Update from the President Aug. 14, 2020

Aug. 14, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

As summer winds down and Sonoma State gears up for a new fall semester, we look forward to welcoming students back to classes and reconvening the Sonoma State community—even though we will be largely engaging remotely. We may not be together in person, but we will be together in spirit and in our dedication to learning and education.

I want to provide you with an update on our campus budget situation and continuity planning for the 2020-2021 academic year. Our “north stars,” as CSU Chancellor Timothy White notes, continue to be the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff and our commitment to an excellent education that ensures student success. Sonoma State is adaptable and flexible, and we are all rising to the challenges and opportunities of the coming academic year.

In the last few weeks, especially, our campus community has had to make some difficult choices as we deal with the impacts of the pandemic on the way we normally operate. We will have lower enrollments and substantially fewer students on campus this year, and both of those factors have led to reductions in our budget. As a matter of prudent financial management and care for our educational mission, we must control and reduce expenses. To help achieve this reduction, we informed 18 managers (MPPs) and 51 represented staff that their time base will be reduced or their position eliminated due to lack of work in various areas on campus until such time as workload increases. 

These decisions do not reflect upon the abilities or performance of these colleagues, but are based on the University's immediate operational needs as we navigate this challenging time. I am truly, deeply, and personally sorry that these actions could not be avoided. These decisions were painful because each and every member of our campus community is important to me and to the university as a whole. 

The campus is moving forward to implement our fall 2020 plan for courses, housing, and dining, which has been approved by the Chancellor’s Office. Last Friday, Governor Newsom released COVID-19 Guidance for Higher Education, providing specific advice and protocols for repopulating campuses for fall 2020. While we still have more analysis to do, it appears that our approved plan is in compliance with the governor’s guidance. We look forward to welcoming students requiring housing back into our residence halls and to holding on-ground laboratory class activities next week. Sonoma State student services, including tutoring, advising, personal counseling, disability services, and more will all be offered in remote formats. Sonoma State is committed to providing an excellent education for all students in every mode our coursework is offered. We will work passionately and inclusively to meet our Graduation Initiative 2025 targets, to reduce our equity gaps for our low income and underrepresented students, and to confront racial injustice actively on campus and in the community. For more on our goals for the upcoming year, please be sure to join our virtual Convocation ceremony on Monday, Aug. 17.

As we move forward into the next academic year, we are making changes to our continuity planning processes. I am grateful to the leaders and many members of the Academic Continuity Planning Group and the Operational Continuity Planning Group for their hard work, insights, and dedication to Sonoma State in developing our fall 2020 plan. I am appointing a new Continuity Planning Group for the 2020-21 academic year, and I am in the process of finalizing the membership for that group. Based on feedback from the summer groups and upon recommendation of the Cabinet, a single, integrated Continuity Planning Group will allow for smoother communication and coordination as we start planning for spring 2021. 

The implementation of our plans this next year will need contributions and support from the entire campus community. That work will vary depending on each individual’s role and job description, but it will certainly require a collective effort. I know that we will all pull together to make this unprecedented semester successful and engaging. I miss seeing you in person. Please continue to take care and stay safe. 

With gratitude,

Judy K. Sakaki signature

Judy K. Sakaki