Hutchinson plots an uncertain path to normalcy


Jessica Shippelhoute

Photo taken by Jessica Shippelhoute Feb. 5

Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson, assisted by campus employees, revealed tentative plans on Friday for the Fall 2021 semester. She also addressed COVID-19 preparations and participated in a recorded Q&A session via Zoom.

News items included:

  • 20% to 30% of fall classes will be in-person or in a hybrid/flex format 
  • Students will have the opportunity to participate in face-to-face activity on a limited basis via clubs and student organizations
  • Butte County plans to open a vaccination site on-campus to prioritize vaccinating students and faculty
  • Freshmen enrollment numbers for Spring 2021 decreased by 5%, but transfer applications increased 4%. About 750 new students joined the Wildcat family this semester
  • Chico State expects to receive around $31 million from the second federal stimulus package approved in December. A minimum of $10 million will go directly to students as emergency aid
  • Residence halls are expected to see hundreds of students dorm in the fall.
  • Fall 2021 class registration opens on April 26
  • Chico State plans to immediately increase COVID-19 testing on campus

Hutchinson said it’s difficult to plan for reopening, but faculty and staff are planning for uncertainty. Everything is subject to change as the number of COVID-19 cases fluctuate and new variants emerge in Butte County and across the nation. Hutchinson said the college will continue following Centers for Disease Control higher education guidelines, as well as the state of California color-coded, county-based COVID-19 tracking system. 

“In order for our fall plan to have up to 30% of our classes in-person, Butte County must move to a less restrictive COVID health tier, and it must remain there,” Hutchinson said, “(for) up to 30% of our classes to be in-person or in a hybrid format should local conditions allow for that to occur.”

A COVID-19 vaccination will not be required for students to return to campus. “At this time the COVID-19 vaccine is still on the emergency use authorization and will not be required for enrollment,” said Juanita Mottley, executive director of the WellCat Health Center.

About 800-1,200 in-person course offerings could lead to as many as 5,000 students on campus on a weekly basis during the fall. More than 100 classrooms have been reconfigured into HyFlex learning spaces that can cater to synchronous and asynchronous instruction. 

“The instructor can have a small number of students in class, roughly up to 25% of the total number of students enrolled in his or her course, and (the students) actually come to class while the other students are learning online and are learning at the same time,” Hutchinson said. 

Chico State will provide outdoor and individualized in-door study spaces in Fall 2021. “Everyone will be required to wear a facemask and remain socially distant,” Hutchinson said. 

Emergency Operations Center Director Michael Guzzi said he’s working with Butte County Public Health Department to get more testing on campus. He envisions a team from the county visiting campus twice a week. 

“We did a walkthrough this week of Shurmer Gym with the county testing folks,” Guzzi said. “They’re going to be coming to our campus twice a week, starting in a couple of weeks every Thursday and Friday, supporting about 105 free tests for COVID on our campus that’ll be open to the community. The county has also told us that if we fill up those 105 appointments a day quickly, they’ll open a third day for us so we could end up with three days a week on site testing provided from the county.”

One audience member asked: “How will it be determined which classes are offered in person?”

Chico State Provost Debra Larson said it’s a challenge for every academic department. 

“We are very confident in their assessment of their learning outcomes and the capabilities of their program,” Larson said. “As well as the capabilities of the infrastructure to be able to provide many more opportunities in that middle space between fully in person and fully virtual through this hybrid approach.” 

Hutchinson also addressed fundraising. We Will Transform Tomorrow, a campaign with a $100 million goal, will support student giveaways, campus renovations, new programs, faculty support and scholarships. Chico State also expects to receive additional funds as a Minority Serving Institution.

“We are Wildcats and we are resilient and we will rise from this, stronger and better. And the Chico experience — I will tell you — the Chico experience is real.” Hutchinson said. “We are family, it doesn’t matter if we’re in-person or on a Zoom call, we are always together, and we are here for all of you. So, with that I hope you have a great rest of your spring semester, stay informed by looking at our website and look for updates and just know that we will do our very best and will continue to do our very best to make sure you are successful and you are thriving.“

The “State of The University” address can be watched on Chico State’s website.

Melvin Bui, Alex Amaya, and Mary Cron can be reached at [email protected]