Ochoa Office Hours addresses student concerns & future campus plans

President Ochoa held his virtual town hall for students and staff at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) on Oct. 19. Ochoa touched on a variety of topics, but some key ones were COVID cases on campus, safety and maintenance issues, the transition to fully in-person classes and graduation. 

Ochoa opened the town hall by announcing he will retire in June 2022. He expressed his gratitude for all the staff and faculty at CSUMB along with the opportunity, “to contribute to helping our students get educated, and move on to productive and rewarding lives.” 

Ochoa also said how proud he is to see how far CSUMB has come over the last decade.

“It’s been great,” Ochoa said. “But now, it’s time for me to step down and provide an opportunity for new leadership.” 

Transitioning to campus news, Ochoa spoke on COVID cases and students.

“The COVID situation is really good,” Ochoa said. “We haven’t had a case for a while and no one is in isolation in the residential halls.” 

Later on during the office hours, a student asked where they could get a test for COVID, which is done in the Otter Student Union (OSU) building. A second student asked if they tested positive and they live off campus, who should they contact about not being able to attend in-person classes. 

The Director of Environmental Health, Safety & Risk Management Amy Thomas advised students to go onto the CSUMB COVID page website, and fill out the COVID reporting form. 

Ochoa and Thomas stressed the importance of students not going to class and staying in isolation until they get a negative test back, if they believe they’ve been exposed. If students are fully vaccinated and are not showing any symptoms, they can resume normal activities while awaiting results. 

Ochoa touched on what the CSUMB community can expect for this upcoming spring. Students will be coming back to in-person classes. The only exception for a virtual class will be if there’s a clear need for a specific course. 

“It will be a little more virtual than we were before the pandemic, but primarily face-to-face,” Ochoa said.

This face-to-face transition will limit access ability to foriegn exchange students due to few classes available via Zoom. 

This year, the Health and Wellness Center has been holding counseling sessions via Zoom due to the pandemic, but according to John Faire, Vice President of Student Affairs who replaced Ronnie Higgs, students can expect to see a shift for more in-person counseling options this Spring. 

Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Katherine Kantardjieff expressed that major changes have been implemented already, and are visible for students to see when searching for classes.

“If we have a substantial build up in a waitlist, or in a demand for a particular course in a particular modality, then we will be considering that as an option,” Kantardjieff said. “But we don’t expect radical changes to the schedule that has been built; they will be on a case by case basis and will be marginal.” 

If students are worried about how to finish their degree due to moving away because of the pandemic, Kantardjieff explained, “students need to make their needs known. We will work with the faculty to try and accommodate them, if there is a particular area requirement that a collective of students needs to meet.” 

Students won’t have access to a wide variety of classes to choose from if they go that route, but Kantardijeff suggested checking out the CSU online option, or checking if there’s a class on a campus closer to them that they can get the credit for and transfer it. 

Alumni that didn’t receive an in-person graduation due to the pandemic, and Otters graduating this academic year are left wondering: will there be an in-person commencement? The short answer is yes. Kantardjieff discussed the traditional commencement planned for the class of 2022. The ceremony will take place on May 20 and May 21. The classes of 2020 and 2021 will have their in-person commencement on May 19, most likely in the ballroom though the location could change.   

Executive Director of Corporation Larry Samuels addressed the growing concern on campus about the lack of maintenance in residential halls.

“Even though nothing was happening, things were happening. The 18-month closure of the res [residential] halls has manifested several problems, most of them having to do with water,” Samuels said. “For the most part, things are happening in one single building that these problems have manifested in. Going forward, the only thing we can assure you is that as quickly as possible we will operationalize our response to fix the problems.”

Samuels expressed that “all hands are on deck” to address the issue, as he will also be working with facilities and maintenance to resolve the maintenance issues. If students are still waiting for all the venues on campus to be open, Samuels told everyone that students can expect all dining venues, except the Otter Express which is closed due to renovation, to be open on Oct. 25.

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