In keeping with recently released California Department of Public Health guidance, La Sierra University will hold the majority of fall quarter classes online with allowed exceptions for certain labs and studio classes. It is also providing an automatic 10 percent fall quarter tuition subsidy for all enrolled students. School begins Monday, Sept. 21.
The university’s Emergency Management Team (EMT), which has met regularly since March to provide direction during the pandemic crisis, on Aug. 13 voted to maintain general instruction and operations online for the fall quarter in keeping with state guidelines for higher education that were released on Aug. 7. Under those guidelines, select science labs and art studio-type classes may be offered in person as long as careful measures are implemented to create a safe and healthy learning environment. Thus, La Sierra’s academic leadership is exploring which of these kinds of classes might be offered on campus this fall in adherence with strict state guidelines concerning physical distancing, sanitization and other protocols as detailed in the Aug. 7 guidance.
Additionally, the decision by the EMT allows for some students to move into campus dorms based on state directives and on selection criteria established by the university. Also, due to the fall operational restrictions, the university is no longer able to hold a physically-distanced in-person graduation ceremony on Sept. 13 as previously planned. University leadership is working with senior class representatives to create a designated space to celebrate the graduates during next year’s 2021 graduation ceremony. The university on June 21 held a drive-through celebration for its graduating seniors to honor their achievements.
Details pertaining to athletics practices, communication of pandemic protocol and operations, protocol compliance strategies, additional safety procedures and other matters will be addressed in forthcoming EMT decisions. Such actions will be incorporated into a four-part, detailed COVID-19 protocol plan that aligns with the state guidelines for higher education, which the EMT, through the work of four task force groups, has developed over the past several weeks.
Also, in order to give La Sierra’s new and returning students as much assistance as possible during the economic havoc wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the university has approved an automatic 10 percent subsidy on the combined total of fall quarter tuition and fees for all students. The move is in keeping with the university’s efforts to provide a variety of financial resources to help its students handle the costs of college. In 2018-2019, 97.5 percent of La Sierra’s undergraduate students received financial aid that did not have to be repaid.
Following is a summary of La Sierra University’s fall operations plan:
• Online instruction and advising for all regular classes utilizing Zoom video conferencing, Blackboard online learning, GoogleMeets, Microsoft Teams, and Panopto lecture capture software.
• Continued campus closure to all but essential staff and faculty, vendors and allowed dorm students.
• Certain in-person science labs and art studio classes as allowed by state and local county public health department mandates and in keeping with state and local guidelines for physical distancing, sanitization, mask-wearing requirements, wellness checks and other protocol.
• Continued suspension of public events and athletics varsity and intramural games.
• Students who are not able to return home and those who meet other criteria are allowed to live in campus dormitories and must abide by campus health and safety protocols.
• Continued use of campus entrance and self-reporting wellness checks, state-mandated mask-wearing requirements and physical distancing for anyone entering campus.
• Continued suspension of all university-sponsored travel outside of the country with a requirement that those who travel abroad on personal trips must avoid campus for 14 days after returning. Non-essential domestic travel is also discouraged.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and the California Pacific Conference of which the university’s Golden Eagles athletics program is a member, announced at the end of July that fall season sports and NAIA championships would move to spring 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since moving its operations online in March, the university has planned and hoped for a retraction in the pandemic’s spread that would allow for safe, on-campus learning utilizing a hybrid model of instruction that provides students with online or in-person options. However Riverside County where La Sierra University is located is among 38 counties that remain on California’s pandemic watch list for increasing COVID-19 cases among other key indicators, and where the state has restricted colleges and universities from holding the majority of in-person classes as well as social and school gatherings. The Emergency Management Team’s detailed campus re-opening protocol plan will be implemented when state and county public health officials as well as campus leadership deem it is safe to return to campus. Components of the plan are being used currently to comply with government requirements that relate to the university’s restricted campus functions.
“While we are disappointed that we cannot yet fully open our beautiful campus, we are grateful for the work and guidance provided to us by public health experts whose task it is to keep the community safe and to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said La Sierra University President Joy Fehr. “It is our overarching goal as a Christian Seventh-day Adventist university to respond to Jesus’ call to love our neighbors as ourselves. We do this when we strive to the best of our ability to ensure the safety our campus and our Riverside community by working with public health agencies during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Emergency Management Team has done an excellent job in preparing the university for functioning well during this difficult time. We look forward with great anticipation to welcoming our new and returning students and helping them reach their educational goals, and are grateful to be able to help financially support their efforts through the 10 percent subsidy.”
The university has made many adjustments and investments to best accommodate students, faculty and staff in an online environment. These include the purchase of a campus contract for Zoom video conferencing and other technologies, multiple training sessions for faculty in online course development delivery, use of Telemedicine and Teletherapy services through the Student Wellness Center, use of YouTube, Instagram and other social media for music and art productions, exercise courses, and chapel presentations.
Continued investments in health and safety equipment and supplies toward mitigating the pandemic’s spread include the university’s upcoming purchase of a $32,000 rapid point-of-care Cepheid GeneExpert Express molecular testing system that can run four tests simultaneously. It is considered to be the gold standard for diagnostic testing and can process tests for COVID-19 as well as other flus and diseases. Results are obtained in 30-40 minutes.
About La Sierra University
La Sierra University, a Christian Seventh-day Adventist institution nationally acclaimed for its diverse campus and its service to others, offers a transformational experience that lasts a lifetime. “To Seek, To Know, and To Serve” is the key to the mission that drives La Sierra University, with all areas of campus encouraging students to develop a deeper relationship with God.
U.S. News & World Report for six years named La Sierra University the most racially diverse university in the western United States. In addition, in September 2016 and 2017, the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education top colleges ranking named La Sierra University the most diverse campus in the nation, and ranked the university second most diverse nationally in the following two years. Additionally, U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Colleges guide listed La Sierra ninth in the 15-state western region for best value. This follows the July 2015, Money magazine list which ranked La Sierra University eighth in the nation for providing value-added education that helps students surpass expectations. Each year, from 2008 to 2014 the Corporation for National and Community Service included La Sierra in the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll awards. These awards include La Sierra’s receipt of the prestigious 2013 Presidential Award, the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement. The corporation’s awards recognize La Sierra’s students for providing thousands of hours of service including international economic development projects by La Sierra’s world cup-winning Enactus team, and community projects through La Sierra’s campus-wide, Service-Learning program.
In December 2008, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching included La Sierra on its 2008 Community Engagement Classification lists consisting of 119 colleges and universities around the United States. La Sierra University achieved re-classification status in 2015.
The Seventh-day Adventist denomination established La Sierra University in 1922 on acreage formerly part of the Rancho La Sierra Mexican land grant. Today the 150-acre campus provides more than 120 bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees for 2,200 students. Programs are offered in the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business, the School of Education, the H.M.S. Richards Divinity School, the College of Arts and Sciences and in the Evening Adult Degree Program.
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