.
The deadline for providing proof of vaccination or requesting an exemption is Sept. 30. After the deadline, students who have not been vaccinated or exempted may face disciplinary action, per CSU policy.
“Data strongly demonstrates the effectiveness of the vaccine,” said Assistant Vice President for Government and External Affairs Frances Teves, chair of the Safer Return Task Force, during an Aug. 3 student forum. “While the new data regarding the Delta variant does indicate that those who are vaccinated can transmit the virus, the data does continue to show that those who are vaccinated are protected from serious disease.” Teves was not available for an interview before deadline.
Currently, Cal Poly Pomona is offering courses in six formats: face-to-face, fully asynchronous, fully synchronous, hybrid asynchronous, hybrid synchronous and HyFlex.
Face-to-face classes are attended on campus at a set time. Fully asynchronous courses are online courses taken at the student’s pace, and fully synchronous courses are online courses with at a set meeting time. Hybrid asynchronous and hybrid synchronous are courses which will consist of both online and in-person components, though instructors have the discretion to set the frequency of face-to-face meetings. HyFlex classes give students the option of attending class in-person or online, either synchronously or asynchronously.
As announced by Interim Provost Iris Levine during the Aug. 17 Academic Affairs Forum, 53% of classes are online, 40% are hybrid and 7% of classes are face-to-face.
With 47% of courses including at least some in-person components, the campus fell short of the 51% minimum threshold laid out by the CSU and in Phase 3 of the campus’ Safer Return plan. Levine does not believe that recent developments in the pandemic such as the Delta variant are the reason the campus fell short of the 51% bar, saying that the 47% number has remained constant for the past few months.
“Some of the campuses have achieved [the 51% minimum]; some of them haven’t even come close to the 47% that we have,” said Levine. “We feel pretty confident about the 47%. We know that our campus has a lot of labs and activities that go on because of our polytechnic identity; and so, we’re hoping to really push those kinds of courses first.”
Levine added that while the pandemic’s development may force the campus to shift back to virtual instruction in accordance with county and state health protocols, she considers there to be an “unwritten contract” with students that online and hybrid courses will not be moved back to face-to-face.
In accordance with Los Angeles County guidelines, CPP is also mandating face coverings within campus buildings and facilities. Individuals who are alone in an office space, or drinking and eating 6 feet apart from others, are not required to have a mask on. Face coverings and gloves are available throughout the campus for students.
The Division of Student Affairs announced on Aug. 16 that Custodial Services performed a one-time deep cleaning in July on various buildings and that the campus would be implementing routine cleaning and disinfecting of common areas and academic spaces. The university also upgraded its air filtration units in buildings with many projected students and employees.
These measures have made a difference in some students’ outlook on Cal Poly Pomona’s reopening. Elli Kliewer, a returning biology student, feels comfortable knowing the university is requiring masks to always be worn and mandating weekly testing for students who are not yet vaccinated.
“I feel fairly safe coming back to Pomona,” said Kliewer. “I know that Cal Poly has been doing its best with following all the regulations that have been put in place due to COVID-19.”
As of Aug. 20, the county possessed a 7-day average of 3,387 cases, with a 14-day increase in cases of 7.3%, according to the Los Angeles Times. On Aug. 19, 35 new reported deaths propelled the county past a total of 25,000 fatalities.
Adding to the increase in cases is the Delta variant, a new strain of COVID-19 believed to be twice as contagious as previous variants and more severe than the original COVID-19 strain. Vaccinated individuals can still be carriers for this strain, though the chance of infection is rare, and vaccinations are still effective against severe illness and death. LA County has administered more than 11.7 million doses; 56% of residents are fully vaccinated while 64.4% have at least one dose, according to the LA Times.
The University Library has taken measures to aid on-campus students through its locker and rental program as well as their designated study spaces first launched last semester via reservations. Fall students, however, will no longer need reservations to be in any of the library’s six floors.
“What we are trying to do is create a space where students can come to the library in order to do a wide variety of things,” said Pat Hawthorne, dean of the library. “We know that there is going to be part in-person, part virtual and part hybrid classes, so I always say the library is sort of the office space for students on campus.”
The library will be offering students a clean and safe space to balance virtual and in-person classes. They have laptops available for check out as well as headphones and earbuds for student use.
The Bronco Student Center has followed a similar pattern. David Quezada, associate director of operations, affirms the BSC is taking the necessary precautions to keep students safe during this semester.
“What we did to the public lounges is we spread all of the furniture out and we paired away a lot of seating, so there’s a lot of seating but not like we had before,” said Quezada. “We’re going to have two main entrances, one on the second floor and one on the first floor, and then we’re going to screen everybody as they walk in.”
Throughout the summer, the BSC provided students with study spaces, and they will continue to do so for students who reserve a spot.
Daniel Martinez, associate director of Counseling and Psychological Services, expressed how difficult the transition from an in-person format to online format was on students and how difficult transitioning back may be. Adapting to new formats and guidelines may also add stress for a lot of students. Because of this mental strain, CAPS is focused on lessening the mental effects students might feel during this semester.
“We are offering workshops, stress management workshops for example, which are really relevant,” said Martinez. “We are also offering specific groups for students who are coming into campus for the first time as a way to help them connect interpersonally with others.”
Current therapy sessions, as well as any group workshops, are available both in-person and through an online format. More information on these events and groups can be found on the CAPS webpage and Instagram and Twitter @cppcaps.
Students can upload their vaccination record on MyHealthPortal to be excused from weekly testing. Verification of vaccination takes three to 10 business days. More information on guidelines and procedures can be found on the Safer Return website.