Checking In With Chancellor May: Perseverance

Chancellor May sitting at desk writing a letter

To the UC Davis Community:

Many of our neighboring counties are starting to reopen, after meeting Gov. Newsom’s criteria aimed at preventing a resurgence of the coronavirus. Yolo and Sacramento counties are not quite there yet. We continue to be in close contact with the public health authorities.

At the same time, our Operations Scenario Planning Group is discussing a gradual return to office working over the next few months. More details will be forthcoming as they are developed. I know we are all anxious to return to more standard operating procedures, but the health and safety of our campus community has always been our No. 1 priority — so we must wait until the conditions permit this transition.

Beyond the logistics, we have other important issues ahead, such as the revised state budget that the governor released yesterday — showing a 10 percent cut to UC and the California State University system. Here’s how UC President Janet Napolitano responded:

“The University of California recognizes the unprecedented challenges California is facing in the wake of COVID-19 and regrets that Gov. Newsom was put into a position to steeply reduce the university’s budget in response to the state’s dramatically diminished revenues. Regardless, UC stands with the governor and the Legislature to help lift the state out of this economic crisis."

“In spite of these budget revisions, our focus will remain on our students, our employees and the UC community. We are committed to continuing our mission of teaching, research and public service — including the crucial patient care provided by our medical centers in the midst of this pandemic — that benefits California and the world. We will continue to work with the Legislature to secure additional sources of funding to see us through this difficult time.”

Research moves into Phase 1x

During the pandemic, we have taken on COVID-19 projects — this is what we do as a top-tier research institution: contribute to the world’s battle against this virus. This week we implemented Phase 1x of our ramp-up plan: small, incremental steps to allow the restart of further critical research projects while maintaining adherence to public health guidance and maintaining appropriate hazard mitigation strategies.

There is a strict approval process in place. For example, staffing is limited to one person per approximately 250 square feet of lab space. Also, principal investigators need to have a process in place to log access to their facilities for contact tracing if needed.

Again, this is a gradual ramp-up in a four-phase plan, and changes may take effect at any time, as the pandemic evolves. Our goal is to enable projects that are critical while maintaining a low density of people in a space and minimal person-to-person contacts.

We’ve reported extensively on our COVID-19 research, on the Sacramento and Davis campuses, and next week we will present our second UC Davis LIVE: COVID-19 program on Facebook and YouTube: 11 a.m. Thursday, May 21, with two of our UC Davis Health physicians involved in COVID-19 treatments: Professor Stuart Cohen, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control; and Sarah Barnhard, an assistant clinical professor and director of Transfusion Medicine.

Assessing student learning

I join Provost Ralph Hexter, Senate Chair Kristin Lagattuta and Vice Provost Carolyn Thomas (see here for their full letter) in commending instructors for “the dedication, care and commitment that you are bringing to your courses during this emergency time of remote instruction. It is because of your extraordinary efforts that we are able to continue our teaching mission.”

As they note, “Student learning assessments, including exams, are an integral part of learning and the educational experience of a course.” Although “we encourage instructors to assess student learning through means other than proctored examinations when possible,” instructors are the final authority on how best to measure student learning in their courses. Sometimes this will include proctored midterm and final examinations, for which the campus has several software tools available. For further information, visit Keep Teaching.

Undergraduate advising

As we wrap up Week 7 of instruction, we know our undergraduates are balancing a growing load of midterms, papers, and final projects and exams. Our academic advisors have been meeting with students via Zoom throughout the quarter, and have compiled a list of ways families can support their students at home.

Graduate students

Those of you who are nearing your degrees may be concerned about the impact COVID-19 may have on your normative time to degree. In recognition of the challenges that COVID-19-related closures have had on all graduate students at UC Davis, Graduate Studies, with the support of the Graduate Council, will provide a one-year blanket extension of time to degree for students.

This exception is just one outcome of the ongoing effort Graduate Studies has been engaging in to proactively address emerging needs and advocate for additional flexibilities and support for graduate students during this challenging time. For more information about this blanket exception and other efforts made by Graduate Studies to support graduate education in response to COVID-19, please visit this page on the Graduate Studies website.

