Chancellor May sitting at desk writing a letter

Checking In With Chancellor May: A Way Forward

To the UC Davis Community:

This week has been one of optimism: Yolo County lifted its shelter-in-place order yesterday and is starting to reopen; our research enterprise continues to ramp back up, moving into Phase 2; and we laid out our guiding principles for how we will gradually restart other campus operations.

But it has also been a terribly difficult week in a way that has nothing to do with the coronavirus: the injustice that we saw in Minneapolis. At the end of today’s message, I have provided links to a joint statement by our campus police chief and the Davis police chief, and my own statement.

I’ll try to lighten the emotional load by proudly sharing information about some of our health care heroes, the start of our celebrations for the Class of 2020, and the virtual Arts & Humanities Graduate Exhibition that opened last night. Thank you for your attention, for all of your messages this week, and for your continued resilience.

As Vice Chancellor Kelly Ratliff emphasized in her message to the campus yesterday, we will proceed carefully and deliberately in transitioning back to regular campus operations. We began planning for this weeks ago, and it has never been our intention to simply flip the switch from “suspended operations” to “open for business.” There are guidelines we will follow for the health and safety of our community.

Vice Chancellor Ratliff said it, and I’ve said it, but it bears repeating. We must be patient. Under the guiding principles we have established, administrative and office work should ramp up in alignment with workload drivers that trigger the need for on-campus personnel; activities that can be conducted remotely should continue in remote mode to the fullest extent possible as determined and assigned by supervisors and managers; and reasonable accommodations should be assessed and implemented using an interactive process and should consider individual COVID-19 risk status and related factors such as child care to the extent allowed by law.

On the research front, Vice Chancellor Prasant Mohapatra announced today we are moving to Phase 2 in our ramp-up plan, effective Monday (June 1), allowing time-sensitive research activities (but with a maximum of approximately one-third of research personnel on-site at any time).

All ongoing efforts approved for Phases 1 and 1x can choose to move to Phase 2 gradually and cautiously. As planned, there is very little change from Phase 1x to Phase 2; no further approval is required unless mandated by unit chairs/deans/directors. Restarting of new efforts will have to be coordinated with the chairs/deans/directors, following the process that was defined for Phase 1x.

One more administrative announcement: Carolyn Thomas, vice provost and dean for Undergraduate Education, has been named the new provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at her alma mater, California State University, Fullerton. She has been a champion of first-generation, underrepresented and low-income students, and we will miss her engaged leadership. Read today’s announcement.

Summer and fall

We have decided to offer all Summer Sessions courses remotely across Sessions I and II, and we continue to communicate about instruction in fall quarter. Two letters went out yesterday, one from Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter to our continuing undergraduates, and the other from Provost Hexter and Academic Senate Chair Kristin Lagattuta to Academic Senate members. Currently being developed are messages for graduate and professional students as well as for other instructional staff.

The letters sent yesterday mentioned the careful planning underway and the coordination with public health authorities that will enable us to resume many activities on campus this fall, including offering a significant number of in-person courses. Since the parameters for in-person gatherings are not yet finalized — and might of course shift if the virus itself resurges — we are still working to determine which courses will be either solely in person or have an in-person option. If undergraduate students are unable or decide not to be on campus this fall, for whatever reason, UC Davis is prepared to offer them remote courses so they can continue to make degree progress.

Leadership will provide greater specificity over the coming weeks on instructional plans for fall.

Spring quarter winds down

But first things first: We still have spring quarter to finish —  one more week of classes, then finals. Please note that Shields Library will provide limited additional study space (beyond the 50 seats already available in the 24-Hour Study Room). The extra space, in and near the Main Reading Room, will be open from noon to 8 p.m. June 5-11. Please wear face coverings — this order is still in effect for all of Yolo County.

Just as we assess students’ work, we are asking students to help us learn from your experiences with remote instruction in spring quarter. Did a professor do something in your class that really made remote learning work well for you? Were you able to access counseling and accommodations services? Did remote learning affect your sense of connection to UC Davis?

The Center for Educational Effectiveness has launched the End-of-Quarter Remote Learning Survey to inform and improve future remote instructional experiences. Respond by June 5 for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. More information and the link to the survey.

