Checking In With Chancellor May: Reflection

Chancellor Gary S. May’s Friday coronavirus update includes his “Thursday Thoughts” Instagram post, above. The chancellor and LeShelle May are answering more of your questions, including, how did the chancellor celebrate his birthday last weekend. Plus, the community has Netflix suggestions for LeShelle.

To the UC Davis Community:

The upcoming weekend celebrates a very special day: Memorial Day, in remembrance of our nation’s fallen military personnel. Some of you may not know that our Memorial Union stands in tribute to our students and alumni who died in service, whose names are enshrined on the Gold Star Aggies Wall in the MU’s East Wing. Our annual Memorial Day Ceremony would have been yesterday. Unfortunately, it had to be canceled. However, we have posted a story and video, the latter by a student intern in our Office of Strategic Communications, Chris Selvo, featuring some of the people who would have spoken at this year’s ceremony, along with images from past ceremonies. I recommend taking time today or this weekend, to watch the video and reflect on our Gold Star Aggies and their sacrifice.

Memorial Day also marks the unofficial start of summer, and, with warm weather in the forecast, I’m sure many of you are planning to head outdoors — to the UC Davis Arboretum, for example. Please keep in mind the physical distance guidelines that are so important in our fight against the coronavirus.

Headlines coming out of the Board of Regents meeting this week indicated UC campuses “will open in the fall,” quoting President Janet Napolitano. Because headlines can be only so long, they missed her important caveat: “The question will be how much of that instruction is in-person versus how much is done remotely.”

I have been saying this in my weekly letters, and nothing has changed. We are planning for multiple scenarios — and we have time to do that because of our late start to the new academic year, Sept. 30. We are aiming for “substantial flexibility,” whereby we can offer some in-person classes in the fall, based, as always, on advice from public health experts. We also anticipate that, with few exceptions, we will have remote course offerings available for students who either cannot be accommodated in physical classroom spaces due to the fall health directives or who need to remain isolated or at home, whether in Davis or elsewhere, due to pre-existing health conditions or other considerations.

Getting here

Yesterday I sent a letter to our newly admitted students, addressing the question, What will college look like in the fall? I said, “Your first year at UC Davis will likely be different than you imagined, but we are ready to support you every step of the way in your college journey.”

We will be sending a message to all current students soon that will in the same vein describe our planning for both remote and in-person classes. Our returning Aggies have always been welcoming guides and mentors to new students, and we are confident that this will be so in the fall when all of us are learning to adapt to the realities of our current situation.

In the meantime, our new freshmen have begun orientation in the new format we planned long before the pandemic. Instead of having students come to campus for two-day, in-person sessions through the summer, we are having them take “Aggie 101” and meet with their advisors and register for classes — all online, before participating in a weeklong orientation to campus life just before the start of fall quarter.

I signed another letter this week, joining President Napolitano and the other UC chancellors, urging the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security to issue clear guidance related to supporting the continued presence of international students, scholars and researchers at institutions of higher learning in the United States. “The international members of our campus communities are experiencing unprecedented levels of uncertainty as they seek to start or continue their studies and/or research in the United States in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” our letter says.

Contact-tracing and testing

Our vice chancellor for research, Prasant Mohapatra, a Distinguished Professor of computer science, and graduate student Vikram Rao announced today they had developed a web-based application called We-Care for contact-tracing that avoids the privacy issue that comes with contact-tracing through digital platforms for mobile devices, and provides a low-cost option to in-person contact-tracing.

We-Care is customizable and preserves different levels of privacy while leveraging crowd-sourced information exchanges. You can participate by creating a profile (you can do so anonymously) and voluntarily “checking in” upon entering any building, business, venue, restaurant, etc. — indoor or outdoor. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, or if you test positive or learn about being exposed to an infected person, you update your profile — and the app will notify people who had been near you within the last seven days.

UC Davis Health announced it had reached a milestone of performing 10,000 molecular tests for COVID-19, from UC Davis patients and staff as well as residents at nursing homes, local community hospitals and other long-term facilities that did not have testing capabilities. I join with Iyda Antony, director of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, in congratulating and thanking our clinical pathology teams for their tireless efforts to get our essential COVID-19 tests validated and available to our patients, employees and community.

Top ranking

We had more good news this week from QS World University Rankings. QS already lists us No. 1 in the world in veterinary science, and, now, in the organization’s first USA rankings, UC Davis is tied for first in diversity and internationalization (tied with UCLA and New York University). This ranking is a testimony to our commitment to the values of diversity and equity, and our global engagement. In the overall USA rankings, UC Davis is ranked seventh among public universities and fourth among those in California.

Our new QS ranking goes along with the 2020 Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization we received earlier this year from NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Congratulations to all.

Virtual career fairs

As spring quarter winds down, our graduates and other students are no doubt looking for employment opportunities, short- and long-term. Let’s not kid ourselves: The pandemic has challenged our economy. We are confident, though, that we are giving students the skills they need to get ahead. And we can help in their job hunt, too, via two UC-wide virtual career fairs next week:

  • STEM Virtual Career Fair — Including technical and scientific internship and full-time opportunities in a wide variety of industries. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PDT Tuesday, May 26
  • Virtual Career Fair — Including nontechnical internship and full-time opportunities in a wide variety of industries. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PDT Wednesday, May 27.

New companies are registering daily, so check back to the websites often.

Our own UC Davis Internship and Career Center is up and running, virtually. Check out the website to learn how the ICC can be of assistance.

One more note about employment: Our Human Resources unit is holding a Virtual Job Talk for people interested in working at UC Davis and/or UC Davis Health. The job talk will be from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, May 28. Registration is required and can be arranged here.

Financial strain

Discussion at this week’s Board of Regents meeting also focused on the pandemic’s financial hit to the university system: $1.2 billion from mid-March through April. In response, President Napolitano instituted a salary freeze for policy-covered staff and a salary scale freeze for policy-covered, nonstudent academic appointees, and announced that she and all of the chancellors were voluntarily taking a 10 percent pay cut.

At UC Davis, as we develop budget scenarios for next year, we are looking for ways to reduce expenses, such as eliminating nonessential business travel and renegotiating service agreements. Last month, we implemented a vacancy management program to evaluate the creation, replacement or backfilling of all staff positions, including an approval process of campus leadership and vetting through a central committee. We will continue to monitor the financial situation and will consider additional actions as appropriate.

Mandatory Zoom update

We have written a couple of times about the importance of using the latest version of Zoom, the tool that more and more of us are using more often for instruction and business meetings. There is now an urgency to update to Zoom 5.0: If you do not upgrade to 5.0, Zoom will block you from its platform starting May 30. Learn more in this article from Information and Educational Technology.

And, just as a reminder, here’s a link to our Zoom Privacy and Security FAQs.

Sustainability Summit

Next Friday, May 29, from 10 a.m. to noon, we will hold our second annual Sustainability Summit, an online event that will include updates from a variety of student and faculty partners, and the announcement of our new Sustainability Champions. Camille Kirk, director of the Office of Sustainability, says she will be sharing other big news, as well. The link for the Sustainability Summit webinar will be emailed to people who register here.


As I reflect this weekend on Memorial Day, I will also remember all the lives lost around the world to COVID-19, and to the remarkable work of UC Davis Health, and our researchers on both sides of the causeway, and our faculty and staff, all of whom have been through so much during this unprecedented time, and who have met the challenge. I say it a lot, but this is truly who we are.


Gary S. May

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