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University Message

President Armstrong: Fall Quarter Updates and Information

A shot of Cal Poly's entrance with flags.

This message originally appeared as an email to the campus community that was sent out on Wednesday, June 24.

Dear Campus Community:

As we continue to plan for the next academic year and the beginning of the fall quarter, we are encouraging all students to register for their fall classes as early as possible after registration opens on June 29 (you will be able to view the schedule starting June 25). New freshman will receive their schedules no later than August 26 and new transfer students will register as part of their SLO Days experience in early August. For students who cannot, or choose not to, take in-person classes for any reason, we will provide a fully virtual option for you. We continue to work on our plans for on-campus housing for fall and will share those as soon as possible.

Until we have a vaccine or the viral load drops considerably, we have to be prepared for an unexpected resurgence of COVID-19 and move to 100% virtual learning should a stay-at-home order be put in place this fall. As noted earlier, we continue to plan and are hopeful that we can move forward with some in-person classes. We are also confident that we can meet or exceed the safety guidelines issued by county and state public health authorities and we remain hopeful that we can welcome students back to campus housing.

We have provided our schedule below for the fall quarter. If our public health status changes to the extent that it requires modifications to scheduled classes, we will notify you no later than mid-August. This is consistent with the guidelines set by the Chancellor's Office.

Fall classes will be divided into three categories:

  • In-Person: these include the 15% of our 4,312-plus classes that cannot be taught virtually
  • Synchronous Virtual: these classes would be eligible for a return to in-person classes if health conditions improve to the point that in-person classes can be safely resumed and students and faculty agree
  • Asynchronous Virtual: these classes will remain virtual for the entire fall quarter

Almost all in-person courses are labs and activities with the following very limited exceptions:

  • courses where lectures are immediately followed by the lab
  • lectures involving significant hands-on activities
  • agricultural enterprise courses that are categorized under lectures, but involve working with animals or crops in the units for specific operations

A critical point regarding registration for courses is that no student will be penalized if they need an in-person course for degree progress, but are not comfortable taking it in-person during fall quarter. All programs and departments have been asked to be flexible during this period. Students who find themselves in this situation are strongly encouraged to contact the Mustang Success Center  before registering for classes.

A second point critical for planning is that if public health conditions and the CSU permit, we will move some Synchronous Virtual courses back to in-person. In these cases, a virtual delivery will be maintained for any student who cannot, or chooses not to, return to an in-person modality. For any course that starts virtually, we will not resume in-person without a specific plan for hybrid delivery. In other words, we do not foresee any situation in which a student or faculty member who has started a course virtually in the fall would be requested to move to in-person if they choose not to.

An important goal is protecting those who are medically vulnerable or who may have chosen not to return to campus, and we are committed to making it possible for everyone to engage in teaching and learning in a manner that is safe and comfortable for them, whatever happens during fall quarter. That means:

  • Allowing students to take virtual courses throughout the quarter.
  • Even if public health conditions allow additional in-person courses, we will maintain students' ability to engage in a virtual program for the fall. This statement is also true for faculty and students.
  • Faculty and staff will be given the option to work remotely as needed in accordance with CSU and public health guidelines.

As noted earlier, we are also encouraging all faculty and staff who can do so to work remotely during fall quarter, to help de-densify campus.

Change in Fall Schedule

As the coronavirus situation has evolved, and as conditions in SLO County have changed, we have come to believe that concluding the majority of in-person activities on campus before the week of Thanksgiving (after November 20) is the best way to minimize risk. Thus, we are adjusting the summer and fall quarter as follows:

August 28 - Final exam day for second 5-week and 10-week summer sessions
September 1 - Summer grades due (for faculty only)
September 7 - Labor Day Holiday
September 4, 8-11 - Fall Conference (for faculty only)
September 14 - Classes start
November 20 - Last day for in-person classes
November 23-24 - Virtual classes only
November 25-27 - Thanksgiving break
November 30 - December 4 - Virtual final exams

A limited number of in-person classes, senior projects, undergraduate research, enterprise projects and activities will be granted in-person status through an exception process November 20 through the end of the calendar year.

These changes allow the university to remain in compliance with our campus administrative policies and also allows faculty five working days to prepare for fall before the first day of class begins.

These changes were made to avoid having large numbers of people on campus as the annual flu season begins and the potential of a second wave of coronavirus infections increases. As a result of these changes, there will not be a winter commencement ceremony. It is our earnest hope to celebrate in person in June of 2021 for all graduates - June 2021, December 2020 and June 2020.

SLO Days and WOW

Our signature new-student orientation programs - SLO Days and WOW - will be happening this summer, though with some changes to promote public health. SLO Days will be virtual and will take place in three phases:

  • Advance preparation that students complete prior to their session
  • A community-building day in small virtual groups with orientation leaders
  • Specialized virtual sessions that help students connect with specific aspects of our community. WOW will be offered in a hybrid format, with small-group activities happening in person and larger group activities being offered virtually. We are still finalizing dates for these events, due to the calendar change mentioned above

Students, before I close, please remember that all support services are available to you virtually this summer throughout Academic Advising and Student Affairs. We are here to help you with your needs. Please remember: Mustangs United - Love, Empathy and Respect. To all members of the Cal Poly Community, we need to provide an extra dose of grace to those around us in these stressful and difficult times.

Thank you all for your patience and flexibility during this extraordinary period.


Jeffrey D. Armstrong