Red double decker bus with "Happy Picnic Day!" on the window

Checking In With Chancellor May: Picnic Pride

To the UC Davis Community:

Nothing says UC Davis more than Picnic Day. Let’s hear it for the Picnic Day Board — the students who persevered last year and again this year to keep this tradition going during the pandemic. Saturday’s virtual event is our 107th Picnic Day, a truly impressive record. I am also thankful to the hundreds of faculty, staff and other students for their online content, most of it new: 100-plus events and exhibits (including live presentations and on-demand videos) — all the activities that go into our open house.

Besides the Virtual Parade, the day will include the traditional Grandstand Ceremony where I’ll be saying a few words. You will also hear from our Picnic Day marshals, Maisha Winn and Lawrence “Torry” Winn, faculty members in the School of Education where they co-founded the Transformative Justice in Education CenterLook for the schedule of events and all the links (when available) on the Picnic Day website.

One of the nice things about virtual Picnic Day is, Aggies can participate no matter where they are in the world. People who live in or near Davis may be inclined to meet up with friends — it’s Picnic Day, after all — but here’s the thing: We are still in the midst of a pandemic. Please think twice about your plans (and review our information, below, on “Gatherings and meetings”).

Importantly, public health protocols remain in place: face coverings and physical distancing among them, and, at UC Davis, regular asymptomatic testing.

Also, please get your vaccination as soon as you can, wherever you can. UC Davis Health recommends it. I recommend it. (And I am happy to report that UC Davis Health had administered around 70,000 shots as of yesterday, while the Davis campus vaccine clinic hit the 10,000 mark two days ago.)

Reasons for caution

Even as more people are vaccinated, remember this important caveat for our community: Most college students became eligible only recently, so their vaccination rate is lower.

Couple that with yesterday’s news that a third COVID-19 variant, P.1, which first emerged in Brazil, has been identified in Yolo County, and you can see cause for concern. Healthy Davis Together and the UC Davis Genome Center has now confirmed the presence of the P.1, B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants in the county. All three have higher transmission rates, meaning they spread more easily and increase in prevalence quickly. In fact, B.1.1.7 accounted for two-thirds of Yolo County’s positive cases the first week of April, similar to the pattern observed elsewhere.

With research still underway on COVID-19 transmission between vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and on the variants, public health experts urge everyone to keep following all public health protocols. And, if you have not been vaccinated, please consider making an appointment. See the Campus Ready COVID-19 Vaccine Program webpage for more information.

Gatherings and meetings

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, no social/informal gatherings are allowed on campus, indoors or outdoors.

On the business side of things, while we still strongly encourage UC Davis departments to hold remote meetings, trainings and conferences, be advised they can now be held in-person, on- or off-campus, indoors or outdoors, when the business purposes are best served by in-person engagement. We updated our guidance yesterday to be in alignment with state updates.

See Helping You Plan In-Person Activities at UC Davis on the Campus Ready website for complete guidance and requirements. Limited indoor and outdoor campus spaces will be available for reservation during spring quarter.

The webpage also includes guidance for off-campus (non-university business) social/informal gatherings: They are permitted under state public health guidelines, which include capacity limits along with requirements for face coverings and physical distancing, among other restrictions.

Another tragic killing

Once again we mourn. I posted a statement earlier this week on the death of Daunte Wright, 20, father of a 2-year-old boy, and within my message you will find a link to President Drake’s statement. I told our community that I understand how easy it is to feel hurt, frustrated, angry and just plain exhausted. And I urged students, staff and faculty to reach out for support. Here are the links I provided: Student Health and Counseling Services and the Academic and Staff Assistance Program for mental health concerns, and Racial Trauma Resources compiled by our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

To help facilitate flexibility requests that may come from students, faculty are encouraged to review the current academic flexibilities in place and the standard instructional accommodation resources available.

Give Day

Along with Picnic Day comes our fifth annual Give Day, which actually runs for 29 hours. It started at noon today and continues until 5 p.m. Saturday. We set a record for giving last year, in the first year of the pandemic, and hopefully we will do so again this year. Gifts of any size are immensely helpful to our students, our research, our mission.

This year’s Give Day includes 233 “challenges” worth more than $2.3 million — wow! That’s almost as much as last year’s Give Day total.

For each challenge, a donor makes an advance pledge to a particular cause, then calls on other donors to donate to the same cause. Once a certain number of donations come in, the original advance pledge is unlocked. It’s a fun way to build excitement and giving.

You can browse through all the challenges here, or go to the bottom of the page to see a list of “Areas to Support,” and click on any of the areas that are of most interest to you. We are most thankful for all the support.

Challenges include:

  • Support for Students: Beyond the Classroom Challenge, $75,000 pledged by Kim and Kevin Bacon, in return for 30 gifts.
  • BioLaunch Challenge, for the first-year experience program in the College of Biological Sciences, $15,000 pledged by Mardi Dier in return for 25 gifts.
  • College of Letters and Science Student Support Challenge, $5,000 pledged in return for 10 gifts.
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering Challenge, for students who are facing hardships, $2,500 pledged by Douglas Yerkes ’91, Ph.D., P.E., in return for 45 gifts.
  • Animal Science Dairy Challenge, in support of the Animal Science Goat and Dairy Creamery, $2,500 pledged by Arthur Bliss, in return for 10 gifts.
  • Global Aggies for LGBTQIA Rights Challenge, $2,500 pledged by Ralph J. Hexter, former provost and executive vice chancellor, and Manfred Kollmeier, in return for 10 gifts.

Checking in elsewhere

  • Commencement options — You should have received earlier today my email announcing an in-person option for spring commencement. Read the email here. Graduating students will receive more information by email early next week.
  • Fall quarter — We continue to plan for our return to in-person instruction and other activities, and expect to provide more information (including vaccination guidance) next week.
  • Travel guidance — Global Affairs posted an update today, based on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. UC Davis continues to recommend against all nonessential travel, both domestically and internationally (consideration for essential travel is listed in the announcement). All travel on university business must be registered. Note: Guidance for personal domestic or international travel has been removed.

Of worldly importance

  • Earth Day (April 22) — Or, as is becoming the norm at UC Davis, Earth Month. Please check out the schedule of events here, including the Climate Story Art Jam (April 17), Zero Waste Workshop (April 21) and the Energy and Sustainability Career Panel (April 23).
  • UC Davis Global Learning Conference — “Preparing for Your Global Future in an Evolving World,” open to all undergraduate, graduate and professional students, as well as alumni. Friday-Sunday, April 23-25. Free.
  • UC Global Health Day — “Decolonizing Global Health to Advance Health Equity,” open to all. Saturday, April 24. Free.

Celebrating UC Davis

Picnic Day and Give Day give all of us a chance to celebrate and support all that we have achieved at UC Davis, from our founding as the University Farm to our status as one of the top research universities in the country and world. Accordingly, let’s put our best feet forward. Be responsible, speak up if something seems off and sign the Picnic Day Pledge if you have not already done so.

We have reason for optimism, for our institution and for our community’s health — it is a weekend to be grateful, to show our Aggie Pride.



Gary S. May

Campus ready graphic, cow on bicycle

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