Cal Poly announced that it will be moving its spring quarter classes online and postponing spring graduation ceremonies Monday evening. 

Cal Poly was one of the later public universities in California to make this decision. President Jeffrey Armstrong said a number of events and official guidance from the California State University (CSU) contributed to the university’s decision to switch to online classes. 

“We were one of the later schools for several reasons,” Armstrong said in an interview with Mustang News. “One, the philosophy that we were taking at California State University was to evaluate the local conditions, what’s going on in the community, especially consult with the local county health director and evaluate first and foremost what is the risk to the community.” 

While the announcement was sent to the entire campus, many students, faculty and staff were left uncertain of what this means for tuition and fees, classes and graduation. 

“This is the most serious and significant issue I’ve faced in my generation. This is beyond anything we’ve experienced since 1918 Spanish flu.”

Tuition and fees

At this time, tuition and fees are expected to remain the same despite some resources that fees go toward — like the Recreation Center and Robert E. Kennedy Library area — closing.  

“There’s a lot we don’t know, so let me tell you what we do know,” Armstrong said. “We will be refunding parking, dining and housing. We are working through all other components and that’s as far as we have gotten.”

Parking passes will be refunded for spring quarter, Armstrong said. Campus Dining and on-campus housing refunds will also be available to students who leave campus. 

Armstrong said the California State University has prioritized the health and safety of their communities and still have to finalize the details. 

“We will follow system guidance on this as well, which we have been doing every step of the way, consulting with the CSU,” Armstrong said. 

Carolyne Sysmans | Mustang News

Full-time and student employees

Students who are employed on-campus will receive their expected hourly pay through spring break, Armstrong said. However, it is unclear whether students will receive any compensation through spring quarter.

“No decision has been made on paying students for Spring quarter,” Armstrong said. “But my assumption is that they would not be [paid], since they’re not here.”

All employees 65 years old and over were asked to work remotely. University employees deemed non-essential were also asked to not report to campus, Armstrong wrote in a campus-wide email sent Monday evening.

Essential functions include Agriculture Care & Facilities, Emergency Services, Facilities and Infrastructure, Fiscal Services, Food Services, Healthcare and Counseling, Housing, Information Technology Services and Communications, Essential Research as well as Payroll, Procurement and Contracts.

File | Mustang News

On-campus housing

The university is strongly encouraging students to move home, but Armstrong said if students feel safer at Cal Poly or do not have access to resources otherwise, then they can stay on campus. 

“Movement and traveling should be minimized,” Armstrong said. “If you’re going home, stay home. If you’re here, stay here. Don’t party, don’t get into big groups.”

Armstrong said the university will refund housing fees for all on-campus residents who go home. If students have already left or cannot retrieve all their belongings can return mid-May to do so. 

“We really need to minimize the population on campus,” Armstrong said. 

Armstrong said to “flatten the curve” and minimize the spread of coronavirus, it is essential that students follow social distancing guidelines from the White House and not gather in groups of more than 10. 

“We not only have to think about our Cal Poly campus, but we have to think about our community and faculty and staff,” Armstrong said. 


The university is currently working to determine how to move forward with all classes online. Armstrong said the extended spring break was given in part to allow professors to transform their courses, but not all classes can be taught online. 

“There are going to be some courses … that simply will not work online for virtual,” Armstrong said.

Students will be notified as soon as it is determined which classes will need to be canceled. 

Armstrong said the university will “pay particular attention to our students that are graduating seniors” and ensure they will not have to return to complete units in the fall. 

“There will be some leniency there will be some things done, but don’t take that as a blanket [statement],” Armstrong said. “I know our intent is to maintain the integrity of the Cal Poly degree, but also recognize that these are unprecedented times for us.”

Armstrong said it is unlikely that classes will return to in-person. There may be some potential exceptions for students who need to complete labs toward the end of the quarter. 

Austin Linthicum | Mustang News


On Monday evening, Cal Poly also announced spring commencement will be postponed and they are looking into alternative ways to celebrate graduating seniors. Armstrong said it is too early to say what an alternative commencement will look like. 

“As you can imagine, we’re working on so many other things,” Armstrong said. “Once we get through a few weeks, we will step back and think about that.”

Although there are no official plans, the CSU announced that gatherings and events, including commencement ceremonies will likely be rescheduled at a later date this year. A timeframe was not included. 

Armstrong said the university felt they had no choice but to cancel the ceremonies as COVID-19 and the governor’s directive are unprecedented situations.

“This is the most serious and significant issue I’ve faced in my generation,” Armstrong said. “This is beyond anything we’ve experienced since 1918 Spanish flu.”

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