President Jiménez-Sandoval says fall 2021 depends on vaccines

President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said plans for fall 2021 depend upon COVID-19 vaccine availability. (Vendila Yang/The Collegian)

During the President’s Forum on Feb. 2, Fresno State Interim President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval addressed plans for fall 2021, saying the return to campus depends on the availability of COVID-19 vaccines.

In the first forum of the spring semester, Jiménez-Sandoval and Associated Students Inc. (ASI) President Elizabeth Rocha Zuñiga fielded questions from students about financial grants for students and the campus’s plan for the following semester.

The COVID-19 vaccine will not be required for students once it becomes available; however, Jiménez-Sandoval said he anticipates that masks will be worn through the fall semester.

“I don’t think that the masks are going to go away for some time in the near future,”  Jiménez-Sandoval said. “And this is based on feedback that I’m receiving both from our county health officials, as well as guidance from the governor’s office and from the CSU as well.”

Students expressed concern for in-person learning in the fall and whether online versions of certain courses would be made available for those unable to return to campus due to underlying health conditions, or students who have family members who are older.

Jiménez-Sandoval said classes being offered in-person or online will depend on a case-by-case basis, noting that some will require in-person instruction due to the accreditation process of certain courses.

“The other part would be if it’s a discipline specific element that we have to teach face to face, then in that case, we can try to work with the student as much as possible,” Jiménez-Sandoval said.

The latest federal stimulus package was another concern of students, with Jiménez-Sandoval emphasizing that the university aims to increase the amount distributed to students this spring.

“We are trying our best to help you with the most possible amount in the emergency COVID grants we spoke about previously,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. “We gave $16.4 million last year. We are going to give a lot, significantly more this year as well, over $20 million for sure to our students.”

The grants will be awarded in spring 2021, Jiménez-Sandoval said.

The grants from the latest federal stimulus package will not provide financial aid for AB 540 nonresidents and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students; however, Jiménez-Sandoval said that the university will seek other sources of funding to support those students.

“It’s not specific to the grant that we received like in the past, like we’ve done in the past, we are focused on finding other revenues to help our DACA students move forward with the situation,” Jiménez-Sandoval said.

In regards to any plans to reopen the library at limited capacity for students, Jiménez-Sandoval said he was in discussion with Fresno County officials and Zuñiga to find a means to provide students a quiet space for study.

He said a major issue is the space available for students, as gatherings are not allowed due to coronavirus regulations.

“Right now, the plans are to open [the library] in, with a first-come, first-served but with the ability to have an appointment, because we cannot just simply open it and then have lines of people, you know, out the door or have too many cars around or whatever else,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. “But more details on that, as they become available as well.”

Zuñiga was also in attendance, emphasizing the need for student involvement during remote learning and the opportunities that are available to students to remain involved through clubs and organizations with the campus community.

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