Happy New Year and welcome to winter quarter 2021!
As we begin a new year, one key takeaway from last year is that our Aggie community knows how to rise to a challenge. While we still have much to overcome with the pandemic, I’m optimistic about the many things I know are ahead of us.
UC Davis Health began administering the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine last month to thousands of frontline and essential workers. Toward the end of December, it was my turn, after those frontline and essential workers and after UC Davis Health employees were offered the vaccine. It was fast and painless.
Please understand that I accepted the opportunity to get vaccinated because of the potential positive impact I might have to encourage other people of color to do the same. I also agreed to be vaccinated knowing that our medical center had received increased doses from Pfizer and Moderna, and I was not first in line at any point.
The level of hope and renewal the vaccine brings is encouraging, and as more members of our community and the public become eligible to receive the vaccine, our confidence will only increase. As the vaccinations continue to roll out, I encourage you and everyone who is part of the university to get vaccinated to protect the health and well-being of our shared community.
Like you, I have missed our vibrant campus bustling with energy. If all goes well, we will return to in-person instruction, research and operations in the fall. Of course, we will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our community, so any plans will include options for those who are concerned about their wellness. Continue to refer to our Campus Ready website for the latest information.
Now let’s talk about a few other items we should look forward to in 2021.
Financial relief possible
The pandemic caused strife across the country, and here on campus, our financial losses have been significant. There are some encouraging developments from Congress, which may provide further relief to higher education, including funding that expands financial support to our students, stabilizes employment, mitigates impacts to research, and more.
Gains for our most vulnerable students
Last month, I joined University of California President Drake to express my support for a federal judge’s decision to fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. Members of our community — faculty, students, staff and alumni —have continued to speak up for justice for our undocumented students. I’m hopeful that our national leadership will explore a permanent solution for DACA, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and many other undocumented immigrant students, including a path to citizenship. Undocumented immigrant students must have access to the basic and human rights afforded to U.S. citizens.
Enrollment applications are up
I’m thrilled that UC Davis and our sister campuses received a record number of undergraduate and graduate applicants for fall 2021. The excellence of our faculty is unequaled. We are reminded that the world-class strength of a UC education is more apparent in difficult times, when an institution like ours demonstrates very clearly its public service mission. If more applicants are from underserved and disadvantaged backgrounds, then we are truly at our best.
Aggie Square on the rise
The pandemic hasn’t slowed our progress on Aggie Square. The UC Regents approved the project design and business terms in November. We’re working with the City of Sacramento to formalize our partnership, including how both entities will seek input from the community. All of this means we are on track to begin construction this year.
Striving for inclusive excellence
We’ll continue to accelerate our third strategic goal of making UC Davis a model for diversity and inclusion. As we continue to see racial injustice and social unrest around the country, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has developed tools and campus resources to facilitate important conversations and address racial trauma. Above all, UC Davis is a place where everyone is valued, seen and heard. Let’s continue to model that as we progress through this year.
There will be more nuggets of optimism along the way. Much of that is due to you—the people who make up our community.
Thanks to each of you for working so hard to keep UC Davis running smoothly during uncertain times. The compassion, kindness and patience demonstrated by our Aggie community has been a beacon of hope for me. Better days are ahead.
Gary S. May