To the UC Davis Community:
I wanted to begin this week’s letter with a few words about freedom of expression. This subject has been on my mind a lot recently, especially after reflecting on some of the ugly incidents we saw on campus last year targeting members of our community. Public universities, like UC Davis, are obligated by law to uphold free speech, even when it is offensive or hateful. Like higher education institutions across the country, our campus plays a unique role in fostering a teaching and learning environment and at the same time providing a venue for the free expression of many different ideas.
I ask all of you to watch my video message (below) about the benefits and challenges of free speech. Let’s think about how each of us individually can help to ensure that our campus continues to value civil and respectful speech in all of our conversations. UC Davis law professors Ashutosh Bhagwat and Brian Soucek further address the ramifications of First Amendment rights in this article, “What Is Free Speech, Anyway?” Also, learn more on our Student Expression website.
Please know that we continue to monitor the tripledemic public health issues of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19, including the new BQ variants and the highly infectious omicron subvariants XBB and XBB.1.5. Yolo County Public Health Officer Aimee Sisson noted to the Board of Supervisors last week: “As we face the possibility of a larger number of new COVID cases in the days and weeks ahead, it’s important to remember that unlike earlier in the pandemic we have safe and effective and free oral treatments available in the form of Paxlovid and Molnupiravir.” As always, UC Davis follows guidance from county and state public health officials. Sisson and UC Davis recommend wearing a mask indoors, washing your hands regularly and staying home when you’re sick.
Free COVID-19 testing kits for students, staff and faculty are available at a number of campus locations, including the Memorial Union Information Desk and the front desks at the ARC, Shields Library and Student Health and Wellness Center. Let’s remain vigilant about our health.
Vaccine policy update
UC Davis will adopt the UC updated policy on Vaccine Program With Interim Amendments, effective January 31. The policy requires all employees and students to get the primary COVID-19 vaccine series and be up to date on boosters, except for those people who have approved exceptions. For those who prefer to opt out of COVID-19 boosters, there is an option to do so by submitting a declination statement. To comply with policy, employees and students will need to upload their COVID-19 vaccine information or submit the declination form via Health-e-Messaging, or HEM, no later than February 28, 2023. The declination form is still in development and will be available in HEM in early February. For more information on the vaccine policy, please visit Campus Ready.
IDEA$ at Work
Thanks to all of our faculty and staff members who have submitted more than 500 ideas for generating savings or revenue as part of the IDEA$ at Work budget campaign. Among the many innovative ideas that have come in so far: create a campus bike fleet, create a comfort animal program, rent out lab spaces for private use and increase research collaboration outside the UC Davis community. There’s still time to submit new ideas and enter to win great prizes. The deadline to participate in the prize drawing is January 31, but the campaign will continue to take ideas after that.
I’d also like to thank our teams from Grounds and Landscape Services, Facilities, Student Housing and Dining Services, the Arboretum and Public Garden, the Fire and Police departments, and everyone else who responded earlier this month when storms resulted in dozens of downed trees and power outages on campus. Thanks also to all of our students for your patience and flexibility. This is a great reminder for all students, faculty and staff to make sure your information in our WarnMe system is up to date: Review your information and make changes here. Entering your primary cell phone contact number will ensure you receive timely alerts during emergencies and other urgent situations. (In fact, we have a test scheduled for noon Wednesday, January 25.)
2023 will no doubt be another impactful year and I look forward to celebrating new milestones and accomplishments with all of you. That includes the 75th anniversary of our world-leading School of Veterinary Medicine starting the last weekend of April, and undergraduate commencement at our new venue, the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, in June. We’ll share more information as it’s available, so stayed tuned.
Last but not least, I offer warm wishes to everyone honoring Lunar New Year on Sunday. Many of you will be celebrating Spring Festival, Tet and other exciting traditions. I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.
Gary S. May