Checking In With Chancellor May: Cautiously Optimistic

In this week’s Thursday Thoughts, above, Chancellor May gives an update on construction in Davis and Sacramento, and he and LeShelle go old-school talking about a hip-hop spinning class she could teach and his dominance of Trivial Pursuit, circa 1995.

To the UC Davis Community:

The pandemic may have changed how we do our work, but not the quality, as evidenced by our continued good showing in rankings from the influential Quacquarelli Symonds, or QS.

The 2021 QS World University Rankings by Subject, which came out Wednesday, put us first in the nation and second in the world in two categories: veterinary science, and agriculture and forestry. Further, we are in the top-50 world rankings in seven other subjects and top-20 national rankings in eight. Well done, UC Davis!

As I said in our news release: I’m proud to see UC Davis continue to garner recognition for the world-class education we offer students and the powerful impact of our research and service.

The good news comes as we near the end of our fourth consecutive term of all or nearly all remote instruction: spring, summer and fall 2020, and this winter quarter. So what comes next, given that people are being vaccinated and infection rates are declining? Well, we are being cautious like we’ve been all along, following public health guidelines, so our plan is to return to prepandemic operations in the fall. This is subject, of course, to the evolving nature of the pandemic.

In the interim ...

While you are waiting for vaccination, and after you have received it, please continue to follow health and safety protocols: face coverings, physical distancing, hand-washing and regular asymptomatic testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that while the COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping you from getting sick, scientists are still learning how well the vaccines prevent you from spreading the virus to others, even if you do not get sick. “For this reason, even after vaccination, we need to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions,” according to the CDC.

In addition, UC Davis asks everyone in the university community to avoid all nonessential travel during spring break, March 20-24. For students looking for something to do, Healthy Davis Together can help! The city-campus partnership is offering Spring Break Grants of $75 apiece to be used for “staycations” — and the response has been awesome so far.

Students have until 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 10, to apply. The first 750 applications to meet all qualifications will be awarded grants to be redeemed at selected Davis businesses, where students can purchase supplies in four categories: Get Active, Get Artsy, Home Improvement and Let’s Stay In. Spring quarter begins Thursday, March 25, and then we have a holiday, César Chávez Day, the very next day.

As with previous quarters during the pandemic, the Academic Senate has approved flexible policies on grading and final exams, summarized below. Look for complete information on the Academic Senate’s COVID-19 webpage. Additional instructional and advising guidance for students is available on the Campus Ready Student FAQ.

Undergraduate final exams in spring quarter

The Academic Senate announced a waiver of its requirement for final exams in undergraduate courses in spring 2021. Instructors will decide if their courses will have final exams, and that information must be provided to students in the syllabus/course outline by the end of the first week of classes.

As part of this waiver, the Committee on Courses of Instruction emphasized that final exams are used to demonstrate cumulative (or comprehensive) understanding of course materials. The committee encourages instructors to explore alternative assessment methods that will achieve similar goals, as appropriate for their courses. Some examples of alternative assessment methods can be found on the Keep Teaching website.

P/NP for undergraduates in spring quarter

The Academic Senate also announced flexibilities pertaining to Passed/Not Passed (P/NP) grading for undergraduates in spring 2021:

  • Deadline extension — Students will have until the last day of instruction for spring 2021 (June 3) to opt for P/NP grading or to revert back to letter grading.
  • Students not in good academic standing — They may opt to take specific courses on a P/NP basis up to the limits specified in Davis Division Regulation A545(B) via petition and approval by their dean’s office.
  • Maximum P/NP unit exception — Current Academic Senate policy, DDR A545(B), states that no more than one-third of the units for graduation taken at UC Davis by an undergraduate student may be taken on a P/NP basis. Spring 2021 units are exempt from this one-third calculation; units taken P/NP will not be calculated in the numerator (P/NP units taken) or the denominator (total units taken) of the one-third maximum. This P/NP maximum unit exception does not override colleges’ P/NP unit caps for graduation if such caps are more restrictive. This P/NP maximum unit exception also does not override additional college or major limitations on the use of P/NP courses for degree requirements.

S/U for graduate students in spring quarter

The Academic Senate announced the following flexibilities for Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading in spring 2021:

  • Deadline extension — Graduate students will have until the last day of instruction (June 3) to submit Grading Option Change request forms for spring 2021.
  • Maximum S/U course exception — Current Academic Senate policy, DDR A546(A), limits the number of optional S/U courses allowed each term. For spring 2021, graduate students in good standing (or who receive approval from the Office of Graduate Studies) are authorized to undertake, in addition to courses graded on an S/U-only basis, not more than two courses on an optional S/U basis. Students should consult with their graduate advisors when considering additional S/U coursework.

Beyond spring and summer ...

Returning to prepandemic operations in the fall means students should be thinking now about housing. We are recommending you make your decisions as soon as possible — and we have guidance and resources for you. Here’s the link to a letter sent by email yesterday to all students on this subject, signed by Pablo Reguerín, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, and Jean-Pierre Delplanque, vice provost and dean of Graduate Studies, as well as student leaders Kyle Krueger, ASUCD president, and Jonathan Minnick, Graduate Student Association president.

“While the housing decision is a personal one for each student and family, you are also not alone in making this decision,” the letter states. “Campus is here to support you in your search for housing information and evaluating your options. We recommend that students read their lease or housing agreement carefully and understand the lease terms, options for termination, subleasing or any other options that could add flexibility to the agreement. For example, some properties may offer a quarter-by-quarter leasing term, which may be a more desirable option in the case of an unexpected shift in public health guidance.”

The letter includes a list and contact information for housing resources.

In regard to our Davis campus employees who are working remotely and when they might return to campus, we are likely to see this happen in the coming months — but we do not have any dates yet, pending planning by units. Our newly established Fall Planning Work Group has begun meeting, and we will communicate more specific information as soon as we can.

Testing updates

ARC kiosk (for students and employees):

  • Photo ID now required.
  • This kiosk will be open through spring break. Regular hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week, with extended hours on Wednesdays, 6 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Note these early closures, at 3 p.m. Thursday, March 11; and 3 p.m. Friday, March 19 and 26, and April 2.
  • Appointments required through the Health-e-Messaging portal.
  • Campus testing website

Healthy Davis Together:

  • New testing location open at Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School, 1441 Danbury St., south Davis.
  • Other testing sites: Davis Senior Center, Veterans Memorial Center and Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Appointments required through the Healthy Davis Together website.

Vaccination update

With employees in the higher education sector now eligible for vaccinations, you may be asked to verify your employment, say, if you receive your vaccinations from your health provider or a community clinic. This verification is available on UCPath. Start with “Employee Actions” in the dashboard at the left-hand side of the portal, then go to “Income and Taxes” and then “Verification of Employment.” At the bottom of the page, you will see a blue bar labeled “Generate Summary Report” — click on it for a report you can show to verify your UC Davis employment.

Speaking of vaccinations ...

As you know, we have been dealing with limited vaccine supply — so our advice remains the same: Get your shots wherever you can, from your health care provider or a pharmacy or a county clinic. And rest assured, when our supply picks up, we are ready to get those doses in people’s arms.

I stand with President Drake in the comments he made in a video message earlier this week: “The COVID-19 vaccine is the best way we can protect ourselves and the people we love.” President Drake, a physician, goes on to say: “I’m here to reassure you that the vaccine is proven to be safe and effective. All of us have a role to play in bringing the pandemic to an end.”

"Campus ready" email signature (with web address and cow on bicycle)

Gary S. May

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