Answering questions in this week’s “Thursday Thoughts” Instagram post, above, Chancellor May discusses his family’s vacation plans in the time of COVID-19 and gives advice to an incoming freshman, while LeShelle describes how she manages her job (working remotely for CNN in Atlanta).
To the UC Davis Community:
As I’ve said all along during the pandemic, UC Davis is pressing ahead with its mission, and that includes building for the future. And so last week and this week we held a celebration for the Ernest E. Tschannen Eye Institute, now under construction on the Sacramento campus, and a groundbreaking for the Edwards Family Athletics Center on the Davis campus. We had been calling the latter project the Student-Athlete Performance Center, but, at the groundbreaking Wednesday (June 24) we announced we were naming the center after Bruce Edwards ’60 and his family for their generous support of this project and many other UC Davis endeavors through the years. Thank you, Edwards family!
Mr. Tschannen, a grateful patient, made the donation that enables us to build the eye institute, which, according to our Dr. Mark Mannis, will usher in “a new era of eye care in Northern California.” Mr. Tschannen’s gift has the distinction of being UC Davis’ largest ever from an individual. Thank you!
We livestreamed both programs, and had a limited number of people at each site — with proper physical distancing — to give remarks. We had to be at the athletics center construction site — it was a groundbreaking, after all, and they needed us to do the digging!
The Edwards Family Athletics Center, being built at the northeast corner of UC Davis Health Stadium, is impressive. The center will devote considerable space to strength training and conditioning, while also providing space and resources to assist student-athletes in their personal growth, educational pursuits and career exploration. The center will also have a focus on sports medicine, including a UC Davis Health clinic for student-athletes and the public — as part of Aggie Athletics’ partnership with UC Davis Health.
Nonathletes will also benefit, as interns in sports medicine, for example, and as trainers and assistants for our teams. An auditorium will be available for general-use instruction and other programs.
The center will overlook the first part of this project, completed last year: a practice field with real turf. This week we gave it a name, too: Bob Biggs Field, after the former Aggies’ quarterback and longtime football coach — 35 years in all, the last 20 as the head coach.
The Legislature and Governor Newsom arrived at a budget deal this week; the Senate approved it yesterday, and the Assembly was expected to approve the deal today. Given the pandemic’s hit to state finances, the plan cuts the university’s budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 by $300.8 million (8.1 percent), broken down as follows: $43.2 million to the Office of the President (a 12.7 percent cut) and the remaining $257.6 million to the campuses (a 7.6 percent cut).
A provision of the budget legislation allows those cuts to be restored and, for the campuses, collectively, to receive an additional $170.8 million (4.6 percent), but only if the federal government provides sufficient assistance to states in another COVID-19 emergency spending bill.
With a caveat like that, you can understand why we are bracing for the worst and hoping for the best.
You already know that in early April the university system said there would be no COVID-19-related layoffs for career employees through June 30. Now we must talk about what happens next. Our Davis and Sacramento campuses are different, of course, so, while we can say we do not anticipate layoffs at UC Davis Health, the situation is less clear for the Davis campus. We are certain about this: Indefinite layoffs will be the tool of last resort to address COVID-19 related fiscal challenges. Before layoffs are considered, managers should evaluate other temporary options that could get us through this pandemic together. Read Layoffs as Last Resort on the Human Resources website.
We have already taken steps to cut costs, including a salary freeze for policy staff and a one-year pause in the merit program. Our vacancy management program is scrutinizing hiring decisions so we can first consider colleagues who may benefit from being reassigned. Other options are being explored at a systemwide level.
Layoffs may ultimately be unavoidable in some areas, and we will handle that with compassion, but until then we’ll continue advancing solutions to retain and support our workforce.
The continuing crisis
As California and other states have reopened more businesses, and people have started interacting with greater numbers of people, cases of COVID-19 are on the increase. The UC Davis Medical Center has seen an increase in patients over the past week, but, because we’ve been continually preparing, we are meeting everyone’s needs, and will continue to do so if the patient count climbs even more.
