Leaders Advise ‘Maximum Flexibility’ on Instruction

A letter from Chancellor Gary S. May; Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter; Kristin H. Lagattuta, chair of the Davis Division of the Academic Senate; and David Lubarsky, vice chancellor, Human Health Sciences, and CEO, UC Davis Health.

Dear Colleagues,

As you know, the situation regarding the new coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve in California, nationally and internationally. The campus provides updates about the evolving situation at https://www.ucdavis.edu/health/pandemics/coronavirus/news/coronavirus-information-uc-davis-campus.

The University of California revised its instructions on travel on March 5. Please consider the potential for additional countries to be added to the restricted travel list which could result in unplanned mandatory quarantine periods upon return to the U.S. It may well be advisable to limit nonessential domestic travel. Consult https://globalaffairs.ucdavis.edu/announcements/travel-announcement-novel-coronavirus for the most up-to-date information on travel advice.

On March 6, Yolo County reported one confirmed case of COVID-19. There are, however, no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Davis campus. After careful review of our local situation and following consultation with health professionals regarding the specific risk represented by classroom meetings, we write to inform you that we are not mandating the cancellation of in-person class meetings for the week of March 9.

We are, of course, aware that some universities have canceled in-person classes, and given the fluidity of the situation and if new information or guidance becomes available, we may have to change our plans at very short notice. We remain in constant communication with other UC campuses to profit from their thinking in the context of their local situations and are constantly reviewing the advisability of hosting other, nonacademic events on our campuses. To repeat, however: The operational status of UC Davis, both in Davis and in Sacramento, remains unchanged at this time. (UC Davis Health has provided relevant information for patients and visitors at https://health.ucdavis.edu/health-news/contenthub/novel-coronavirus-faq-for-uc-davis-health-patients-and-visitors/2020/02.)

At the same time, however, we are advising maximum flexibility and encouraging faculty or students who either should not or do not wish to attend in-person classes to complete the work of the quarter via alternate means. The Academic Senate has made provisions to enable one-time instructional flexibilities for the remainder of Winter Quarter 2020, now entering its 10th and final week of classes. While the instructor of record has authorization to implement these flexibilities, we strongly encourage instructors to coordinate at the departmental level as much as possible. (We note that some professional schools are not on the quarter calendar. They are encouraged to avail themselves of the same flexibility.)

Effective immediately, for the balance of Winter Quarter, instructors can move part or all of their remaining course content online. Unless instructors shift totally to online mode, to the extent possible they should provide supplementary online materials to help absent students continue the course at the same rate as students who continue to come to class. Clear communication of these options is important so that no student who is feeling unwell feels pressured to attend class. Likewise, any instructor who is feeling unwell should arrange with their chair for assistance, as they would in any other situation.

The Keep Teaching website provides information on remote instruction resources. We will soon provide a schedule for webinars for those who would find them helpful in effecting these accommodations.

While at this point in time we are assuming that Winter Quarter finals will be held as scheduled, the Senate has enabled and we are all encouraging maximal flexibility. Instructors may substitute a take-home exam or other assignment for the announced final examination, or they may drop the final exam altogether and grade students based on already completed work. (Instructors may choose to re-weight the graded material but are encouraged to minimize major changes in how students are evaluated.)

Instructors who so wish may hold the final exam online. Information on how instructors can set this up is available via the Keep Teaching website.

Lastly, if necessary, instructors may work with individual students to take an incomplete grade and finish remaining coursework at a later time, although in most cases this would be the least desirable option insofar as it introduces delay and uncertainty, which could prove especially difficult for graduating students.

Clearly, all these different types of flexibility will become critical should we need in future to mandate a change in operational status. For this reason, and with the Spring Quarter in mind, we strongly encourage instructors to familiarize themselves with the range of options and either implement them or prepare themselves to do so at potentially short notice.

All the above should be taken as an extension of the Message on Planning for Instructional Continuity posted March 5, which provides links to many critical resources. Faculty and students alike will want to know that we are also providing comparable guidance and appropriate flexibility to our staff colleagues. The guidance HR has shared with supervisors is accessible at https://hr.ucdavis.edu/coronavirus.

Finally and most importantly, it is crucial for all members of the UC Davis community to heed the recommendations for preventive care which have the greatest likelihood of protecting us as individuals as well as the larger community by diminishing the chances of transmission of the virus:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds, or, as an alternative, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Stay home if you are sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands.

In addition, it is recommended that people practice good health habits: Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food. If you have not received your annual flu shot, please schedule one with your provider to help protect yourself against the flu. And do not smoke or use e-cigarettes. For information on “People at Risk for Serious Illness From COVID-19,” please consult https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html

Thank you for all your efforts.

Best regards,

  • Gary S. May
  • Chancellor
  • Ralph J. Hexter
  • Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor 
  • Kristin H. Lagattuta 
  • Chair, Davis Division of the Academic Senate
  • David Lubarsky
  • Vice Chancellor, Human Health Sciences
  • CEO, UC Davis Health


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