SF State students return to class — mostly remotely — as semester begins

A car sits outside an SF State dorm

Students and staff are back on campus — though not in the usual numbers — as San Francisco State University begins a new academic year.

Roughly 99 percent of University courses are being taught via virtual instruction

It might not be a typical start to Fall semester at San Francisco State University thanks to COVID-19, but one thing hasn’t changed: Thousands of students have begun a new year of learning, discovery and growth.

The usual high-energy start-of-semester chatter was exchanged on Zoom, while the San Francisco State campus was relatively quiet as instruction began Monday, Aug. 24. Roughly 99 percent of classes are being taught via virtual instruction rather than in person, and only about 350 students are living on campus. (The University has opened dorm doors to students with special housing needs.) Yet despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, SF State is welcoming 3,278 new first-year students, and an additional 3,835 new Gators are joining the campus community (virtually, for now) as transfers.

The University is introducing these new students to their Gator family through a series of GatorFest! celebrations running through September. And new online resources such as the GatorXperience and YOU @ SF State websites have been created to build and maintain their connection to the University and each other until the community can return safely to campus.

“In a time that needs us to see one another, be there for each other and work together, we enter this fall mostly separated physically and learning, living and working apart from one another,” said Associate Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Danny Glassman. “Although this may be our new reality for some time, one thing that we must remain committed to is being, seeing and feeling with one another and continuing to cultivate a caring and compassionate Gator community, even at a distance and virtually.”

Returning Civil Engineering major Mamunna Bibi Gorsi admits that she’s going to miss seeing her friends and the University’s beautiful campus in person this fall. But she’s encouraged that her SF State instructors (many of whom spent the summer enhancing their virtual instruction skills) are poised to help students make the most of the semester. 

“The professors did the best they could and were very understanding of our situations,” she said of the University’s switch to remote instruction in the spring. “I do feel like everyone has a better understanding of virtual learning [now].”

Senior Gabe Smallson takes the same view. In fact, he’s so confident in the virtual learning experience ahead he’s taking more classes and planning on graduating a semester early.

“I have been excited about school,” he said. “Everyone will certainly have a better handle having learned Zoom thoroughly, both teachers and students, and finding what style of online class they prefer.”