Bookface egghead in front of Shields Library with sun shining in background

Checking In With Chancellor May: Democracy

To the UC Davis Community:

Election Day has turned into Election Week, extending the anxiety many of us have been feeling. Here’s one of the ways I am minimizing stress while waiting to see who wins the presidency: I’m thinking about how so many people voted, and how, with that single, important act, we reasserted our right to have a say in our leadership.

Sometimes our views will prevail, sometimes they will not. But our democracy lives on. It is not a one-day or one-week event. It is a 244-year-old institution that we build upon daily by participating in it, debating the issues, speaking out and protesting peacefully, advocating for the initiatives and change we believe in.

That is an election result we can all appreciate: continued faith in our democracy to build the kind of country where all people are valued and respected, where opportunity abounds — all the things we stand for at UC Davis.

We know this has been a tough few months, with the election on top of the pandemic on top of social injustices, and we hope everyone is taking steps to care for themselves. The same resources we offered pre-election are still in place post-election: Counseling Services for students and the Academic and Staff Assistance program for faculty and staff.

Other results

Wednesday, I shared a message about California’s Proposition 16, which was defeated at the polls. It would have repealed Proposition 209, the ballot measure from 1996 that forces the state’s public institutions to try to address racial inequality without factoring in race, even where allowed by federal law. As I said in my message, “The diversity of our university and higher education institutions across California, should — and must — serve the rich diversity of our state. We will work to increase our investments and efforts in this area given that racial equity is paramount to fulfilling our mission to produce the intellectual capital of California that has economic and social benefits.”

I am pleased to share at least two election winners: a student and an alumnus. Congratulations to both:

  • Hipolito Angel Cerros, who expects to graduate in the spring, won a seat on the Lindsay City Council (Tulare County) without even being on the ballot. He and two others were the only candidates for three open seats, so all were elected automatically. Hipolito is a Science and Technology Studies major (emphasis in data and media technologies) with a minor in technology management, and he plans to attend law school.
  • Alex Lee ’17, a political science major who served as ASUCD president, was elected to the state Assembly. When sworn in, he will be the youngest member at age 25, the youngest to take office in the lower house in more than 80 years, according to the Los Angeles Times. He’s representing the 25th District in the South Bay Area where he was born.

COVID-19 testing

We are excited to share that our rapid saliva-based testing process for symptom-free individuals has now been validated, so we have discontinued the use of the concurrent nasal swab test. We are also able to expand our testing capacity next week to select groups of employees and students, bringing our total weekly tests to about 10,000. Please visit the COVID-19 Testing webpage to see the current list of eligible groups and the COVID-19 Dashboard to see weekly test result numbers.  

Also next week, we are moving our testing kiosk out of the Pavilion Parking Structure. Come Thursday, November 12, the kiosk will have moved inside for the winter, into the Four-Court Gym in the Activities and Recreation Center, or ARC. Entry and exit will be through a door on the north side of the ARC; the door is along Orchard Road (the “driveway” that leads into Parking Lot 25). Signs outside the ARC will give directions.

I am also pleased to report we have joined with six of our sister campuses in a pilot project to test a smartphone-based COVID-19 exposure notification system from Google and Apple. It’s completely voluntary with a privacy-first approach. When you sign up, Google/Apple Exposure Notification, or GAEN, will keep track of people with whom you have come in close contact — that is, if your phones have come within 6 feet of each other. Anyone who tests positive may elect to share that with the system, in which case it will generate anonymous alerts to other users based on proximity and length of exposure. We will provide more information later this month about the app and how to access it on your phone.

For students

Last night we sent an email with important updates about fall quarter, Thanksgiving break, winter break and winter quarter, including COVID-19 testing guidance for the break (testing before you go and after you return) and for the start of winter quarter.

For the new academic term, we have more in-person offerings than fall quarter, but most classes will still be held remotely, including all lectures and the majority of discussion sections for undergraduate students and graduate students. This is in keeping with state and county public health guidelines.

Last night’s email also includes information about medical and mental health support, housing and other services and programs, and Campus Ready resources.

For staff

Kelly Ratliff, vice chancellor of Finance, Operations and Administration, posted a message to the Davis campus staff today advising that we do not expect campus operations to change substantially in winter quarter, given that most instruction will be remote. 

If you have been working remotely, we expect you will continue to do so until at least the end of the winter quarter. Each of you should continue to work closely with your supervisor on your specific circumstances.

We will continue to monitor public health guidance and seek ways to smooth the course for our gradual return to normal operations.

Vice Chancellor Ratliff also addressed the campuswide curtailment we are implementing on the Davis campus the last two weeks of the year, during which time certain essential functions will continue, but most operations will be closed or substantially scaled back. We already have four holidays during this period (Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 31-Jan. 1) and staff can use six days of vacation or compensatory time for the other days: Dec. 21-23 and Dec. 28-30. If you don’t have enough accrued leave, you can borrow up to six days of vacation.

I echo Vice Chancellor Ratliff when she says: “Thank you for the hard work and flexibility that got us to where we are with the fall quarter. I know this pandemic has challenged us all to adapt to changing circumstances — and you have accepted those changes with grace, creativity and redoubled dedication to our Aggie mission. I am routinely impressed with our community’s commitment to taking care of each other. Thank you.”

Checking in elsewhere:

  • Black Excellence Symposium — Join us tomorrow (November 7) in recognizing the strength of UC Davis’ African Diaspora. I will be giving welcome remarks at this event for current and prospective students, as well as for faculty, staff and the general public.
  • One Health Symposium — This event, also Saturday, will explore current issues and themes impacting the health of animals, people, plants and the environment.
  • Veterans Day Celebration — We are honoring our UC Davis and community veterans on both sides of the Causeway, Tuesday, November 10, one day before the Veterans Day holiday (Wednesday, November 11). Thank you for your service.

Cheers to UC Davis

I was a guest last weekend on JCB LIVE, a podcast hosted by Jean-Charles Boisset, who leads the Boisset Collection of wineries in France and California (Napa Valley and Russian River Valley). He’s very impressed with UC Davis (and not just because of our viticulture and enology program) and is a frequent visitor to our art museum named after his friends Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem. Our conversation went way beyond wine to include education and remote learning, STEM and artificial intelligence, sustainability and climate change, and social justice and diversity. Check it out.

Supporting one another

Finally, a progress report on our Staff Emergency Fund — we have raised $26,000 in just over six weeks. My sincerest gratitude to all who have contributed toward our initial goal of $30,000, the point at which we will start taking applications and distributing grants of up to $1,000 to help staff members in times of personal hardship. We know we are in difficult times. Knowing that we have the support of our colleagues is reassuring, indeed.



Gary S. May


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