By Cole Allen, Oct. 26, 2021

The Academic Senate discussed COVID-19 emergency grants, new faculty hirings, campus upkeep, and the Safer Return Task Force’s enforcement of campus health and safety during its second meeting of the semester on Oct. 20.

Over the course of the pandemic, Cal Poly Pomona received more than $42.5 million from the federal government to aid students in need. Distributed through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III Student Emergency Grants, students benefit if deemed to face financial challenges because of the pandemic.

Discussed in the meeting was the campus’ distribution of the funds through three grants: an automatic one in the summer, another automatic grant in the fall and a currently active, application-required grant for the fall. The automatic grants were given to students with “exceptional need,” defined as the use of the Pell Grant, or “high need” from Cal Grant A. The last of the emergency grants are eligible for all students who experienced financial hardship during the pandemic.

“The final group of emergency grants are going to be done by an application process so it will be open to all students,” said Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Iris Levine during the senate meeting. According to Levine, with applications currently being accepted until Dec. 17, and with over $13 million available, the university is encouraging all students who have faced financial challenges during the pandemic to apply.

On another note, it was announced by the faculty equity liaisons during the meeting that 24 new positions for faculty hires have been posted and are currently open for applications. This leaves 21 positions yet to be posted from the 45 total faculty searches for the 2021-22 academic year announced earlier this semester.

“We have 45 searches that have been authorized for this academic year, and we have a team of faculty equity liaisons who have been working very hard with the search committees and they have been a great asset,” added Levine during the meeting.

In other business, campus upkeep was discussed during the meeting, including measures to restore buildings of considerable age around the campus. Amassing large numbers for the estimated costs as a total, the demolition of the CLA and construction in the library will be the most expensive to undergo.

“According to Vice President Trinidad, a third of our buildings are over 60 years old and in need of some upgrades and some maintenance, some of which has not been done in a while,” said College of Letters Arts and Social Sciences Sen. John Lloyd. “The longer you put off maintenance the more it costs to fix things.”

According to Lloyd, an estimated $350 million in deferred maintenance is needed campus-wide. The demolition of the CLA building could cost around $70 million. Library renovations, part of the campus masterplan which will allow for expanded classroom space, may cost $20.5 million.

The Safer Return Task Force also gave a report at the meeting, with numbers showing campus-wide vaccination at 81.3% at the time of the meeting.

Indicators in the Task Force’s Response Plan places the campus in a state of minimal risk, but Frances Teves, coordinator of the Safer Return Task Force and associate vice president of Government and External Affairs urged vigilance of possible factors like the surge of unknown variant. For such factors, the task force has plans in place.

“We want to keep our campus community safe, and then we want to be able to support the student experience,” said Frances Teves, coordinator of the Safer Return Task Force and associate vice president of Government and External Affairs. “This is an important takeaway. This is an evolving framework, there are evolving local conditions, and there is uncertainty in the future, the uncertainty of the variant and the uncertainty of the vaccine.”

The next Academic Senate meeting will be held on Nov. 10; information for attending the meeting can be found on the Senate’s website.

Feature image by Nicolas Hernandez

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