Checking In With Chancellor May: We Are Resilient

Chancellor May outdoors looking into the camera with crossed arms.


To the UC Davis Community:

The optimist in me sees today — our holiday honoring César Chávez and his legacy — and the weekend ahead as a respite that will bring all of us a sense of calm three days before the start of the spring quarter. As you can see in this and our previous updates, we have planned for everything we could think of — and we continue to plan. We will take new actions and make modifications as the quarter progresses. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding in this difficult and unprecedented time.

Last week, we advised you — faculty and staff — to assume you would be working from home through April 7, except for those who need to be on campus to maintain critical facilities. Subsequently, Gov. Newsom issued his stay-at-home order, without an end date. We will follow that order, knowing that when we limit our contact with other people we are helping to flatten the curve of the coronavirus outbreak. Our disappointment is assuaged only by the knowledge we are doing all we can to protect our community’s health. That is our first priority.

While this quarter will be like no other we have seen at UC Davis, it is also a sign of our resilience. We have suspended campus operations and yet we go on, we persevere, we continue our mission. We should take great pride — Aggie Pride — in that.

Before I bring you this week’s updates, I must share that we have learned that a member of our faculty has been confirmed as positive for COVID-19. They were traveling in Europe and developed symptoms March 19 after they returned. They have been at home since returning to the U.S. and have not been on campus since March 5. For privacy reasons, we cannot release personally identifying information, but the faculty member has informed their departmental colleagues of the diagnosis and is currently self-isolating at home.

Earlier this week, in Dateline, we reported that a UC Davis student had tested positive for the coronavirus after returning home from a UC Education Abroad Program in Spain. They had been studying abroad since summer last year apart from a brief visit to campus in early January. The student is currently self-isolating at home.

We wish them both a full and speedy recovery. It is likely that more cases will be confirmed in our community. It is crucial to continue practicing social distancing, following the guidelines from Yolo County public health, the state and CDC to avoid private and public gatherings of any size outside of your family or living unit, and to limit our travel outside the house to essential needs such as groceries and health care.

It is OK to get out for a walk, but, please, if you plan on enjoying our Arboretum, you must practice social distancing. You should also consider visiting other parts of our beautiful campus.

For students

We are doing our best to smooth your way during this quarter of remote instruction. For example, academic advising goes on, remotely. You can schedule an appointment to connect by phone or Zoom. We encourage you to! We want you to stay on track; your advisor can help.

The Student Affairs COVID-19 FAQ for Students webpage includes an academic advising section with more information. The FAQ also includes updates on
textbook access, mental health resources, tuition and fees, and student employment. Additional information specific to graduate students is available on Graduate Studies’ COVID-19 UC Davis Graduate Education Guidance webpage.

Last week I encouraged you to take a short survey about your technology readiness for spring quarter. We’ve extended the deadline, and we hope you will respond if you haven’t already. The survey provides data for Know Your Students, a tool that gives faculty precise (but anonymous) information on the needs of the students in their classes, so your responses are valuable indeed. (Faculty: You can view the survey data via Canvas. The data can help you plan and teach your classes with awareness of students who have limited access to technology, are taking courses from different time zones, and other challenges. You can also find tips for adapting to these challenges. Data will be updated daily with new survey results.)
 
Also, IET and other campus units have collaborated on a loaner laptop program for eligible students. Financial Aid sent out messages about this program, but if you missed yours, please send an email to laptopcheckout@ucdavis.edu so we can get you set up.

Along with a good laptop, you need good WiFi — and we’ve compiled resources and tips for you — including information about several companies that announced plans to offer free internet service for 60 days to households with students whose instruction has moved online. If you’re staying around campus, remember most buildings will be locked — but there are eduroam hot spots outside (see them mapped here). If you’re looking for indoor WiFi, you can use Shields Library’s 24-Hour Study Room. Wherever you find yourself for remote instruction, please remember to practice social distancing.

P/NP grading

In conjunction with my letter today, the Academic Senate is issuing guidance on undergraduate passed/not passed, or P/NP, grading for spring quarter 2020, as follows:

The Academic Senate recognizes the stresses that students and instructors are currently facing in their academic and personal lives. To reduce academic uncertainty and increase flexibility when trying to adapt to remote instruction, the Academic Senate and administrative partners are announcing the following changes for spring quarter 2020:

  • P/NP deadline extension — The deadline for undergraduate students to opt for P/NP grading, or to revert back to letter grading, has been extended to the last day of instruction for spring 2020 (June 4).
  • The College of Letters and Science and the College of Engineering, which have stricter than one-third P/NP maximums, will likewise exempt spring 2020 units when calculating their college-specific P/NP unit caps.
  • Maximum P/NP unit exception — Current Academic Senate policy (DDR A545.B) states that no more than one-third of the units for graduation taken at UC Davis by an undergraduate student may be taken on a P/NP basis.
    • Amendment to policy (effective immediately) — The Academic Senate is exempting spring quarter 2020 units from this one-third calculation; spring units will not be calculated in the numerator (P/NP units taken) or the denominator (total units taken) of the one-third maximum.
  • These amendments do not override additional college or major limitations on the use of P/NP courses for degree requirements. For example, some colleges require that all courses for majors be taken for a letter grade. Colleges are currently discussing if and how to adjust those letter-graded major requirements for spring 2020 and will communicate any such decisions to students.

The Academic Senate also listed factors for undergraduate students to consider: 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 also provides further information.

S/U grading for graduate students

The Academic Senate and the Office of Graduate Studies are assessing potential Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory, or S/U, flexibilities for spring quarter. They will make an announcement should flexibilities be added.

Coping

I can’t tell you how impressed I am by everyone who is stepping up to not only to support our academic mission, but our mental and physical well-being as well, by being there for one another. The Academic and Staff Assistance Program (ASAP) and Ombuds Office, for example, have posted resources to help us through this time, and both are offering remote services. Counseling Services offers help for students in person, by phone and online.

Campus Recreation has set up Aggies at Home, putting workouts and nutrition advice on Instagram and streaming live classes on Facebook; and Healthy UC Davis has set up a Slack channel on the UC Davis workspace for conversation around health and wellness. We also have the benefit of UC Davis experts on such topics as working from home and surviving social distancing.

Many in our community have stepped up to help gather personal protective equipment for our medical teams, and UC Davis Health personnel are turning out in a big way for emergency blood drives.

I join with Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Hexter and Vice Chancellor Tull when they acknowledge, in their own letter, that we don’t have all the answers. Pieces are still being put in place, and staff and faculty are going the extra mile to do just that, even as they, and all of us, balance challenges and demands in our own homes and personal lives. Yet all of us are determined to see that our students receive the education they deserve. And that is exactly what we will do, starting Monday, even as we continue to advance knowledge through our scholarship and research, care for our patients, and serve our communities, the state, the nation and the world in untold ways.

Go Ags!

Sincerely,

Gary S. May
Chancellor

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