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COVID-19 One Year Later
Dear campus community,
One year ago, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I never imagined how this virus would change nearly everything about how we live, work, teach and learn. I am inspired by how well this community responded by rolling up its sleeves, getting to work, and using creativity and ingenuity to keep our mission at the center of every decision we have made.
I fully acknowledge the difficulties we have endured as we navigated these uncharted waters. Our students and employees with young children are exhausted from juggling their own work duties with their children's childcare or schooling. Students have lost jobs and are insecure about housing and food. Some of our students, faculty and staff have lost loved ones and are grieving.
As if those challenges aren't enough, there is appalling violence against members of our Asian community in the Bay Area since the early days of the pandemic due to racism. There are disparities in infection rates and health outcomes of our most vulnerable community members, especially people of color, in large part due to persistent systemic anti-Black racism. Most of all, I am deeply concerned about the pandemic's mental health effects on our community, which I suspect will remain even after we have returned to some semblance of normalcy.
Through it all, Cal State East Bay has persisted, has continued to serve students, has contributed to COVID-response efforts and has continued to serve our external community. This great work includes:
- Cal State East Bay partnered with the Hayward Fire Department and City of Hayward on a COVID-19 testing site on the Hayward campus, staffed by our nursing students, faculty and alumni;
- Due to our safety protocols, we have experienced no community transmission of COVID- 19 at a Cal State East Bay facility;
- Computer Science students and faculty developed COVID ID, a mobile phone application that detects four safety factors in public spaces—mask-wearing, crowd density, social distancing and fever indicators—using computer vision and machine learning.
Our university continued to serve our students this last year in remarkable ways:
- Students received $14.8 million in direct student aid from federal COVID relief packages, with more to come;
- We received $217,000 in private support for student emergency aid;
- Over 95% of our course sections were offered in remote format;
- At the ITS curbside pick-up site, over 800 laptops and 400 WiFi hotspots were provided to students;
- Students received remote access to campus labs, computing resources and licensed applications, resulting in over 57,000 hours of student computing use.
And these efforts bode well for our students' success and the future:
- Our enrollments are holding steady, just slightly below our target for Spring 2021;
- Student retention rates are up, with 78.7% of our first time first-year students returning for their second year;
- Graduation applications are up by 300 more than this time last year;
- The governor and legislature recognized the importance of the CSU System to the economic recovery of the state, and as of July 1, 2021, will restore the $299 million cut the system had in FY 2020-21;
- Vaccines are available to educators, including faculty and staff at Cal State East Bay.
We are now in the midst of planning for Fall 2021. I appreciate that our faculty, deans and department chairs are working hard to increase the proportion of face-to-face learning opportunities we provide to students. As our counties continue to move into less restrictive levels, by fall I believe we will be able to bring much more life to our beautiful campuses through activities, events, co-curricular opportunities, more students living on campus, and more faculty and staff to serve them. I sincerely look forward to that day.
In a separate message, I will share the results of our recent "Post COVID Opportunity Scan," in which you helped identify many "silver linings" of the pandemic—processes and practices we learned from and will continue into the future. Thank you for your ideas and contributions.
I repeat: This has been a difficult year for us all. I know this is true. I want to thank you for all the adjustments you have made, the extra effort you have put forth unselfishly during this time. I am proud to be here as your president, especially at this critical moment, and I sincerely look forward to meeting you face-to-face, reaffirming our commitment to work together to make Cal State East Bay the best it can be.