Grading policies

The Davis Division of the Academic Senate recognizes the stresses that students and instructors are facing in their academic and personal lives during the pandemic. To reduce academic uncertainty and increase flexibility when trying to adapt to remote instruction, the senate and administrative partners announced the following updates to Passed/Not Passed (P/NP) grading policies for undergraduates:

  • Spring 2020 — The deadline for undergraduate students to opt for P/NP grading in a course, or revert back to letter grading, is June 4 (see student FAQ).
  • Summer Sessions 2020 — Deadlines have been extended to opt for P/NP grading in a course or to revert back to letter grading (July 24 for Summer Session I and Sept. 4 for Summer Session II). As with spring 2020, Summer Sessions P/NP units are exempt from the one-third maximum rule (P/NP units can account for no more than one-third of the units a student takes for graduation at UC Davis). These amendments do not override additional college or major limitations on the use of P/NP courses for degree requirements.

The Academic Senate notes that P/NP usage can be complex. Students should consider potential consequences related to satisfactory academic progress, time to degree, financial aid and postgraduate study requirements. Students with questions should consult their advisors about P/NP usage. This online FAQ provides further information.

The Class of 2020

We could not be prouder of all of our students for making it through the trials and tribulations of spring quarter — especially our graduates, who, besides everything else going on, did not have quite the final year of college they had hoped for, not even traditional commencement.

This is a special class, indeed, and we’re inviting fellow students, family members, faculty and staff to send congratulatory messages by posting them online with the hashtag #DearUCDavisGrad or via this website. We’re posting your messages, photos and videos on our commencement website.

All of the messages I have seen so far validate what I’ve always said: This is my favorite time of the year! We are seeing abundant joy in the remote celebrations we are holding, and we look forward to setting a date for in-person commencement in the fall.

The School of Veterinary Medicine held its online program last Friday afternoon, but also managed to throw in an in-person event earlier in the day, inviting the graduates to drive through the parking lot where each received a very special box — their diploma was inside. Nice!        

This morning, I spoke at the School of Medicine’s virtual graduation, which included “lots of pomp, amid unusual circumstances,” as Edwin Garcia wrote in a news release.

Congratulations to our newest medical doctors and our newest veterinary doctors, as well as our law school graduates who went first, May 16, and elected to not have a virtual ceremony.

Heroes and backup masks

All of this is taking place in the shadow of the coronavirus and COVID-19. We have health care personnel on the front lines and researchers engaged in the global effort against the virus.

Some of our health care heroes took vacation time or leave to help in the United States’ COVID-19 epicenter: New York City, making them superheroes. One of them, Paula Wagner, a nurse practitioner in outpatient urology, returned May 18 after 13 days at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn. She worked 12-hour shifts like everyone else, and reported: “What was most surprising for me was the lack of essential equipment.”

UC Davis Medical Center is fortunate to have never run out of supplies, and is taking steps to be extra prepared with a stock of backup N95 respirator masks. They are used masks that we are decontaminating with vaporized hydrogen peroxide. We know the process is safe, as other industries have successfully used it to sterilize other kinds of equipment.

Before we reuse our masks, though, we are doing fit-testing to assess their integrity and performance after decontamination. Staff, faculty and students are invited to volunteer to help with the testing. It started this week on the Davis campus, and there are 12 more testing days on the Sacramento campus, June 2-19.

Learn more about the project (including how to volunteer).

Other announcements

  • The Arts & Humanities Graduate Exhibition, which opened last night, virtually, can be viewed through June 14 on the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art’s website.
  • For Your Information, the monthly newsletter from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, came out yesterday, and it includes Vice Chancellor Renetta Tull Garrison’s comments on what we might be able to do “post-COVID” that will be better than the ways that we conducted business before the pandemic and the shelter-in-place directives. See the newsletter here.
  • Safety Month is every month, really, but, for June we have organized special activities connected to weekly themes: rest, resilience and well-being; ergonomics tips when working from home; wildfire preparedness; and managing chemical inventory. Learn more here.
  • Safety Month starts Monday with an invitation to join the Rest and Revive Kickoff event, noon to 1 p.m. Rest and Revive is a six-week email campaign presented by the Staff and Faculty Health and Well-Being Program; learn more and register here.

Remembering George Floyd

Finally today, I want to commend UC Davis Police Chief Joe Farrow and city of Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel for their joint statement on the tragedy of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota. And here’s a link to my statement.


Gary S. May

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