Meanwhile, our infectious diseases specialists continue to encourage people to practice physical distancing, wear face coverings, wash your hands — and especially avoid gatherings. More information is available in this news release.
About those face coverings: They have been required in Yolo County since April 24, and statewide since June 18. The state says you must wear a mask in high-risk situations, including:
- When you are inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space.
- While engaged in work, at your workplace or off-site, when you interact with the public, or if the public has access to your workplace.
- When working in or walking through common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators and parking facilities.
- In any room or enclosed area where other people (except for members of your own household or residence) are present when unable to physically distance.
- Outdoors in public spaces when maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from people who are not members of your household or residence is not feasible.
As more people return to campus, we are seeing too many instances of noncompliance. Sometimes we see people who have their coverings dangling around their chins at times when they should be covering nose and mouth, say, in meetings or elsewhere where appropriate physical distancing is not possible. So, please: Wear a face covering, if for no other reason than to protect other people.
I also want to remind you that we are still immersed in planning for the fall. We’ve already told you that we expect to have a mix of remote and in-person classes — and we know you want details. Our Instruction Scenario Planning Group has developed draft guidelines for the resumption of in-person instruction, and today Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Hexter charged an implementation work group to:
- Identify those classes that will be taught solely remotely, taught remotely and in-person, or taught solely in-person
- Develop and oversee a process of assigning appropriately sized classrooms for in-person instruction
- For in-person classes, work with department chairs and deans’ offices to develop course plans that implement current public health guidance
We hope to have more information for you by mid-July.
If you’ve not already done so, I suggest subscribing to the For Your Information e-newsletter from our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In yesterday’s edition, Vice Chancellor Tull acknowledged the dozens of ally statements issued by campus leaders and departments in the wake of the George Floyd killing and related protests in support of Black Lives Matter. In the coming weeks, she said, we will be moving from ally statements to inviting the submission of action plans — and that we must “go boldly.” It’s what we do, as embodied in our strategic plan, To Boldly Go, a document that includes this goal: “Embrace diversity, practice inclusive excellence and strive for equity.”
VC Tull writes about a “call to action” meeting last week, and notes what, for her, was the most poignant part of the session: A member of the Graduate School of Management’s new Action for Diversity Community Group said that all could benefit from sitting in the discomfort of this “uncomfortable reckoning.”
“This uncomfortable reckoning is necessary,” Vice Chancellor Tull wrote, “and it is part of going boldly! As we sit with discomfort, and go boldly, we also have to take care to not cause more harm along the way. Please be proactive in making mental health resources available to faculty, staff and students. Thank you to all of the units that are providing mental health services, and to departments and units that see needs for additional services and are taking the initiative to provide them.”
The UC Davis Health Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, for example, has been holding Racial Healing Circles (the next one is tonight, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.).
VC Tull and her office are also recommending a virtual celebration of Juneteenth. The celebration began June 19 and continues through this Sunday, June 28 — so take some time to check it out this weekend.
Subscribe to DEI’s For Your Information: Look for the “Join Email List” box in the upper right-hand corner of the newsletter page.
Seeing people retire from the university or otherwise leave our units is hard enough, made more difficult this year because we are unable to gather for in-person sendoffs. But all around the university, people are coming up with creative solutions — like the parade we held Wednesday for a number of people retiring from or transitioning out of the Offices of the Chancellor and Provost, including the provost himself, Ralph Hexter, who is stepping down after 9½ years in the position and returning to his research and teaching. (His successor, Mary Croughan, starts next week.)
Wednesday, our honorees gathered with proper physical distance under tents in front of Mrak Hall, and we brought the parade to them, led by firetrucks and a police car with sirens and lights on. They drove around the Mrak Hall Circle, followed by upwards of 50 other vehicles, many of them decorated, as the people inside bid farewell to their colleagues. As I like to say, this is who we are.
A note about next week and beyond: I’ll send my letter on Thursday, July 2, a day before our Fourth of July holiday, and, after that, I will continue with my letters every Friday through the summer.
Gary S. May