Checking In With Chancellor May: Commitment
To the UC Davis Community:
Social distancing and isolation are working to flatten the coronavirus curve in California, and we are confident that our actions to suspend campus operations and move to remote instruction minimized infection in our community. We learned only yesterday (April 16) that a student living in The Sol at West Village neighborhood tested positive for COVID-19 on April 5. They have been self-isolating since they initially felt unwell and their symptoms resolved several days ago. Other residents of the complex are being notified by the property management. We are glad the student is doing well and wish them a full and speedy recovery.
I said at the beginning of this crisis, “We’ll get through this, together.” And we will. All of us are dealing with so much disruption in our personal and family lives, and yet each of us, in their own way, is contributing to our university’s continued mission. Our hospital staff is providing extraordinary care to COVID-19 patients. Our dedicated faculty are continuing to develop creative ways to teach our undergraduate and graduate students via remote instruction. Our students are making progress toward their degrees. Our staff members are taking care of everything else, as they always do — only now, many of them are working from home, while others are still coming to campus to perform their vital duties in animal care, police and fire, dining, custodial, groundskeeping, maintenance and more. We appreciate everyone’s hard work.
Through it all, we see unwavering commitment to our shared purpose. We see hundreds of researchers “dialing” in to Zoom for weekly town halls with Dean Allison Brashear of the School of Medicine and Vice Chancellor Prasant Mohapatra of the Office of Research. We see faculty members connecting in a weekly forum that started yesterday, FacultyConnect, to discuss remote instruction. One of our distinguished professors, Walter Leal, has organized a public awareness symposium, Thursday, April 23, and I am honored to be delivering welcome remarks.
The College of Biological Sciences has organized a series of COVID-19 town halls, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Fridays, open to students, faculty, staff and the public. Today’s program, with the college’s former dean, James Hildreth, and Dean Brashear, will be livestreamed here.
At a town hall earlier this month, experts from the School of Veterinary Medicine’s One Health Institute and the California National Primate Research Center presented updates on the school’s COVID-19 response efforts. You can read about the town hall — and watch a recording — here.
Several COVID-19 research projects have started on the Davis and Sacramento campuses. Yesterday we reported the results of one of our two coronavirus-related clinical trials: Nearly two-thirds of severely ill patients showed improvement with the drug remdesivir in a small study involving our hospital and others in the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan. We see no end to what our physicians and scientists will take on, in research and public outreach, to help in the battle against this pandemic.
Resources and other support
We see campus support units continuing to post and update online resources to help us through remote instruction during spring term. The UC Davis Library, in the first edition of a newsletter for faculty and researchers, highlighted a surprising range of online tools and resources to help with research and instruction in a variety of disciplines. Materials include films and digital music, a new app for teaching anatomy, peer-reviewed video demonstrations of lab experiments, and thousands more e-books now available through a new partnership with the HathiTrust Digital Library. You’ll find all of this on the library’s coronavirus page (which also includes a Student Support and Healthy Study Environment section).
We also see no end to the compassion and care with which we are treating one another, by way of Coping as a Community webinars, WorkLife and Good Stuff newsletters, and much more to help us make it through.
Sadly, the nation is seeing an upswing in domestic violence as the pandemic wears on, attributed to social isolation and victims having to shelter in place with their abusers. Earlier this week, administrators of our various support programs sent an email to everyone in the campus community, stating, “UC Davis is committed to continuing to support our students, staff and faculty who are affected by all forms of sexual violence, including relationship violence. All university support and reporting services continue to be available during the stay-in-place order, including emotional support, assistance with safety planning, and assistance with workplace, academic and housing accommodations.”
They added: “We are committed to providing services to our community members regardless of where they happen to be physically located during this unprecedented time.” Read the complete letter, including a list of resources and contact information.
What lies ahead
Last week we announced we will maintain remote instruction through both Summer Sessions. In fact, all UC campuses will do the same. It is too soon to say what will happen beyond summer — all we can do is continue to carefully monitor the rapidly evolving situation. We will reopen for on-site instruction when it is safe to do so — in coordination with federal, state and local health departments and authorities.
As with all coronavirus-related decisions, we will act only after extensive planning and review. I meet and consult with President Napolitano and the other nine UC chancellors three times each week to discuss and develop policies and plans, and I consult with my Leadership Council at least four days a week to discuss and develop solutions to the challenges that confront us. As you know, UC loves its meetings, and you can be sure they are continuing — with the health and safety of our community the No. 1 priority in every discussion. (Speaking of meetings, check out this information from our campus privacy officer and chief information security officer about Zoom privacy and security, along with a set of updated FAQs.)
Here’s a quick update on where we are now in the planning process:
- Next week I will announce the formation of two Scenario Planning Groups that will work in tandem to prepare the campus to ramp up on-campus activities in a planful and prudent manner in line with evolving conditions and medical guidance as well as county, state and federal directives. One group, chaired by Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter, will focus on instruction for the fall quarter, while the other, chaired by Vice Chancellor Kelly Ratliff of Finance, Operations and Administration, will focus on operations broadly defined.
- Preparation for a range of possible scenarios is important given the uncertainties we will face. What is certain is that we want to fulfill the university’s missions of teaching, research and public service as robustly and impactfully as possible while ensuring the best possible outcomes for all members of our community.
- Separately, the Office of Research has established the Research Ramp-Up/Down Task Force, or RRT, to formulate guidance for a slow-and-cautious ramp-up of the research enterprise when county and state officials relax their stay-at-home orders, or to ramp it down again should there be a resurgence of COVID-19.
Give Day and Picnic Day: All online
Our fourth annual Give Day is underway, today and tomorrow, with an emphasis on emergency funds. It normally coincides with Picnic Day, which, as you know, has been canceled — and we sincerely hope our students and others will not risk getting together with friends to have their own Picnic Day. Please celebrate the day where you are sheltering in place, by enjoying archival videos and virtual events on the Virtual Picnic Day website. As Dateline writer Cody Kitaura put it so well this week: “There’s only one must-visit location for Picnic Day this year, and it’s your couch.”
Clearly, with campus operations suspended, we are having to make hard decisions about Picnic Day and commencement and other events that mean so much, especially to students. Unfortunately, this is the time we live in; this is what we must do for safety. Yes, we are doing things differently this quarter, but the important thing is this: Your education continues.
On a related note, I know some of you and your parents have been asking about the status of tuition and fees. I asked Vice Chancellor Ratliff to explain the situation — and she does so here, in a video. She shares additional information in this article in The California Aggie. As VC Ratliff points out: Your tuition and fees pay for people. People who are still working. They are faculty who are providing remote education, they are advisors and counselors who continue to serve students, and they are staff members who are maintaining our facilities and providing important student support services, such as Student Health and Counseling Services, the Internship and Career Center and the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center. More information is available here on Student Affairs’ Virtual UC Davis website.
UC Davis is not closed. We continue to serve, and we all look forward to the time when everyone can return to campus.
Gary S. May