With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, and the winter break not far behind, I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts this season — one of the most challenging our university community has ever faced.
In the spirit of Thursday’s holiday, let me begin by expressing my deep gratitude, to each of you, for stepping up to meet the new demands necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with respect to your teaching, research, patient care and service.
While I am not with you on the front lines of designing and teaching remote academic courses, my role as chief academic officer has made me keenly aware of the challenges you have been facing and continue to face today. These include dealing with the inevitable practical problems related to remote instruction, helping your students navigate their mental health and academic challenges, trying to make timely progress on your research and scholarship, and attending to family needs in the midst of innumerable pandemic-related obstacles.
I am equally mindful of the emotional and psychological toll that our current circumstances are taking on you. It is common for us, at least some of the time, to feel heavy in spirit or depressed, to have lower-than-usual energy or motivation, and to have trouble focusing on our work. Given that you, as faculty, are at the very heart of our educational and research enterprises, as well as our ability to benefit the world, all of us in campus leadership recognize how important it is that you have what you need not only to do your best work, but also to thrive and enjoy a healthy work-life balance. Please allow yourself time each day to do something that helps you relax and recharge, such as taking a walk, participating in a hobby, reading a book or talking with a friend.
We will continue to work on your behalf, but you can help us do that by making your needs known to Academic Senate or Academic Federation leaders, or those in your college, school or department. Meanwhile, I urge you and your students to make use of the following resources:
- Support for faculty and staff during this difficult period can be found through the Academic and Staff Assistance Program, or ASAP.
- Students in crisis can call Counseling Services at 530-752-0871 in North Hall (generally 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with reduced hours during the holidays) to be connected to a counselor.
- After hours, students can access crisis services by calling 530-752-0871 and following the prompts to speak to a counselor immediately.
- At any time, students can use the crisis text line by texting RELATE to 741741.
- If you have a concern about a particular student, please notify the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs, or OSSJA, by filling out the linked form here. One of the options is to have a case worker follow up with the student.
Indeed, the Thanksgiving and winter holidays make very salient the costs that this crisis has been exacting on our personal lives and on the workings of our society. It has sharply limited the human relations that are essential to our happiness. Even more sobering, a great many people here and around the world have been lost to the virus, including some of our family members and friends. These costs are especially painful at the time of year when we so value togetherness, and we typically gather with loved ones to celebrate our time-cherished social traditions.
That said, and once again in the spirit of the season, I want to remind you of how much our community has to be thankful for. Most notably, there has been very significant progress in how the world cares for patients with COVID-19, in the development of effective vaccines and in our own university’s related efforts, including our asymptomatic testing program. In addition, we can expect a more proactive, unified and scientifically informed coronavirus response from the incoming Biden-Harris administration. For all of these reasons, I believe that we will see increased campus activities in fall quarter 2021. It cannot come too soon!
Another reason to be thankful is that, under the new administration, we will likely see desirable changes in certain regulations and policies that directly affect our work and community. These involve a wide range of areas, including renewed attention and support for social justice, environmental protections, climate change, the DACA program, international students and Title IX, as well as funding for HBCUs, Pell Grants and student loans, among others. There are indeed reasons for hope.
In closing, let me thank you for your observance of our coronavirus safety protocols, including the wearing of face coverings, regular hand-washing, physical distancing and the avoidance of large gatherings. Thank you also for completing the Daily Symptom Survey and weekly asymptomatic COVID-19 testing if you are coming on campus. All of us are experiencing protocol impatience and fatigue. But the importance of faithfully following these measures cannot be overstated, especially now when the virus is surging. These precautions have been proven to be effective in helping us reach an essential goal of reducing new infections and hospitalizations.
Please accept my warmest wishes for a wonderful extended weekend to share gratitude, either in the presence of your household or small group, or by connecting over the phone, Zoom or another virtual medium. And please know how much your contributions to UC Davis are appreciated and valued, now and always.
Mary S. Croughan
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor