Chancellor May profile headshot looking hopeful.

Checking In With Chancellor May: Summer

To the UC Davis Community:


I hope that you have the opportunity to make the most of this summer, as best you can under the circumstances.

One of the silver linings of this pandemic is spending more time with your quarantine-mates — which, in most cases, I think, would be family. That’s a good thing, because family is something we all need at this time, more than ever.

Please consider your travel plans carefully (see travel guidance posted by UCOP and the summer travel advisory posted by UC Davis Global Affairs) and remember there are plenty of things to do close to home: Get outdoors, enjoy the weather, call a friend, have a Zoom reunion, relax in a hammock, read a book (or two). Most of all, take time for yourself, because the new academic year will be here before you know it.

We will be providing further updates on our plans for the fall sometime next week. Thank you to everyone for your patience as we carefully evaluate which courses we can have in-person within the parameters of public health guidance, for the safety and well-being of our campus community.

The coronavirus threat persists, as you know. The case numbers we present here for the Davis campus should serve as a reminder to wear a face covering (they are required statewide) for your protection and the protection of those around you; maintain a minimum of 6 feet of physical distance from other people; and stay home as much as possible.

You should always be wearing your face covering indoors on campus. Unfortunately, we are seeing too many instances of people who are not complying — especially among students in the 24-Hour Study Room at Shields Library. For increased safety, the library will soon scale back the room’s hours, making it the Eight-Hour Study Room, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays — so library personnel can always be present to monitor face covering compliance. The room will be closed on weekends. Another change: The library will no longer allow food and drink (other than water) in the room, so as to foster healthy behavior — that is, to maximize the time students have their face coverings on. The library will update its coronavirus-related resources and services webpage before the new hours take effect Monday, Aug. 3.

Outside, you should wear a mask whenever circumstances prevent at least 6 feet of physical distancing.

Face covering compliance will become even more important on campus as more people return. Yes, we want our employees to continue working from home if they can, but other folks are returning to do work they cannot do from home.

Sick leave, vacation time

Employees: Take note of these important policy changes during the pandemic:

SICK LEAVE — Under normal circumstances, employees can use sick leave only if they are sick or someone in their family is sick, or for other reasons spelled out in the Absence From Work Policy. Now, for the period July 1 to Dec. 31, President Janet Napolitano has approved a rule change for policy-covered staff, allowing them to use sick leave for time off to care for their children who cannot be physically present in their schools or daycare. (A similar policy expansion for represented employees is subject to collective bargaining.)

VACATION HOURS — The university already adjusted its vacation rules for policy-covered staff, lifting the caps on how much vacation time they could accrue. The university authorized the exemption, effective July 1 to Dec. 31, in consideration of employees who have had or will have their vacation plans interrupted by the pandemic (say, because of increased workload or travel restrictions).

For our health

As the pandemic continues, so does the work of our physicians and scientists on the Sacramento and Davis campuses, providing hospital care for the sick, and research for treatments and vaccines. Just this week we announced UC Davis Health’s participation in a clinical trial of an antibody cocktail for COVID-19.

Thank you again to our health care team and researchers across the university who have been at this since March. We are persistent about making a difference in people’s lives.

Along these same lines, I would like to congratulate David Lubarsky on his two-year anniversary as vice chancellor of Human Health Sciences and CEO of UC Davis Health. Read his recap of the last year at the health system, including its work on COVID-19.

New ways of policing

Today and next week are significant in our efforts to approach campus policing in new ways. We are not alone, as communities across the nation are examining practices that too often lead to unjust killings.

Our campus Police Department has made significant progress since 2011 — with new policies on crowd control and use of force, by diversifying its ranks and hiring alumni (there’s no better way to have a department that represents the students it serves), and by speaking out for social justice. The university established a Police Accountability Board in 2014, boosting the department’s transparency. You’ll find more information about the Police Department and its initiatives on a new websitethat launched today.

Of particular note, check out “The UC Davis Difference,” about how the department is challenging the way things have been done in the past. “The UC Davis Police Department is not afraid to make changes and move forward boldly,” the website says. “Responding and growing with our communities’ needs on both the Davis and Sacramento campuses — with our eyes on justice, social inclusion, transparency and integrity — is important to how we can accomplish effective policing.”

Next week, UC Davis takes another important step with the first meeting of the Next Generation Reforms to Advance Campus Safety Task Force, which I established in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

We are bringing together more than 30 students, faculty and staff to discuss and assess how the Police Department should look, operate and engage on both the Davis and Sacramento campuses. The co-chairs are Dean Kevin Johnson of the School of Law and Vice Chancellor Renetta Garrison Tull of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Also next week, I will address the Board of Regents about our efforts to date and our review of campus policing. I’ll talk about our Cadet Academy for UC Davis students (we’ve hired 10 academy graduates) and how we no longer deploy officers to protests, giving students plenty of space for free expression. I will discuss how we work with Yolo County’s Neighborhood Court, a restorative justice program — where we send our nonviolent and low-level cases.

I’ll address our department’s recent training focus on de-escalation techniques, and mental health and crisis response. And how we are exploring a partnership with our campus Fire Department to train its paramedics in mental health response — so they can take those calls and hopefully ease tensions that sometimes arise when the police show up. We do something similar at UC Davis Health, where hospital staff members assist police on all crisis intervention calls.

Still, it is clear that much more needs to be done in the name of campus safety. We now have the opportunity to make significant and truly meaningful change — and to be a leader in the UC system.

More on diversity

In last week’s letter, I talked about “Embracing Diversity” — one of the goals in our 10-year strategic plan, To Boldly Go. We followed up Wednesday (July 22) with a statement outlining our progress in diversifying our student body, in particular, with the enrollment gains we have made since 2000 in our Chicanx/Latinx and African American undergraduate populations. We have more work to do, and we are doing it, with partnerships and student success centers and other initiatives.

The more diverse our university, the better we are.


Gary S. May

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