Dear Campus Community,
Our return to Sonoma State for the 2020 – 2021 academic year has coincided with two unprecedented events: the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the devastation of several, simultaneous wildfires of incredible magnitude.
While the LNU Lightning Complex fires in Sonoma, Napa, and Solano counties have not impacted the physical safety of our university campus, they have had a distressing impact on our university community. Several of our faculty, staff, and students have had to evacuate from their homes, and we are beginning to learn that some SSU community members may have lost their homes. While fire crews have made some progress on containing the flames, the fires cover hundreds of thousands of acres and are not yet contained.
Even for those of us who have not lost our homes in these fires or had to evacuate, I know well how triggering the broader experience of these fires can be – from the breathlessness of the rapid pace of evacuation warnings and orders to the uncertainty around the growth and direction of the fires to the oppressive smoke that has blanketed our beautiful North Bay. Our Sonoma State community has now lived through four years of fires together. I want to assure you that I understand your fear and exhaustion, and I understand how overwhelmed you might feel right now. If you think you are in need of extra support, I encourage you to reach out to our Employee Assistance Program if you are a faculty or staff member or to CAPS and the Student Health Center if you are a student. We might be physically apart, but we are still here for you.
We continue to show resilience in the midst of multiple disruptions this semester, and I am so grateful for the efforts of our faculty and staff in making students continue to thrive. Our mission is always to offer an excellent education, and we are demonstrating how that is possible even in the most trying of circumstances.
At the same time, we are closely monitoring the air quality for those Seawolves who are on campus and have opened the Student Center as a clean air and cooling center for our campus residents. Under request from the California Office of Emergency Services, we have also established the Sonoma State Referral Center – overseen by the Red Cross in coordination with Sonoma County Emergency Management – to provide housing accommodation for about 50 evacuees in Cabernet. The safety of our campus community remains critically important, and we are working closely with the Red Cross and the County to make sure that COVID-19 screening and management protocols are enforced.
I’d like to thank you for your fortitude and your flexibility as we all experience the effects of these extreme fires together. I am proud of all that you have done to support one another at a time of unsettling new developments in our broader North Bay community. Together, we are still Sonoma Strong.
Judy K. Sakaki