Checking In With Chancellor May: It Takes All of Us

Thursday Thoughts: August 27, 2020

In today’s Thursday Thoughts, above, Chancellor May talks about how UC Davis is working hard to avoid the mistakes that other universities have made in reopening during the pandemic. Also, the chancellor and LeShelle answer the question: “What advice would you give to your college-age self?” Students: Be sure to keep watching after the Q&A to hear the chancellor’s message about the survey that we describe in today’s letter.

To the UC Davis Community:

Last week I told you about our plan to screen everyone affiliated with the Davis campus for COVID-19, by taking saliva samples and having our Genome Center analyze them in a high-throughput process. If all goes as planned, the testing will be available during move-in to campus housing (residence halls and apartments), followed by a phased implementation for all campus affiliates. Move-in will look different this year, and please know we will take great care to reduce risk/transmission while creating a welcoming environment.

Today I will tell you about two other elements of our plan to help stop the spread of the coronavirus: a Daily Symptom Survey and the hiring of students to serve as Aggie Public Health Ambassadors.

Also, to further inform our planning, we are asking students to complete a very short, very important survey, asking: Where will you be residing in the fall? It is critical for us to have a good estimate of the campus population as we finalize our strategies, including the resources we will need, for our various initiatives aimed at protecting the campus community and beyond. Here is the survey link (we also sent it by email last night). Please respond by Monday (Aug. 31) — this should take no more than a minute of your time.

Housing support

We know many of you are struggling with your plans for private housing in Davis, on and off campus. Perhaps you signed a long-term lease before the pandemic, and now are looking for flexibility with your lease. In a joint statement last Friday, UC Davis and the city of Davis outlined our efforts to provide support and resources on housing issues.

I’m happy to report these important developments since the statement came out:

More information and resources are available in the housing section of the Campus Ready Student FAQ.

In addition, Yolo County’s Eviction Prevention Ordinance, issued in March, will remain in effect for 180 days after public health and local emergencies are terminated.

Daily Symptom Survey

Everyone coming to campus — students, staff, faculty and visitors — is now required to take our data-secure Daily Symptom Survey when you enter your first UC Davis facility of the day. The survey — a web application that you can answer on your smartphone or other device — serves as a daily reminder to pay heed to the COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, chills or shaking, cough, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, and-or loss of taste or smell, and to stay home if you feel sick. The app will tell you if you are “approved” or “not approved” for entry into a UC Davis facility. Keep a screenshot, or print a copy, which you can show if you enter another facility the same day.

The survey is for the Davis campus and other UC Davis-managed locations (including university-managed, off-campus housing; leased facilities; and remote sites) but not UC Davis Health, which has its own symptom-monitoring procedures.

Aggie Public Health Ambassadors

We are recruiting a team of undergraduates to provide community education and outreach on the Davis campus to help all of us stay mindful of healthy behaviors during the pandemic. This ambassador program is a wonderful opportunity, especially for students interested in public health and other health careers. In collaboration with Student Affairs, faculty leaders from the Department of Public Health Sciences at the School of Medicine will oversee training and supervision for the program. These are paid positions and may also provide one academic unit credit. Interested students should apply through Handshake.

Campus Ready update

Here again is our Campus Ready Plan, updated as of this week. New content includes the state’s guidance for the reopening of higher education, a section for Intercollegiate Athletics, a plan to limit access to campus facilities, a process to review campus ventilation and filtration systems, and protocols regarding the disinfection of drinking water stations.

As we say on the very first page of the Campus Ready Plan, “Getting Campus Ready Takes All of Us.” It takes all of us to follow the guidance we are laying out, including: Wear face coverings inside and outside, practice physical distancing, wash your hands frequently, and take the Daily Symptom Survey.

I want to add: Campus Ready also takes a dedicated team like the one we have had working on this plan all summer long. Thank you.

Flu vaccine mandate

Our updated Campus Ready Plan also notes UC’s executive order dated July 31 requiring all members of the UC community to receive the influenza vaccine before Nov. 1. We see this not only as an important proactive measure to help ourselves — and the public at large — but as a way to ease the potential burden of flu cases on the health care system at a time when we also must have capacity for COVID-19 cases. Flu shots have long been required for UC’s health care workers; the executive order extends this requirement to all faculty and staff working at all UC locations, and adds influenza to existing vaccination requirements for students.

More information is available in this FAQ for employees and this FAQ for students.

Checking in elsewhere:

  • Artificial intelligence, or AI, and food — Good news this week from the National Science Foundation. We have been selected to establish an AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems. It will be one of seven such institutes across the country, part of a new initiative that aims to boost the world’s food supply by increasing efficiencies using AI and bioinformatics across the entire food system — from growing crops through consumption.
  • At the “epicenter” — More good news this week: Our School of Veterinary Medicine received federal funding to establish the EpiCenter for Emerging Infectious Disease Intelligence, focusing on the perimeters of the Amazon and Congo Basin forests. Ours will be one of 10 centers, each with responsibility for different regions around the globe.
  • Chancellor’s Colloquium — Our first guest of the year, Gary Younge, gave a brilliant address earlier this week on the topic of “Going Viral: Race, Racism and Rebellion in the Midst of a Pandemic,” before an online audience of nearly 400. After Mr. Younge’s talk, he and I began a Q&A — with wonderful questions from our audience — but, unfortunately, about 15 minutes into our discussion, technical difficulties interrupted us, and we could not continue. I am pleased to tell you that Mr. Younge has agreed to finish our Q&A, so we will be recording it soon and making it available online, along with the talk itself.
  • “Time to flex!” — That’s what I said on Facebook about our standing in Money Magazine’s rankings of “Best Colleges for Your Money.” We held onto the No. 4 spot among public universities as well as our top-10 ranking among the universities, public and private (this year’s rankings took in more than 700 four-year colleges). I’m especially proud of the fact that this survey considers the number of Pell Grant recipients who graduate — a true strength of ours in building inclusive excellence.
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Gary S. May

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