Checking In With Chancellor May: A New Chapter
To the UC Davis community:
Like the state, which intends to end its COVID-19 state of emergency February 28, we are also turning to a new chapter in the pandemic.
While we still have infections in our community, the impact on our lives is much different from when the pandemic started three years ago. Disease prevention has shifted in that time from public health requirements to individual responsibility. Through vaccination and improved treatments, people can manage exposure based on personal risk, as we do for the flu and other respiratory-borne illnesses.
Therefore, the Davis campus will end both its Interim Public Health Policy 290-01, which aligns with current county, state and federal guidance to reduce the spread of COVID on property owned or leased by UC Davis, and the Daily Symptom Survey, effective February 28. Still, we strongly encourage you to report positive cases of COVID-19, and we ask you to please continue to test. We have extended the free distribution of antigen kits through the end of the academic year. They can be found at the Memorial Union information desk, student residence halls and the front desks at the Activities and Recreation Center and Shields Library.
As a reminder, please update your immunization record in Health-e-Messaging in accordance with the requirements of the UC COVID-19 Vaccine Policy. That means, by February 28, you should be up to date on your booster shots, or you must submit the booster declination form. The boosters are strongly recommended, but the initial series remains a requirement under UC policy.
Also, keep in mind that health care facilities, including the Student Health and Wellness Center, are subject to their own, ongoing COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as masking.
Beyond the pandemic, other stresses of the times are affecting so many in our community. On February 1, we held a Campuswide Moment of Reflection outside the Memorial Union to mourn victims of recent gun violence and police violence. Unfortunately, there would be more to come.
I was further shocked and dismayed by the shootings at Michigan State University, a frightening prospect for all of us on college campuses. I hope you had time to read my statement on this tragic event.
I’d also like to extend my sympathies to those in our UC Davis community affected by the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, including students, scholars and their families. I shared a statement of support in this letter to the UC Davis community, and Global Affairs has posted a list of resources for students, faculty, staff and scholars.
Diversity in all its forms
February is Black History Month, a time to recognize the diversity of our community and celebrate the contributions and achievements of African Americans. I am honored to serve on the advisory board of an organization called The HistoryMakers, which is preserving the Black experience by creating an expansive digital archive of first-person accounts, including mine (I was interviewed in 2012). The HistoryMakers will be the subject of a report on this Sunday’s edition of 60 Minutes.
Here on campus, you can participate in upcoming events that include “Black Hair: For Us, By Us,” a conversation about Black-owned hair products and brands (February 21); a screening of Judas and the Black Messiah, a dramatized film about the Black Panther Party (February 22); and, one day later, a moderated discussion with former Black Panther Bobby Seale. See the Black Futures Month calendar for details.
We have set aside the week of February 27 to celebrate our Principles of Community, an annual event that comes with a theme this year of “Connecting Our Community.” Programs (many of them accessible remotely) are scheduled on our Davis and Sacramento campuses to foster understanding and build community.
I’ll be talking more about diversity in the next episode of Face to Face With Chancellor May (February 28), featuring Renetta Garrison Tull, our vice chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We’ll learn more about her background and leadership in making UC Davis a role model for strengthening diversity among our entire campus community.
Next month we will hold the UC Davis Campus Town Hall on Free Speech at Public Universities, 3-4 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, at the Student Community Center. College students have long been activists in some of our nation’s most hotly contested issues. However, increasingly heated and divisive debates about free speech and hate speech are playing out on campuses across the country. That’s prompted us to assemble a panel that will include Ashutosh Bhagwat and Brian Soucek, law professors; Gregory Downs, professor of history and chair of the Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility; and Michelle Deutchman, executive director of the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.
UC Davis continues to find progressive ways to address campus safety. This includes Health 34, whereby the campus Fire Department will deploy allied health providers, EMTs, medical and nursing students from the Sacramento campus, and other health professionals — to handle certain calls for help before they become emergencies.
It’s named after Station 34, headquarters of our Fire Department, which is running the program in partnership with campus clinical providers and other support services, and intended to connect all Aggies, including students, employees and visitors, to nonemergency health care, behavioral health services and basic needs resources, and to reduce barriers to getting help.
Health 34 personnel will be visible on campus starting this month as they go through training. They will engage with the campus through outreach and prepare for full-fledged operations by this fall. Hear more about Health 34 from Fire Chief Nate Trauernicht on the April 26, 2022, episode of Face to Face With Chancellor May.
Meanwhile, the Police Department is deploying Campus Safety Specialists and Protective Services Specialists to assume public safety duties that don’t specifically require the presence of sworn officers.
As I said, we have a whole new approach to campus safety, a model for the UC system and the nation. You can hear more about it from Police Chief Joe Farrow on the February 7 episode of Face to Face With Chancellor May.
Looking back on 2022, we saw UC Davis rise to new heights with new records set in research funding and philanthropy, and a ranking of No. 2 among the nation’s public universities. The year also saw a number of milestones reached, such as the Aggie Square groundbreaking. To learn more about the growth and impact made by UC Davis last year, please read our 2022 Annual Report.
In the art world, our Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art remains a key hub of expression and education in Northern California and beyond. In fact, the Manetti Shrem Museum was recognized by ARTnews as one of the world’s 25 best museum buildings of the past 100 years. This week, we recognized a key player in all of this: Maria Manetti Shrem, announcing that she is the recipient of the 2023 UC Davis Medal for her vision and leadership in the renaissance of art at UC Davis.
Transformative research flourishes all across our campuses. This is especially true of studies on the use of psychedelics to safely treat mental disorders. Associate Professor David E. Olson and his team are studying how psychedelic substances can lead to the development of treatments for depression, Parkinson’s disease, substance abuse and other disorders. The findings of these studies could be a game-changer in the world of neuroscience.
I extend an invitation to all to join me for my next Chancellor’s Colloquium — Wednesday, February 22, in person or by Zoom — with Sister Simone Campbell, a graduate of the School of Law who has dedicated her life to social justice issues. Last July, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our country’s highest civilian honor, for her work that was credited in passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010. We’ve got all the details here: the RSVP link for the in-person program at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts (admission is free but you will need to RSVP for tickets) and Zoom link.
Grades and love
Yesterday I was pleased to go before the Academic Senate’s Representative Assembly to deliver my annual State of the Campus address, which gave me the opportunity to thank our faculty personally for what I termed their endurance during the recent strike. As of January 30, instructors of record had submitted 99.1% of undergraduate grades — that’s 132,235 grades. And that’s what I call going above and beyond the call of duty. Thank you again.
As Valentine’s Day was just earlier this week, I encourage you to visit our “Aggies in Love” map and contribute to it as well. Created by our university’s social media team along with the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and the UC Davis Esri Support Team, the map shows where love began for so many Aggies on campus and around the region, accompanied by stories and photos.
Take it from me and our interim director of social media, Karla Fung, who finds the map to be “a joyful surprise” every year, as she told The Davis Enterprise for a front-page story. “We even had a story where Gunrock made an appearance at (a) wedding.”
Now that’s joyful way to end this month’s letter. Go Ags!
Gary S. May