The agenda was light. The report on campus COVID number showed that numbers were very low; the campus’s first ‘outbreak’ was behind us. Looking back on the term, there was a feeling of contentment and ease with how things were going. But then conversation turned in two different directions.

A few people pointed out that it’s noticable that campus leadership has not been talking about COVID and the Spring term. Stanford University is requiring the spring term to start with two weeks of virtual classes. San Diego State University is requiring all residential students and student athletes to have a COVID-19 booster by January 18. Questions we asked included:

  • Should we message the expectation of a booster for all residential students for spring semester?

  • At the start of the pandemic, the campus required face-to-face courses to be delivered virtually for two weeks after campus holidays. (The specifics of when this happened couldn’t be recalled.) Should we be talking about doing the same for January 2022? March 2022?

The group seemed to agree that some messaging from administrative leadership on these topics now would be good. Several people also reminded us that the campus instituted in indoor bask mandate before the county required it, and this proaction expressed the importance we place on community and indiviual health, and it contributed to a degree of optimism during the semester.

The group spent some time examining its work this term, reflecting on what went well and what could have gone better. (This is a type of activity that doesn’t happen often enough at the University.) I’ll limit what I relay here to protect the innocent, but I think it’s important that people know

  • staff in Student Affairs broke their backs trying to keep up with the administrative work required ot track student compliance with the campus vaccination policy; although the NPOC lists appear to be ‘automagic’, this was an onerous manual process

  • staff of the Marketing and Communications Office did excellent work keeping the campus COVID FAQ web pages current with information and guidance for the campus; the pages were an important reference for the campus community, seeing over 4000 hits per month

  • late in the term, the Environmental Health and Safety office was able to add staff to assist with COVID prevention and mitigation work; this turned the conversation toward the benefits of having additional staff that could help with long-term COVID-related work that’s been added onto the workload of various offices (e.g., Communication, Student Affairs)

The group acknowledged that the challenges of COVID are going to be with campus for a long time, and that the campus will benefit from making adjustments now. (The alternative is to continue with high-touch, ad hoc measures that are effective by inefficient and are a drain on campus human resoruces.) Changes to consider included:

  • like EHS added staff, the campus should consider adding staff to help communications and compliance (staff that could, perhaps, float between those offices)

  • pursue a technological solution to COVID compliance tracking, perhaps using CalPoly SLO’s approach as an example

Personally, I am watching with deep concern the SARS-CoV-2-Omicon numbers. Campus needs to prepare itself for the wave that is going to envelop Southern California in the weeks surrounding New Years. We need to be ready to delay the start of classes or force them to start in a distance-learning modality. It’s not too early for us to mandate a booster shot for all students and faculty. Let’s be proactive again. Let’s act in support of public and individual health.