UC Davis veterinarians, from left, Jennifer Cassano, Rose Digianantonio and Celeste Morris, members of the Veterinary Emergency Response Team, examine llamas at animal evacuation facility

CHANCELL-ING: Standing Strong, Helping Others in Trying Times

The year 2020 continues to test us in historic ways. Over the past months, we’ve endured the COVID-19 pandemic, waves of social unrest and, now, a rash of California wildfires.

The LNU Lightning Complex fires alone have burned more than 340,000 acres, led to more than 45,000 evacuations, and clouded our air with unhealthy levels of smoke. LeShelle and I send our thoughts to all those who have been affected by these devastating fires.

All of this has been a tremendous amount to endure. But one thing I know about our community is this: When the going gets tough, we never fail to open our hearts and help others. We are a tenacious bunch in Davis, and we’ll need this resiliency and willingness to work together even more in the days ahead.

Aggies jumped into action

I’ve seen this directly at UC Davis. I’m proud of how our university raced to help as the wildfires started to burn, especially our UC Davis Fire Department. By late August, they’d logged hundreds of hours fighting fires around the state, including the LNU Lightning Complex and others.

Our world-leading School of Veterinary Medicine also jumped into action, often heading to areas most impacted by the fires. They’ve treated more than 1,000 animals so far, including cats, horses and cattle that needed help with burns and other injuries.

The fires also have taken a personal toll on our campus community. We provided emergency housing for faculty, staff and registered students and their families who were evacuated or lost their homes.

Davis community also offered help

It’s heartening to see how people around the city of Davis are determined to help as well. Crews from the Davis Fire Department also joined firefighting efforts around the state, sometimes leaving as early as 4 a.m. to head to the front lines.

As residents of Vacaville were given evacuation orders, the owners of downtown Davis’ University of Beer ramped up with a donation drive. They collected water and food, along with Davis Downtown canopies, which were delivered in Vacaville to assist with relief efforts.

At D-Q University in west Davis, members of its new board of directors launched their own donation drive. They drove to a rest stop in Vallejo to provide water and snacks to evacuees who were sleeping in their cars. They headed about 50 miles north of Davis to deliver even more donations they’d collected.

Planning for a safe fall quarter

Back on campus, we’re staying tenacious and looking forward to the first day of fall quarter on Sept. 28. We’ve continued to work closely with public health officials to make sure we’re as safe as possible. We’ve sought broad input from across campus, including our healthcare and academic experts, to help plan for fall instruction and operations.

I’m encouraged by the regular and open dialogue between UC Davis and civic leaders from around the region. Most recently, I co-authored a statement with Davis Mayor Gloria Partida to address concerns about housing for students and lease agreements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though many of these issues have yet to be resolved, it shows how city leaders and UC Davis are united on how we’re trying to get support for our students and residents.

Who knows what else 2020 will throw at us? But no matter what’s in store, we all need teamwork more than ever before. Our world is more connected than ever, and it will take all of us working together to solve problems.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. Please continue to mask up and practice social distancing — but more than anything, keep looking out for one another in these times of need. Together, we can rely on our common strength.