Sonoma State University Provost Lisa Vollendorf opened the Academic Senate meeting Thursday giving her thanks and gratitude to all those who helped keep the campus and community safe during the fires. “I have never been more proud to come from this community,” she said.
Vollendorf also provided some up-to-date statistics about the fires. In the university community, 43 students and 25 faculty and staff members lost their homes, she said Vollendorf said that Students Affairs, Joyce Lopes and herself have reached out to everyone affected in the Seawolf community and offered help to them. Student Affairs will continue to reach out to the people affected by the fires.
With the Noma Cares center in Schulz 3001 closed on Friday, Vollendorf said, “our empathy needs to continue extend to all” and encouraged the Senate to “emphasize hope and health.” Although the Noma Cares physical site has closed, it will remain fully functional via the internet and telephone. Vollendorf assured that Noma Cares will remain in service for as long as the campus community needs it.
The Senate then addressed the issue of what needed to be done long term for students who have been impacted by the fires.
Some members suggested the creation of student-led support groups through possible outlets like AS and CAPS. Ultimately, Vollendorf said the recovery process will take time, and more outlets for those affected are still to come.
“We will be in recovery mode for a very long time,” Vollendorf said. “We are looking into putting more information in the faculty center to help students with their questions, and we think that having workshops for faculty will be helpful.”
Senator Michelle Jolley shared her report in regards to students academically impacted by the fires. “Several temporary modifications to procedures for withdrawing from classes have been made for Fall 2017,” Jolley said. All of this information will be available on the NomaCares FAQ website for students, faculty and advisors to view.
Jolley provided some highlights of the temporary changes. Students will be able to petition to change the grade mode of a class from letter grade to credit/no credit; however, this only applies to classes that are already coded to have this option. Students may petition to withdraw from one or more classes and the school will waive the usual $20 per class fee for withdrawing. All of the temporary changes listed on the FAQ page will only be considered for “serious and compelling” reasons. The definition of “serious and compelling” is found in the university policy for Withdrawal from Courses, section B. According to Jolley, the University Standards Committee will also be considering additional “serious and compelling” reasons that are in relation to the fires.
When asked how these changes will help students who the fires have impacted, Jolley said the university’s goal is ultimately keeping those affected enrolled.
“The fires have significantly affected SSU students in a variety of ways, some of which are only just beginning to surface, and these temporary changes are one of many ways that the university is working to support students,” Jolley said. “We know some students may choose to completely withdraw from the semester, but we hope these changes will enable others to finish and succeed in their academic work despite the impact of evacuations, losses, and the stress of coping with the fires.”
Associated Students representative Christina Gamboa reported that AS is working on figuring out how to assist students who may be experiencing homelessness due to the fires. Gamboa also reported that the on-campus organization, Join Us Making Progress, is holding a school supply drive. The organization is also looking into how they can train Sonoma State students in cleaning up the devastation brought on by the fires. Gamboa said that there will be more information coming out about these volunteer opportunities in the weeks to follow.