Updates on Fall 2021 and COVID Planning

To: Academic Affairs Division

From: Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., Provost and Senior VP of Academic Affairs

Dear Colleagues,

As we get ready to start the semester again next week, I would like to provide some updates related to our COVID-19 planning. As you know, COVID-19 continues to mutate, creating new strains around the world. One of the more recent strains, the Delta variant, has put new demands on global health care systems. In line with Santa Clara County guidelines, SJSU has re-established a mask mandate for all indoor activities. In addition, SJSU is implementing mandatory COVID-19 testing effective August 23. To opt-out of testing campus community members must attest that they are fully vaccinated and provide documentation of their fully vaccinated status. (Please note that for employees, as of today, this testing requirement applies to non-represented employees and CSUEU and SUPA employees. Other unions, including CFA, are still in meet-and-confer consultations regarding testing programs.) By September 30, all members of our community must be vaccinated (with exemptions for religious and/or medical reasons). The details of this were outlined in Monday’s President’s message

As of August 10, 94% of reporting students have attested vaccination (that is on a reporting total of about 60% of our total student population). Faculty are currently reporting just over 98% vaccination (with 83% reporting), while staff are reporting 95.5% (of 82% reporting). Please note that the President’s message outlined a deadline for vaccination verification based on the time it takes for the FDA- and WHO-approved vaccines to take effect. I am very glad that we are taking this two-pronged strategy toward protecting our campus community. Vaccination is proven to be the most effective path forward. Coupled with a masking requirement, we are prepared to continue to do what we have for the last 18 months – create a safe learning environment in the context of a public health crisis.

As you know, campus staff in general have joined our essential workforce on campus. We need to acknowledge and remember how important those essential personnel have been, working on campus even while many of us were working remotely. Our staff colleagues who have started coming back to campus expect that faculty will join them this fall. Our residence halls are almost full to capacity and the majority of two student cohorts (Fall 2020 and Fall 2021) are joining us here for the first time. They are seeking out community and connection as well. We will have many outdoor events to welcome faculty and staff to our campus. For new and returning students, Fall 2021 Weeks of Welcome programs and events scheduled from August 16 to September 22 will launch to provide support as they transition into SJSU. I hope that you can all participate in these  events. 

I know there are a number of questions about some campus protocols as it relates to COVID-19. I will address a few of these here. More questions are addressed in the FAQ, which can be found here.

Changing Course Modality

Individual faculty who wish to request a change in course modality because of a needed personal accommodation must file a request with the Employment Accommodations Resource Center (EARC). Changes to course modalities will only occur if there is an approved accommodation to that effect. If you have issues related to childcare due to COVID-19 related school/daycare closures, you should contact Yazmin Perez, Interim Leaves Manager, at yazmin.perez@sjsu.edu to discuss eligibility for leave programs. 

Any change in the course schedule must also go through the standard process, which requires affirmation by the respective dean’s office. Only after such an approval can Room and Course Scheduling change the modality. In the case of an approved accommodation, the dean will support the change. 

A change in course modality may mean that students with disabilities must modify their accommodation to be successful in your course. Please encourage such students to contact the Accessible Education Center at aec-info@sjsu.edu for assistance as needed.

Class modality may also be impacted by a major outbreak. In that event, the campus has an outbreak containment plan. It is linked below in the FAQ’s. 

Physical Distancing Requirements

Current Public Health Guidelines recommend vaccination requirements and indoor masking to suppress the spread of COVID-19. At this time, they are not recommending physical distancing. Our strategy to maintain 30 minutes between class periods allows for the recirculation of the air system at least three times before a new group joins a classroom. 

Faculty, Staff, and Student Conduct

Everyone is expected to comply with the indoor mask mandate as well as vaccination verification. We made it through last year with classes on campus and with a very high level of mask compliance. I believe that our student community will continue to protect each other, and that our faculty and staff will do the same.  University Personnel will be involved in formal consequences for employee non-compliance--and note that any formal consequences of non-compliance by represented employees are subject to established and pending agreements with our unions.  Student conduct issues will be managed by Student Affairs. We have laid out a strong message related to vaccination verification. Student Affairs is also identifying processes for managing students that do not adhere to the masking requirement. 

Supporting Our Community

I wish my message going into this semester was “we are finally out of the woods.” Unfortunately, that is not the case. That said, Santa Clara County reports some of the highest vaccination rates in the country and our students, faculty, and staff are responding to the requirement to be vaccinated. Updated data on the prevalent variants in the county demonstrate a dynamic picture of COVID-19. I know we will continue to come together around other protocols, such as the masking requirement, as we continue to adjust to the spread of COVID-19. 

We have to remember that some colleagues on campus have young children at home, who have not been able to get the vaccine, or other care responsibilities. As you think about your own practices, please be reminded of the intersections of SJSU with other communities as well. 

We are monitoring the situation every single day and making adjustments in response to public health requirements and the larger guidance from entities, such as the CDC, WHO, and our CSU System. We may need to change course again. If we do, we will be prepared. Ours is a resilient community. But, everyone is still pretty tired, stressed, and concerned. Please be sensitive to folks as they begin to make their way back to campus.