SF State cancels events, classes suspended

Lorenzo+Ramos+holds+up+his+phone+to+show+the+number+of+signatures+he+had+gathered+via+his+online+petition+for+SF+State+to+cancel+face+to+face+classes+in+the+wake+of+COVID-19.+%28David+Sjostedt+%2F+Golden+Gate+Xpress%29.

Lorenzo Ramos holds up his phone to show the number of signatures he had gathered via his online petition for SF State to cancel face to face classes in the wake of COVID-19. (David Sjostedt / Golden Gate Xpress).

SF State President Lynn Mahoney announced through email Monday that face-to-face classes are cancelled until March 15 and classes will be moved to online instruction from March 16 to April 6 amid concerns over COVID-19. 

In the email, Mahoney cited increasing numbers of confirmed cases and moves from other educational institutions for the decision. On Monday, UC Berkeley announced that their classes would be held online until March 29. 

This announcement stands in stark contrast to an email from Mahoney two days prior, where she announced that on-campus events this month would be cancelled, but said classes would remain in session, stating the university was acting based on recommendations from local health officials. 

Six San Francisco residents were confirmed positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, which brought the total number of cases to eight within the city. 

One victim was related to a student at Lowell High School, situated less than a mile from campus. The school closed temporarily in response.

John Viola, a professor of criminal justice, made the decision to switch his classes to an online format a week ago. Viola still intends to try to get some content out to his students this week, despite the cancellation announcement. 

“For most of my students, it’s a relief to not have to deal with the stress factor,” Viola said. 

Maggie Beers, Assistant Vice President of the Teaching & Learning Department, oversees the Center for Equity and Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CEETL) at SF State. CEETL is currently working on preparing to move face-to-face classes to a virtual teaching and learning experience, according to Dr. Beers. Despite the preparations, Beers understands the issue of inaccessibility for certain required resources. 

“It’s not about asking faculty who’ve never taught fully online courses to immediately start teaching a very engaging effective online course,” Dr. Beers said. “It’s about, in this moment, in this very unusual situation, where we don’t have as much preparation time as we would like, how can we help our faculty get up and running quickly using our existing tools to move some of their course materials into an online environment?”

Webinars and on-campus assistance are offered through CEETL and Academic Technology for students, faculty and staff. Dr. Beers also noted that instructor and student guides are available online through Instructional Continuity at SF State to prepare students and faculty members in the possible transition to online classes.

Dr. Beers also mentioned that there are apps for Zoom and iLearn available for downloading on smartphones. 

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Jennifer Summit, sent out an email last Tuesday to SF State faculty members that provided resources and guides for online instruction, advising faculty that this move might be necessary soon. 

Associate Chair of the Biology Department, Jose de la Torre, noted some courses that offer a more hands-on experience such as labs will be “impossible,” if classes were to be solely online. However, Torre hopes that online courses will be creative and accessible enough to maintain student engagement and learning objectives. 

The biology professor has not taught online courses, but thinks that the idea makes sense given the current situation of the coronavirus. 

“Here’s the thing is that, they’re still going to have the exams, but online, that means I still have to study. I’m a bio-physio major so there’s no fun for me either way,” said student Joshua Johnson. 

“We have an issue most other campuses don’t have,” said Torre. “Not all of our students have access to reliable internet at home. We don’t want to disadvantage students simply because they do not have the means to have WiFi at home, nor do we want to create a situation where they have to go elsewhere and possibly come in contact with other people and become exposed so that they can get their course work done.”  

Despite the issues with lack of access, some students feel strongly about transitioning to online courses amidst the coronavirus. Lorenzo Ramos, an SF State student, recently started a petition demanding that all courses transition to a virtual format for the remainder of the semester. 

“I wanted to start this petition because I was concerned not only for my own health, but for the health of all of my peers and my friends and faculty, esteemed professors that I enjoy going to classes to,” said Ramos. “I got the idea to do this petition because I asked a lot of students in the community through wildfire, if they would be interested in signing this if they saw this issue as important as I did, and they all did agree.”

Gator Days, an annual event for newly admitted students to familiarize themselves with the campus, was not spared from the event cancellation. Roughly 2,000 people sent in an RSVP before the university announced the event’s cancellation, according to Maria Martinez, associate vice president of enrollment management. 

“There is no plan to reschedule because the fact of the matter is, this is a very fluid moment,” Martinez said. 

The SF State Queer and Trans Resource Center cancelled 13 events originally planned for this month, according to Student Director, Vanessa Hamill.