In this week’s Thursday Thoughts, Chancellor May and LeShelle are joined for the second week in a row by daughter Simone, and all three talk about the biggest lessons they have learned over the last year. Other topics include classroom capacity in the fall and the timing of student vaccinations.
To the UC Davis Community:
Much comes to mind as we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic: our grief over the devastating loss of life around the world, the disruptions to our family and university lives, the extraordinary challenges to our well-being.
Moreover, I am thinking of how far we have come and who has gotten us here. I will be forever grateful to our staff, faculty and students for their amazing adaptability — making it possible for us to continue with our teaching and learning, our research and our public service.
I am also grateful for our city-campus partnership, Healthy Davis Together, which recognizes that the coronavirus (like our faculty, staff and students) does not stay on one side or the other of the city-campus boundary, that we must work together on COVID-19 testing and education and more.
Wednesday (March 17), in a letter that appeared in The Davis Enterprise, Mayor Gloria Partida and I said, in part: “We have been fortunate as a community. We have rallied around our local businesses, found ways to keep up with family and friends from a distance, and prioritized the collective health of our community. As a result, we have been able to keep our COVID-19 numbers low.” We have posted our letter on the Healthy Davis Together website.
We thanked the community for doing its part to keep Davis healthy, and implored our neighbors: “Please keep doing what you’re doing to hold COVID-19 at bay. It’s important that we continue to wear face coverings, stay 6 feet apart from others, wash our hands, and, yes, continue to get tested regularly for COVID-19 even after getting the vaccine.”
We urge our campus community to keep up the same protocols, as we wait for more people to get vaccinated and for further guidance from experts who are still evaluating the COVID-19 vaccines.
Vigil for Atlanta victims
The Davis Phoenix Coalition and many other community organizations are sponsoring a vigil at 7 o’clock tonight (March 19) at Davis Central Park, for the eight people shot dead Wednesday at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. This tragic incident further heightens concern about the increase in violence against the Asian Pacific Islander community. This was the subject of a statement I issued last week, a statement I would urge you to read if you have not done so already.
Unfortunately, I cannot attend tonight’s vigil, but Renetta Tull, our vice chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, will attend and read my statement. Vice Chancellor Tull reached out quickly this week to students impacted by the senseless killings in Atlanta or other hate crimes, or who are in crisis, reminding them of crisis counselors who are just a phone call away: 530-752-0871, then 0. Please know that you are not alone.
One step at a time
As you know, we have resumed some campus operations since the suspension a year ago, and we are now taking slow and tentative steps toward an in-person fall. Take research, for example, which had an initial shutdown a year ago (except for critical operations). It has gradually ramped up to Phase 2x and is now preparing to go to Phase 3 of the On-Campus Research Ramp-Up Plan, effective next Thursday (March 25), allowing up to two-thirds of research personnel to be in a lab or other workspace at any time.
Our Fall Planning Work Group is considering the resumption of all campus operations, and, as part of the process, is asking for questions, ideas and concerns about in-person activities in the fall, including in-person instruction. We’ve set up a form here, on the Campus Ready website, to submit your feedback.
We also have a Workplace Reimagined Working Group, addressing the significant changes we have seen over the last year in where and how our employees do their work, and acknowledging they have proven that remote work, at least occasionally, is a viable and efficient way to deliver some of our services. Working remotely can save money, open up space and enhance employee satisfaction. As we look toward in-person campus activities in the fall, we must strike a balance that realizes the benefits of flexible work arrangements, while delivering critical services to our students, employees and research enterprise.
Our chief human resources officer, Christine Lovely, who is the co-sponsor of the Workplace Reimagined Working Group, says that while the pandemic forced our immediate switch to remote work, we should not just automatically switch back to the way we did things before. Instead, we need to use what we have learned to reimagine the workplace with innovation, sustainability and employee experience in mind.
The working group is tasked with presenting recommendations by this summer on implementing flexible work arrangements for UC Davis staff. In the meantime, staff should continue their remote or hybrid arrangements, where operationally feasible.
Current students, new students
I am continually impressed by our students. Healthy Davis Together made them an offer: Stay on campus or in town during spring break, and receive a $75 grant to pay for projects and activities within their households. We had an overwhelming response — so much so that next week Healthy Davis Together will give out 2,500 grants. Students will pick them up at one of four Davis businesses, each corresponding to a project/activity category: Get Active, Get Artsy, Home Improvement or Let’s Stay In. Our communications teams are taking a look at our students’ “staycation” plans, and we will feature some of them in a news story Tuesday, March 30, and on social media before then: #UCDavisStaycation. I can’t wait.
Last week we announced the Activities and Recreation Center will reopen April 19 for students, with capacity limited according to the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. You can find more information, including an FAQ, on our ARC Returns to Operations webpage. We are in the process of hiring and training our student staff who are so instrumental to ARC operations. If you are interested
Yesterday we sent admissions notices to the freshman class of 2025 — and joyous responses soon took over our social media channels. We share in the excitement of our newest Aggies and look forward to seeing them on campus (not on Zoom). Here’s my congratulations video for our newly admitted students. Go New Ags! #New2UCDavis
Checking in elsewhere
- Happy Nowruz! — It’s the Iranian New Year, also known as Persian New Year, Sunday, March 21. Here’s a video message I recorded, saying, in part: “Nowruz is an opportunity to refresh, reconnect and look forward to a prosperous year. Though we can’t meet in person, I’m grateful that our students can join virtually and celebrate. This kind of cultural exchange is exactly what our communities need, especially in these socially distanced times.” The organization Iranian Students of California is hosting a virtual Nowruz Festival, starting today; learn more on this Facebook event page.
- The Big Dance — Congratulations to our women’s basketball team, champions of the Big West Conference for the fifth year in a row and now off to the NCAA tournament in San Antonio, where they will meet Missouri State in a first-round game at 4:30 p.m. PDT Monday (March 22). Go Ags!
We have come through a challenging time in our history, for our university and community, our country and our world. And here we are at UC Davis, one year in, not only surviving, but thriving, as I said recently in my State of the Campus address. All of us have contributed in one way or another: Our staff, many of you working from home (while caring for children), and others who, because of their jobs, are still coming to campus. Our researchers, taking on coronavirus challenges, including vaccine trials. Our UC Davis Health team, caring for patients. Our Davis campus team, developing a nationally recognized COVID-19 asymptomatic testing system. Our vaccine clinic teams. Our faculty, quickly converting to remote instruction. Our students, keeping up with their studies and rolling with the punches.
I cannot thank you enough.
Gary S. May
News and Media Relations, 530-752-1930