Fall quarter

Last week we talked about fall quarter, and what we envision it will look like. Remember, our academic year begins later than most — fall quarter instruction begins Sept. 30 — so there is a lot of time between now and then for changes in how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our local and state communities. So, as we said last week, the only certainty is that we can have no certainty now about the state of the pandemic in late September.

However, as we said, we are working with individual departments and professional schools to find ways to offer some in-person classes in the fall, based, as always, on advice from public health experts. As well, we anticipate that, with few exceptions, course offerings will also be available remotely for students who either cannot be accommodated in physical classroom spaces due to the fall health directives or who need to remain isolated due to pre-existing health conditions or other considerations. There are also instructors who will need to teach remotely for the same reasons. Thus, we anticipate that our instructional plan will enable substantial flexibility to support student learning and degree progress.

CoHo and Scrubs are back!

Our beloved Coffee House is back in business, as of yesterday, with a limited menu for delivery or pickup only. Breakfast sandwiches and burritos, ciabatta sandwiches, Especial Burritos and Especial Taco Salads, plus other salads, wraps and personal pizzas, baked goods, espresso drinks and coffee, and CoHo Blasts — we have really been missing our Coffee House! Ordering is done through the Grubhub app, and delivery is available to campus and the city of Davis.

Come Monday, Scrubs will be open in the Health Sciences District, offering grab ’n’ go service. In alignment with public health guidance, several service modifications have been implemented, including requirements for face coverings and physical distancing (6 feet minimum), and no cash transactions.

Emergency relief funds

We have distributed most of our emergency relief funding to our students, about $14.5 million to some 17,200 students so far, using federal funds from the CARES Act for Title IV-eligible students and institutional funds for others (including undocumented/DACAmented AB540-eligible students, eligible noncitizens and international students).

Notes: Title IV-eligible undergraduates, in order to receive emergency relief funding, must have a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA on file or submit one by May 30. Graduate and professional students are encouraged to file a 2019-20 FAFSA or complete a certification with the campus confirming eligibility for Title IV funding by May 30 to receive assistance. Undocumented AB540-eligible students must have a California Dream Act Application on file or submit one by May 30.

More information is available in two sets of FAQs:

Reporting protocol

Committing to a healthy working environment is everyone’s responsibility. If you are sick, you should stay home. In addition, we have reporting protocols designed to enable campus response to COVID risk guided by our medical directors. The protocols include not only situations involving COVID testing but includes situations of general concerned about members of the campus community having COVID-19, whether on or off campus.

Other reasons to report, as outlined on this Safety Services webpage:

  • COVID-19 test has been administered to you, an immediate family member or a UC Davis colleague.
  • Positive COVID-19 diagnosis has been returned to you, an immediate family member or a UC Davis colleague.

The webpage includes the mandatory reporting protocols for the Davis and Sacramento campuses.

The Davis campus protocol activates a team including representatives from Student Health and Occupational Health, Human Resources, Campus Counsel, Environmental Health and Safety, and Custodial Services. Furthermore, the team coordinates actions with Yolo County Public Health through our medical directors. Those actions may include further testing and/or contact tracing. For the integrity of the process and to maintain coordination with our local health authority, it is vitally important others do not attempt to communicate or assume those responsibilities.

ASAP calendars

I’ve been telling you about the wonderful services available through the Academic and Staff Assistance Program, or ASAP, and this week I am happy to provide links to eight programs next week on the Davis and Sacramento campuses.

Thank you to everyone at ASAP and Human Resources who put together new calendar pages showing all the programs on the Davis and Sacramento campuses, with dates, times and sign-up information.

The ASAP Davis calendar page lists these programs next week:

  • Coping With the Impact of Using Technology for Remote Work(workshop) — Tuesday, May 19
  • Working and Parenting (drop-in session) — Wednesday, May 20
  • Grief During COVID-19 (drop-in session) — Friday, May 22

The ASAP Sacramento calendar page lists five drop-in sessions next week:

  • Staying Engaged And Nurturing Community While Maintaining Physical Distance — Monday, May 18
  • Staying Centered in the Face of Uncertainty — Tuesday, May 19
  • Coping With Grief and Loss — Wednesday, May 20
  • Calming Fear and Anxiety — Thursday, May 21
  • The Ups and Downs of Sheltering in Place — Friday, May 22

So, please, reach out for assistance, join in these programs. We will get through this, together.

Sincerely,

Gary S. May
Chancellor

 

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