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UC Campuses Weigh Options For Fall 2021 Semester

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Some Chinese immigrants are fighting a plan to bring affirmative action to California's public universities like UCLA. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
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Earlier this month the California State University system announced it would return to in-person instruction in the fall of 2021, but so far there’s no word from the University of California on its plans for next year.

Nevertheless, administrators at some of the university's 10 campuses are taking steps to prepare for students’ return to in-person learning.

“We'd like to be able to make a decision as soon as possible,” said UC Irvine Executive Vice Chancellor Hal Stern.

Administrators and faculty on his campus have held meetings in the past few months, he said, to discuss various options that could include continued distance learning.

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“[There] is still concern that we won't be in a position to have large lectures in person, so they might, for example, stay remote,” Stern said. But smaller classes with fewer than 30 students could convene in person, he said.

Other ideas: hold some classes outdoors, and lengthen the time between classes to keep students from crowding together as they make their way around the campus.

UC Riverside Chancellor Kim Wilcox suggested some in-person classes could make accommodations for students who prefer remote learning for health reasons.

“If you're in a class, for instance, with 25 students, and most of them want to come back to … a face-to-face experience and the professor would like to as well, but you live at home with a grandmother who's medically compromised, or you have health issues yourself, you deserve a safe option, you shouldn't have to come back to campus,” Wilcox said.

Both the UC and CSU systems give a great deal of autonomy to campus leaders to decide how learning takes place.

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Stern said the next step for his campus is to get input from the academic departments on their preferences for conducting classes. Fall class schedules need to be final by May, when students can begin registration for classes.

UC President Michael Drake is likely to announce UC’s systemwide plans early in the new year. His office was not available for comment.

CSU’s announced return to in-person for the fall did not include any details about what class offerings would look like or what kind of limits there would be on students living on campus. CSU and UC campuses have opened a fraction of their dorms to students during the pandemic and several campuses have seen COVID-19 outbreaks as students have broken rules that limit gatherings.

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