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Checking In With Chancellor May: A Remarkable Week

By News and Media Relations on April 3, 2020 in University

Thursday Thoughts: April 3, 2020

To the UC Davis Community:

It has been a remarkable week. We started the 2020 spring quarter, delivering instruction in new and innovative ways. Our students adjusted to their new, remote learning environments. Our doctors and nurses and other medical personnel in Sacramento, and our researchers in Davis and Sacramento continued to make great strides in fighting the coronavirus. I thank all of you — students, faculty and staff — for the sacrifices you are making as we stand up to this viral outbreak.

Through it all, even though campus operations are suspended, we are NOT closed — as you can see from our Spring Quarter Snapshots, which we launched this week and which will appear daily on UC Davis social media and weekly in Dateline. We are working from home or carrying on essential functions on our campuses — not the least of which are medical care and COVID-19-related research — continuing our mission and maintaining our facilities.

When this ordeal comes to an end, we will be ready to welcome everyone back “home.” We do not know when that will be; Yolo County has extended its shelter-in-place order to May 1, and Gov. Newsom’s order is open-ended.

Research underway

UC Davis physicians and scientists are doing phenomenal work to ensure this outbreak is defeated. In recent days we reported on:

  • A paper by Angela Haczku and Michael Schivo (UC Davis Health) describing their treatment of the first patient in the United States to contract COVID-19 from community transmission, and how the case led to changes in the CDC’s guidelines for testing.
  • Clinical trials led by Stuart Cohen and Timothy Albertson (UC Davis Health) into two drugs to treat COVID-19.
  • A paper by Bart Weimer (School of Veterinary Medicine) on how variations in the virus genome as it moves around the world could help public health authorities target areas about to experience an upsurge of infection.
  • An editorial by Bill Ristenpart (Department of Chemical Engineering) and colleagues on how people infected but asymptomatic might produce enough aerosolized particles to transmit the infection through ordinary speech — underscoring the need for strict social distancing, and for infectious disease specialists and aerosol engineers to work together.

The Office of Research earlier this week launched the COVID-19 Research Accelerator Fund and today the office held its first in a series of virtual town halls bringing together researchers from all disciplines to discuss more COVID-19-related studies. Dean Brashear of the School of Medicine and Vice Chancellor Mohapatra of the Office of Research are moderating the weekly town halls.

Teaching and learning

Along with moving to remote teaching for all of spring quarter, our faculty members are responding with curriculum changes — like the new “CBS COVID-19 Capstone” course in the College of Biological Sciences, providing the opportunity for undergraduates to study the coronavirus in real time. Our students are helping one another in the transition to distance learning. Senior Orey Aderibigbe posted “Six Tips to Get Through Remote Classes,” telling her fellow students: “We got this. We’re gonna do this! We’re all in this together.” Students can find more resources here, on the Keep Teaching website.

Apart from academics, we’re supporting our students in all the usual ways, remotely and locally. Our Student Affairs FAQ, which we are continually updating, now includes a section on city and state efforts to forestall evictions in the private rental market. The Internship and Career Center can help students with job searches near and far. Here on campus, we have about 800 students who have elected to stay in our residence halls and apartments. Our dining commons are preparing takeout meals for them. The Pantry and Aggie Compass are collaborating to keep up weekly food distributions.

We are still considering the question of spring commencements. We are in the process of gathering feedback from undergraduate, graduate and professional students about their perspectives and ideas. We are considering options, including how we might commemorate the achievements of our students this spring and potentially later this year. We anticipate having more details in the next week or two. Likewise, we are discussing a range of options for Summer Sessions. In order to make reliable decisions, we are considering options with campus partners and will have an update as soon as possible.

Human resources

As you know, UC is providing up to 16 days of paid administrative leave for employees who are unable to work from home, or need to care for family members or themselves, because of COVID-19. Yesterday, in a letter we sent to everyone by email, I joined President Napolitano and all the other UC chancellors in saying we will do all we can to support the UC family during this unprecedented time. And that includes our announcement that there will be no COVID-19-related layoffs for all career employees through the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. UC Davis HR has posted more information, including an FAQ, here.

President Napolitano and the chancellors added: “While there may still be reductions in hours, and in some cases staff, as a part of our typical student and career employee summer staffing and clinical work force adjustments, we are committed to doing our best to keep people earning a paycheck whenever possible. The university will also begin conversations with various employee groups to consider the conditions under which we may be able to extend this promise of job protection beyond June 30, should that be necessary.”

At the same time, we have implemented a staff vacancy management program. It is not a hiring freeze, as hiring and onboarding continue. Rather, the program sets up a process whereby the creation, replacement or backfilling of all staff positions will require approval of deans and vice chancellors, and a newly established central committee. While this is a new approach for much of the campus, the UC Davis Medical Center already has a centralized process for reviewing and approving staff recruitment requests, and it will continue. Read more about the staff vacancy management program.

The provost and executive vice chancellor, in collaboration with the vice provost of Academic Affairs, will be, as always, offering guidance on appointments in all academic titles.

Staying connected

With our transition to remote work, we are hearing good stories about how teams are staying connected and bringing campus “extras” home. Staff and Faculty Health and Well-Being, for example, is offering Mindfulness Meditation sessions via Zoom. The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art launched a newsletter to keep us connected to the world of the visual arts (sign up here to receive Manetti Shrem Museum at Home). And the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts is pulling together virtual concert experiences featuring the artists whose programs have been canceled. Each virtual event will be presented at the same time the artist would have been performing here, starting with Vladimir Feltsman tonight. Check the Mondavi Center’s Upcoming Events page for details (click on each event as it comes along).

If you intend to go for a walk, say, in the Arboretum and Public Garden, we’d like to remind you again — keep 6 feet apart from one another. Think social distancing!

The 2020 census

Finally, a word about the census, for staff and faculty, and for students and parents, who may have questions about how and where students should be counted. Our census responses are critically important in so many ways, including higher education funding. According to the Census Bureau, students should be counted where they live and sleep most of time. For most students, this is campus or the city of Davis, even if students have moved home temporarily. So parents should not include their students in their household counts. Instead, if you live on campus, UC Davis will take care of the census for you, by submitting what is called a “group quarters” count, pre-coronavirus. If you live off campus, please be sure to complete the census for yourself. And you can do it online.

So, as Week 1 of spring quarter — a quarter like no other — comes to an end, let’s reflect on all we have accomplished and consider how much we are going to accomplish in the weeks ahead, as we all continue doing what we do at UC Davis. We may not all be together, but we are in this together. I am proud of all of you, and all of you should be Aggie Proud.

Best regards and Go Ags!

Gary S. May
Chancellor

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News and Media Relations News and Media Relations is a unit of the Office of Strategic Communications. Phone: 530-752-1930.

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