To the UC Davis Community:
I hope you are all doing well as we reach the end of finals week and the fall quarter. It’s a busy time when many of us can use some extra support, especially our students. Earlier this week, I lent a hand serving Moonlight Breakfast, our traditional, nourishing study break. Thanks to Dining Services for preparing the food, the ASUCD Coffee House for hosting — and the approximately 2,000 students who turned out.
Meanwhile, the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts set up a study space with free coffee and classical music, and Campus Recreation and Hillel brought in fluffy dogs to help students de-stress.
Tomorrow is a time for celebration with two commencements: our traditional fall ceremony for undergraduates in the morning and a makeup ceremony for spring undergraduates in the afternoon. I look forward to honoring their collective achievement.
At the same time, I’d like to acknowledge the labor action, now in its fourth week, by employees affiliated with the United Auto Workers, and the impacts on students, faculty and staff. While the UC Office of the President handles all negotiations, we have taken steps at UC Davis to help alleviate the effects:
- For students, the Academic Senate extended the deadline (to Dec. 2) to opt for Passed/Not Passed and Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading for fall courses.
- We further recognize the increased burden on our faculty, of which an overwhelming majority has continued to deliver their curriculum. On that end, we extended the deadline for faculty to submit grades to Dec. 28.
- We have reassured students that an “NG” on their student record — indicating an instructor of record did not submit a grade — will not impact their financial aid status, GPA, academic standing, NCAA eligibility, veteran benefits or visa status.
The UC Office of the President has reached tentative agreements with two of the four striking UAW units — postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers — and continues to bargain with academic student employees (teaching assistants/readers/tutors) and graduate student researchers. I am supportive of the union’s right to strike and hope for an amicable resolution as soon as possible.
For more updates and guidance related to the strike, see Strike Updates and Support on the UC Davis Academic Affairs website.
COVID-19 and winter break
Students, staff and faculty must stay diligent as cases of COVID-19 and other illnesses are on the rise. We recognize that the situation with COVID-19 can change rapidly and reiterate that UC Davis will continue to follow state and county public health guidelines.
Yolo County Public Health Officer Amy Sisson this week issued a recommendation to wear masks indoors due to increasing spread of RSV and COVID-19. UC policy also requires all students, faculty and staff to stay current on both the flu vaccine and the bivalent COVID-19 booster. Please update your vaccinations if you haven’t yet done so.
Everyone on the Davis campus is encouraged to pick up a COVID-19 antigen test kit before leaving for the holidays and test before you’re around loved ones, to protect others, especially those who are at greater risk. Test again immediately before returning to campus in January and within a week after returning. These tests are available on the Davis campus at the Memorial Union information desk and student residence halls.
Keep in mind that closures over the winter break will mean that testing kits will be harder to obtain. Also, starting in January, in addition to the MU information desk, you will also be able to obtain the kits from the front desks at the ARC and Shields Library. Distribution will continue within student housing facilities.
Note that UC Davis’ COVID-19 asymptomatic testing center in the Human Resources Administration Building is not scheduled to reopen after Wednesday, December 14. Yolo County offers a number of testing sites and free testing kits can also be found at libraries throughout the county, including Mary L. Stephens Library in Davis (315 E. 14th St.).
Finally, stay home if you’re feeling ill. A negative COVID-19 test does not say anything about whether you have the flu or RSV. Check regularly with Campus Ready for more updates and guidance about winter break and winter illnesses.
The UC Davis-city of Davis-Yolo County collaboration in Healthy Davis Together was a role model for bolstering community health during the pandemic. We’re working together again, but in this case, hate is the virus we are targeting.
On Nov. 30, we announced a new initiative called Hate-Free Together, created in response to recent incidents of antisemitism, racism and other hate speech both on campus and around the city.
In working with city and county leaders, along with the entire community, our goals are to condemn hate, create safety and cultivate change. We are also driven to cultivate an environment that celebrates diversity, promotes inclusiveness and rejects hate and bias in all its manifestations.
Stay tuned for more information and updates as the project launches in 2023.
Economic impact, student housing
At our annual town-gown meeting with city and county representatives on Nov. 30, we shared good news about our economic impact and growth in student housing availability, in keeping with our commitment as laid out in a 2018 memorandum of understanding and the campus’s Long Range Development Plan.
Our new economic impact report shows that UC Davis generated $12.56 billion in statewide economic activity and supported 68,900 jobs in 2019. This was an increase of $4 billion in economic impact from our last report (2013-14).
The analysis also found that every dollar UC Davis spent in California generated an additional $1.10 of economic activity in the state. As a public university, it’s our mission to contribute to our local and state economies and the livelihoods of so many. The University of California is the largest employer in our state, so our impact is significant.
On the housing front, the percentage of students living on campus rose from 29 percent in 2016-17 to more than 38 percent in 2021-22. This is due to the completion of such facilities as The Green at West Village, which added 3,290 beds to campus, and Yosemite Hall and Shasta Hall, which added a combined 440 beds. An additional 1,549 beds are on track to be available when Orchard Park Apartments open in the fall of 2023.
Support in times of turmoil
We continue to follow the widespread unrest in China and Iran. Protests continue across China over the country’s “zero-COVID” policy with many demonstrations occurring on campuses. In addition, protests in Iran have continued to spread across the country following the death of Mahsa Amini in September and more recent acts of violence. More than 100 colleges worldwide, including a rally at UC Davis, stood in solidarity with protesters in Iran last Wednesday.
UC Davis is committed to upholding fundamental human rights. We affirm the dignity inherent in all of us and strive to maintain a climate of equity and justice. We stand against the use of violence, repression and discrimination.
Our thoughts are with our community members and others throughout the world who are impacted by these events and who are worried about their families and loved ones. UC Davis has resources available via Aggie Mental Health for students and ASAP for employees. I encourage you to reach out and support one another with compassion.
Brighter days ahead
I’m excited for the new year and all the promise it holds. Soon enough, the sun will be out and campus traditions like Picnic Day and the Whole Earth Festival will bring their annual joy to the community.
As I’ve noted previously, our spring undergraduate commencement will move to Sacramento — we are negotiating a contract with the Golden 1 Center, where we will be able to accommodate all of our undergraduates, along with their families and friends, in fewer ceremonies than we would otherwise have in the University Credit Union Center. (We will continue to hold our professional school and Graduate Studies commencements on the Davis campus.) Stay tuned for more information.
For now, I wish you all the best as the year winds down and hope you enjoy our holiday video. I am grateful to be part of a community that shows so much resilience, passion and care for others. Here’s to a healthy 2023 and all the promise the new year holds.
Gary S. May