Gator Talk: … 5 weeks later
February 4, 2022
…5 weeks later
Welcome to Gator Talk, a collaborative CalState podcast that brings city and statewide perspectives to SF State news.
Well, a lot has happened since the Fall 2021 semester. Editor-in-chief and host Chris Ramirez sat down with SF State President Lynn Mahoney to recap what happened between finals week and the start of the new semester.
Check out the story here at Gator Talk.
Chris: Guess who’s back? This is Chris Ramirez, editor-in-chief and your host for Gatortalk, the podcast where we actually don’t care about your Worlde score — sorry, not sorry.
For more information/coverage, check out goldengatexpress.org AND @GGXnews on all social media platforms.
Preview of the show
Chris: Welcome back Gators. A lot has happened over break — you may have heard of a little thing called Omicron — and now that we’re back in the swing of things, Xpress is here to catch you up. I sat down with SF State President Lynn Mahoney to learn about some of the things that happened over the break.
So, let’s get into it.
Nicole: Hey there gators! This is your engagement editor and co-host Nicole Buss. Before you listen, I wanted to give a quick correction and update: Voting to ratify the California Faculty Association’s tentative agreement with the CSU ended on Wednesday, not today. The CFA voted to approve it.
Now, here’s the episode.
Chris: This past December was a pretty standard one, right? We were wrapping up our first semester back at SF State since going into lockdown — everything going as planned, right?
Chris: Maybe … not so much. But at the time, we weren’t really sure what we were getting ourselves into, but we knew it was bad. On Dec. 17 — the last day of finals — the LA Times counted about 3,500 hospitalizations, 12% up from the week prior.
Chris: President Mahoney said that she wasn’t too concerned until she saw universities on the East Coast going online — Harvard, Columbia, Northwestern — she started getting a little worried then.
Chris: It wasn’t until Dec. 28 that Mahoney had to face the decision of canceling the winter commencement for the classes of 2020 and 2021.
Mahoney: I said something rash like, ‘Over my dead body will we postpone that for those poor students. If I have to be the only one in the stadium with them, I’ll do that.’ And then of course, we know the numbers just soared.
[interview audio ends]
Chris: SF State is now looking for a new venue to host that remedial graduation. Mahoney said Oracle Park is being considered for it, but nothings set in stone yet. It wouldn’t be the same one as the Spring 2022 commencement either. It would be at roughly the same time.
Chris: Even after that cancellation, Mahoney said that at that time, she was still optimistic that we’d be back on campus by the start of the semester — but again, her optimism proved her wrong. She met with the university’s planning group on Jan. 3, and by Jan. 6, the announcement suspending in-person classes was sent out, making SF State the fifth CSU to go online.
Chris: Some background for you all: the university’s leadership regularly meets with the city’s department of public health for guidance and rules regarding COVID. And Mahoney echoed a similar message that many of our local leaders have been saying for some time: this isn’t 2020. With vaccines and boosters, SF State is keeping campus operations open in the meantime. That includes the gym and the library.
Chris: Mahoney told me that over time, the guidance from SFDPH has lessened, really allowing the CSU and SF State to have a sense of greater autonomy. It’s part of why we’re still required to wear masks inside, while the city has relaxed some of those rules.
Chris: There’s no specific threshold for what’s safe to return to campus, but really, just an indication that the surge is going down. And by the looks of it, the worst has passed. As of Tuesday, California’s test positivity dropped from 19.6% last week to 13.8%. But just as quickly as we went online, we could stay online.
Chris: But as of Tuesday, Mahoney sent an email out to the campus affirming that in-person courses will resume on Feb. 14, as scheduled.
Chris: Speaking of boosters, one of the actions students will have to take before coming back on campus is to upload their proof of booster. It’s required across the CSU by Feb. 28. It’s a similar process to how we uploaded our initial proof of vaccines before last semester.
Mahoney: It’s going to be a little bit different, because we’re all going to become eligible for a booster on a different day. So what we’ll do is I kind of keep checking on a weekly basis, and students who are eligible but haven’t done it will get blocked for registration for the following semester.
