IMPORTANT UPDATES: SJSU’s response to Novel Coronavirus

Dear campus community,

To date, SJSU does not have a confirmed case of COVID-19 identified in our own community. The campus leadership has been in consultation with the California State University (CSU) Chancellor Timothy White, other senior leaders in the CSU Office, as well as public health officials. As a public university, we must continue to follow the guidelines of the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health and the guidelines of the California Department of Public Health. These guidelines suggest that the decision to cancel classes or close campus should be done in consultation with local health officials and only after determining confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the institution.

Based on consultation with these agencies and the Chancellor’s Office leadership as well as the fact that there are no known cases of COVID-19 in our SJSU community, we will continue to operate our classes (see New FAQ below for more detail). This is consistent with the guidelines published this weekend by the California Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control. It is important to remember that universities that have moved to online classes, such as Stanford University and the University of Washington, have confirmed cases amongst their faculty, staff, or students. I have heard from many of you about the concerns you have, which often are about your loved ones rather than yourselves. I share your desire to care for those around you and those in our community who are most vulnerable and will work with the leadership mentioned above to preserve our community’s health and well-being.

Clearly, this disease progression is dynamic and ever changing. As many of you know, the Santa Clara County of Public Health has confirmed 37 cases of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the county at the time of this email. So please be attentive to future communications that may be activated immediately which could change our pathway forward.

Although we remain open as a campus, we must be flexible in supporting members of our community who wish to engage in social distancing practices, which are believed to mitigate the spread of the disease.

For members of our community who may be at greater risk for contracting COVID-19, they should adhere to the following:  

  • Students may contact the Accessible Education Center for temporary disability accommodations as appropriate. They are also urged to contact their course instructors immediately to work out the best accommodations for their courses. Students should not feel as if they are at risk by coming to campus. Nor will students be penalized in any way if they request accommodations because they or those with whom they are in regular contact are at greater risk.  
  • Faculty and staff who feel that they are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 may utilize campus resources to limit their exposure through, for example, remote work (call the Employment Accommodations Resource Center. See New FAQ below for other campus resources). Student employees may have similar risk factors.

With the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, we must exercise as many precautions as are reasonable to reduce the potential of person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. Our students, faculty, and staff are on the front lines of many of the efforts to contain this outbreak, as nurses, doctors, public health practitioners, city officials, and corporate leaders, to name a few. And, many members of our community live in multi-generational homes. Though they themselves may be resilient against COVID-19, they could carry the virus into their homes, work environments, and our campus potentially infecting more vulnerable campus community members.

Furthermore, I have decided to cancel the State of the University address previously scheduled for tomorrow, March 9. In lieu of that address, I will continue to discuss with my Cabinet and wider President’s Leadership Council the emerging circumstances and planning efforts surrounding COVID-19, and San Jose State’s response to this ever-changing public health crisis. Conversations are already underway regarding other campus events. (See New FAQ below for more information).

Regarding new information on travel restrictions, please also see New FAQ below.

We understand this is a time of great uncertainty, and we appreciate the contributions and patience of the Spartan community as we continue to work through the changing landscape caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. At the same time, we cannot tolerate harassment from or of our SJSU community simply because we are in a time of uncertainty. Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem. It can also lead to decreased willingness to report possible exposure to COVID-19.

We can fight stigma and help, not hurt, others by providing social support as well as learning and sharing facts about how the virus spreads. We can all do our part to raise awareness about COVID-19 without increasing fear. Guidelines for social distancing are on the CDC website. Campus-specific FAQs are currently in our SJSU Newsroom.

If you have any questions, please email


Dr. Mary A. Papazian


New FAQ (as of March 8, 2020)

Will campus remain open?

Faculty and staff should continue to report to campus for work and carry out their normal responsibilities. For faculty and staff on campus who may have conditions that put them at higher risk for COVID-19, we take this very seriously. Please contact your supervisor and/or the following offices immediately if you need accommodations, sick/medical or other leave, or wish to discuss other options or concerns:

  • Employment Accommodations Resource Center: Cindy Marota: x4-6003
  • University Personnel, Leaves Manager: Josh Etherington: x4-2155
  • University Personnel, Employee Relations: Stacey Elsibai: x4-2142, Julie Paisant: x4-2255, Joanne Wright: x4-2458

Faculty and staff who have fevers or respiratory infections should stay home. We will ensure that sick time is applied so that you will not lose pay or applicable benefits and will work with you if you have exhausted your sick time balance.

What will happen if SJSU closes?

The President will notify the campus by email. The information will also be announced through Twitter and the SJSU Newsroom. In the event we need to close campus, “essential personnel” will still provide on-campus services that relate directly to the health, safety, and welfare of the university, ensure continuity of key operations, and maintain and protect university properties. When appropriate and feasible, these responsibilities may be carried out remotely. Guidance for essential personnel will be distributed this week.

Will classes be moved online?

We have a number of resources already available for faculty to adapt their courses to a “remote teaching” modality, either distributed or online. We encourage faculty to begin to engage this process in case it becomes necessary. In addition to these resources, this week, the division of Academic Affairs will begin providing additional support and training to assist faculty and teaching associates, as applicable, with moving their in-person classes to distributed or fully online modalities. Where fully online means that all course material is delivered through an online format, a distributed class may include aspects, such as synchronous live lectures delivered from one’s office or distributed materials that are returned to the instructor via a variety of modalities. This provides maximum flexibility to each instructor within the confines of this very challenging public health care environment.

If our campus has a reported case of COVID-19, we will activate a plan to move in-person classes to either a distributed or fully-online model. We will notify the campus community when the decision has been made.

What are the guidelines for travel?

Effective immediately, San Jose State University and its auxiliary organizations will suspend all international and non-essential domestic travel from now through the end of the spring semester (May 31, 2020). This includes suspension of travel approved prior to March 8, 2020.

  • If you have upcoming travel that was approved before March 8, 2020, you will be contacted with information on how to request reauthorization.
  • Many conference organizers and airlines are issuing full refunds. In the event that a traveler is unable to obtain a refund, expenses for approved travel incurred prior to March 8, 2020 are eligible for reimbursement.
  • Future travel, including summer and fall 2020, will be determined as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

Will upcoming events continue as planned?

We are evaluating meetings, gatherings, and events through the end of spring break. The President’s Leadership Council, in consultation with faculty, staff, and student groups responsible for the events, will make decisions that will best serve our mission and our community’s health, safety, and well-being. More information and guidance will be distributed this week.

How should I handle information about others’ health?

As stated above, certain members of our campus community are charged with providing guidance and assistance concerning individuals who may need accommodation or leave, have returned from international travel, or have possibly come in contact, either through acquaintance/relationship or work in health care, to individuals exposed to COVID-19.

As part of our community responsibility, I ask that you respect the privacy of all members of our community and refrain from sharing information outside appropriate reporting channels about the identity or identifying characteristics (e.g., staff position, undergraduate/graduate status, faculty position, department, unit) of individuals in our community who may have been asked to self-quarantine, seek testing, or may themselves, at some point, be diagnosed with COVID-19.

Exercise caution so as not to contribute to unintended consequences of speculation, unfounded fear, stigmatization, or behavior that may increase the likelihood of individuals not self-reporting their possible risk of exposure to COVID-19.

How do we address the stigma that often emerges with such diseases?

It is very important to remember that viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups. So, although people are understandably worried about the spread of COVID-19, we want to avoid fear and anxiety turning to social stigma. Unfortunately, we have already seen some of this reported anecdotally on campus, as some people show concerns about Chinese or other Asian Americans, international students generally, people wearing protective masks, or those who were in quarantine.