Checking In With Chancellor May: On the Move (and Moove)
I hope you had a good summer and are excited for the start of the new academic year. You can already feel the buzz and excitement building on campus. Next week, LeShelle and I will help students “moove in” to their on-campus housing. It’s something we look forward to every year. UC Davis has been busy preparing for fall quarter, so there’s a lot to report this month.
Let’s stand together
I want to begin with an important note about recent incidents in which four masked men displayed antisemitic banners from highway overcrossings in our community, including the one we maintain for pedestrians and bicyclists over Highway 113 at the west edge of the main campus in Davis. I have condemned these actions as disgusting, cowardly and heinous.
We have no evidence to indicate that the perpetrators were members of the UC Davis community or affiliated with the university in any way. But we do know that antisemitic incidents are on the rise and that these incidents have taken a real toll on our Jewish faculty, students, staff and extended community. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported earlier this year that antisemitic behavior has increased 34 percent from the previous year, with 2,717 incidents nationwide in 2021. These numbers are the highest the ADL has seen in nearly half a century.
When any member of our community is under attack, intimidated or left in fear or alarm, we must rally to support them and act where we can. Our Principles of Community guide us to value our differences and to foster a campus climate that honors dignity, equity, courtesy, sensitivity and respect for one another. These are the values that truly embody our campus community. Next week, we will meet with our UC Davis Advisory Council on Jewish Life to continue to collaborate on ways to address antisemitism and provide support.
Required COVID-19 testing for students
With many of our students traveling back to Davis for the start of fall quarter, at a time when COVID-19 cases and variants are still present, campus is requiring every student to get tested for COVID-19 at least once between today (Sept. 9) and Oct. 7. This precautionary measure will help to identify asymptomatic cases and mitigate the spread among our community. If a student arrives in Davis after Oct 7, they should get tested within one week of their arrival.
The preferred testing option is through our high quality, saliva-based PCR testing at our free kiosk in the Human Resources Administration Building. Appointments are required via Health-e-Messaging.
Or you can use an antigen test: Get one for free during a distribution to students starting Monday, Sept. 12, on the south side of the Memorial Union. Or use a test kit you have obtained elsewhere.
Students who test positive are required to notify the campus via Health-e-Messaging. Affected students and their roommates, if applicable, should follow the isolation guidance provided on the Campus Ready website.
COVID-19 booster requirement
On Sept. 1, the CDC recommended updated COVID-19 boosters from Pfizer (for ages 12 and older) and Moderna (ages 18 and up). The updated boosters are bivalent vaccines, meaning they target both the most recent omicron subvariants as well as the original COVID-19 strain. Our UC Davis Health experts answer questions about the new vaccine in this video, “What to Know About the New COVID-19 Booster Shots.”
With this recommendation, the UC Vaccine Policy now requires all staff and students to get the bivalent booster, when eligible. Campus recognizes that the availability of the bivalent vaccine is currently limited, and as such, we will not be enforcing the booster requirement for employees and students until the vaccine becomes more widely available (via health care providers, retail pharmacies, etc.). Once we have additional information on the status of the vaccine supply, we will provide updates for how best to receive your shot.
With students returning to classrooms, we recommend strongly that people wear masks indoors as this has been proven to reduce individual risk. UC Davis plans to distribute one N95 mask to every student and employee who wants one this fall quarter. For more information about the distribution, students should contact their major departments, and employees should contact their departments or units. N95 masks also provide protection from pollutants when wildfire smoke creates unhealthy air quality conditions. Remember that a proper mask fit is especially important for COVID-19 (to reduce your risk of contracting the virus and the risk that you could infect others) and wildfire smoke. To ensure a proper fit, refer to our training videos for students and employees.
Yolo County Public Health’s Masking webpage indicates COVID-19 levels in the community and includes a downloadable flyer recommending the wearing of high-quality masks indoors.
As of this writing, there were three confirmed cases of monkeypox in Yolo County. Our new public health team at Student Health and Counseling Services (SCHS) is working closely with Yolo County Public Health to support students at high risk of contracting the disease and to ensure they have access to vaccine, treatment and isolation housing if needed. A recent article in The Sacramento Bee highlighted these efforts. For more information or to schedule a medical appointment, students can call 530-752-2349 or use the Health-e-Messaging portal. Faculty and staff with similar concerns should contact their health care provider for possible vaccination. Counseling services are available to students through SHCS and to faculty and staff through the Academic and Staff Assistance Program (ASAP).
As a follow-up to my August message, we have created an FAQ about monkeypox (MPX) for students and employees. It is important to note that anyone can get MPX, and viruses do not discriminate based on identity. While MPX is a public health concern for all, the current risk to the general public is low. We are dedicated to supporting those who are most impacted by the current outbreak, and stand with our queer and trans communities against stigma and discrimination. The LGBTQIA Resource Center and SHCS hosted a health topic webinar on MPX for LGBTQIA+ students to provide health information about MPX and highlight resources available to students.
New public health unit
Our last letter gave a preview of our new public health unit — and more information is now available in this news release. Part of Student Health and Counseling Services, the unit is geared toward keeping our community safe from public health threats like those we are dealing with now. The public health team is leading the way on prevention efforts, patient care and campus response related to infectious diseases and other public health issues. The unit includes an infection control physician, a public health coordinator and a public health nurse.
UC Davis continues to monitor COVID-19 in our community via wastewater testing, and we’ll be updating our COVID-19 Dashboard soon to allow our campus community to check results. The campus and city of Davis are also participating in Stanford’s Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network (SCAN), which has been monitoring for monkeypox weekly since mid-June. The datasets help inform our decision making.
We enter the new academic year with some very high rankings. We moved up to second nationally among public universities in Washington Monthly’s “2022 Guide and Rankings” and retained our position as the No. 4 public university on Forbes’ “America’s Top College List.”
We’re right where we should be — near the top. Beyond the rankings, our campus is truly being transformed to reflect our growing stature and impact as one of the nation’s best public universities. This coming year we will celebrate our Teaching and Learning Complex, already open, a general assignment classroom building with capacity for approximately 2,000 students; and several other game-changing facilities: the Ernest E. Tschannen Eye Institute at UC Davis Health in Sacramento, the Edwards Family Athletics Center and the Diane Bryant Engineering Design Center. Not only that, but Aggie Square is going vertical!
I’m looking forward to another banner year of the kind of programming that makes our university a community, including dynamic exhibitions at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, and the Mondavi Center’s 20th anniversary season.
Aggie athletics are underway, including football, which has home games scheduled Sept. 17 and 24, the latter putting a spotlight on our first years as they make their way onto the field before the game. New and returning students will celebrate the new year during Sunset Fest, Friday, Oct. 28 (rescheduled from an earlier date).
This is UC Davis exactly the way we like it: Vibrant in every way. Thank you all for your work moving UC Davis and our mission forward. Go Ags!
Gary S. May