[interview audio ends]
Chris: We’re gonna take a quick break to double mask. We’ll be right back –
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Lastly, I wanted to give a special shoutout to Sebastian Mino-Bucheli. You may have heard of him as the creator and original host of Gatortalk — he’s graduated now, but what kind of podcast would we be without giving him a congrats? Perhaps it’s a little late … anyway, thanks Seb for all the hard work.
Cont. Main Story
Chris: And, we’re back.
Chris: One of the other big events that happened over the break was the tentative agreement met between the CSU and the California Faculty Association. They’re the union that represents professors, librarians and coaches across the university system.
Chris: The CFA ended up getting a COVID bonus for the 2020 academic year and a 4% general salary increase for this year and next year. But for CFA leadership at SF State, it isn’t enough. Our campus’ members on the statewide board of directors voted against it, saying that this doesn’t cut it for the price of living in the Bay Area.
Mahoney: Especially when you live in the city of San Francisco, there’s no such thing as too large a raise for our employees. So I respect the position of our local CFA chapter. This is an expensive city to live in. I’m going to wait and see how all the faculty vote. I will say that the president of the CFA, Charles Toombes, spoke at the Board of Trustees in favor. I will say this, we wouldn’t be a university system if everyone agreed with each other.
[interview audio ends]
Chris: We’ll have to wait and see how the CFA votes. Voting ends today, so stay tuned for more.
Chris: Looking forward, unless COVID decides to surprise us again, not much is expected to change. The university is buying 30,000 K-N95 masks to have available on campus, and Mahoney said that unless something unpredictable happens, this semester will remain the final transitional semester for SF State.
Mahoney: I think we’re going to have more upper division and certainly more graduate courses online. I think about for example, our graduate students in the Graduate College of Education, online learning is really working for them. Because they have jobs, they have families. So um, I think we’ll see more online learning, but I really do think that this is the last, the last transitional.
[interview audio ends]
Chris: You know, it’s pretty bizarre to think that Mahoney has led most of her time at SF State virtually. She started in the summer of 2019, making Fall 2019 and Fall 2021 her only in-person semesters. Mahoney is up for her triennial review this upcoming summer, so I asked her how she’s feeling going into it, considering her time here.
Mahoney: There are things I have not accomplished, that I would have liked to, I would have liked to have, by now made some more improvements in academic advising, I would have liked to have been able to better support more faculty hiring, you know, we really did slow down on faculty. And so there are things I didn’t get to do. On the other hand, I remain proud of basically two things. The first is that I was looking at all the numbers of universities and their COVID cases since March of 2020, we have one of the lowest. So I remain very proud of what San Francisco State did. First to just go remote, and our retention went up, more students returned after their first and second year. So that’s a sign that we’re doing something right under the worst circumstances. So I remain very proud of the work we did to go remote and to continue education. And then the other thing, I think, despite all this, and despite that I’ve lived on Zoom. I think that teams are working better together than they did three years ago.
[interview audio ends]
Chris: Here’s what else has been happening this week:
- Happy Lunar New Year! Tuesday marked the first day of the year of the tiger. The city’s Lunar New Year parade is scheduled for Feb. 19.
- San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra’s bill promising guaranteed healthcare for all Californians died in the Assembly on Monday night, after he denied bringing it up for a vote on its final day of eligibility. The bill, dubbed “CalCare,” had the support of the speaker, but Kalra said the vote would have failed by double-digits.
- Also on Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a two-year deadline to dismantle San Quentin’s death row and transfer those incarcerated individuals to other prisons. The goal is to integrate them into general prison populations without placing them back onto death row.
And that was the episode.
Thanks for sticking around for a third season of Gatortalk. This is Chris Ramirez, editor-in-chief and your host for Gatortalk. Episodes will premiere every other Friday, but don’t miss us too much! Keep checking our socials @GGXnews for more coverage. Have a great weekend — I’m out.