California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) President Eduardo Ochoa held his virtual office hours where he informed students about current affairs on campus, and answered questions sent in by students and their parents on Sept. 20.
Ochoa started the event with his opening remarks regarding some of the measures the university has taken to make sure students are safe on campus.
“We have taken multifaceted steps to ensure the health and safety of our campus population,” Ochoa said. “We have upgraded the ventilation system in all of our buildings, and deployed portable HEPA filters wherever appropriate.”
“We also have a campus wide vaccine requirement, which we are enforcing through the online vaccine registry, unless students have a medical or religious exemption,” Ochoa said.
In addition to the vaccine requirement, free COVID-19 testing is available on the second floor of the Otter Student Union – both for students and staff who remain unvaccinated, and students who are concerned about recent contact with the virus even if they are vaccinated.
If a student living on campus tests positive for COVID-19, they are quarantined in an individual unit with it’s own bedroom and bathroom for two weeks, where they get all their meals delivered to them.
While positive cases are still being reported on campus, they are limited and under control as of now.
Several students had questions regarding when all of the dining locations would open on campus, as well as when all stations in the Dining Commons would be open.
Dean of Students Leslie Williams stated that they are working on opening the other dining facilities in the Otter Student Union (OSU) as soon as possible, they just need to get enough staff.
“It will hopefully open at the end of the month,” Williams said.
Ochoa echoed Williams’ statement.
“There have been challenges hiring staff because of the nationwide labour market,” Ochoa said. “However, we are making every effort to re-staff.”
Larry Samuels, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Executive Director of University Corporations, was able to confirm that they are still hiring, and if there are individuals who are interested in working with the university’s partners in housing or dining, they should reach out.
Ochoa addressed questions of menu changes and when all of the Dining Commons food stations would open.
“We will take the feedback and convey it to our food and service provider,” Ochoa said. “I believe the intention is to come up to full strength, as soon as we can get our staffing up to full capacity.”
Samuels added to Ochoa’s statement.
“By the looks of it, it should be happening early or mid next week,” Samuels said. “The Otter Express is currently being renovated and ready to come online in limited fashion – the back half of the Spring semester is our current target.”
The new Otter Express will combine private sit-down dining, with the ability to order take-out, offering students an upgraded experience.
In terms of graduation, Ochoa confirms that there will be a face-to-face, in-person graduation. The graduating class of 2020, as well as 2021 will all be able to attend should they wish.
No dates have yet been determined, but Ochoa said they would most likely go over two days seeing as there would be quite a large number of graduates.
In terms of how the upcoming Spring semester will look like, Provost Katherine Kantardjieff replied.
“At this point in time, we are building a Spring schedule that we are asking colleges to build that closely resembles what the schedule looked like prior to the pandemic,” Kantardjieff said.
Kantardjieff added “as need arises they may review certain courses on a case by case basis to determine if they should be moved to a hybrid or online environment.”
The audience was wondering if CSUMB would offer evening and weekend classes for those who needed it and Kantardjieff was able to confirm.
“We are exploring the use of more evening time blocks which will help us better utilize our facilities and our scheduling blocks,” Kantardjieff said. “But we have to look at the staffing needs that go with it to ensure there is sufficient support for students.”