Checking In With Chancellor May: This Is Who We Are

Daughter Simone joins Chancellor May and LeShelle for a special “birthday edition” of Thursday Thoughts, above, amid LeShelle’s birthday week. All three talk about their transitions to adulting, and Simone suggests a Zoom picnic as a way to stay connected with friends during the pandemic. On a serious note, the chancellor urges students to say something if they have anxiety about COVID-19 and points them to available resources.

To the UC Davis Community:

We are now confronted by another crisis in 2020: Wildfires tearing through the countryside and encroaching on cities and towns and suburbs; members of our UC Davis community losing their homes or being forced to evacuate; smoke and ash everywhere. And we Aggies are stepping up again, as we always do.

UC Davis firefighters were already on the front lines of wildfires in Nevada County and the Angeles National Forest by the time multiple fires broke out Monday closer to campus, caused by lightning in the mountains around Lake Berryessa. The campus Fire Department sent an engine crew assigned to structure protection in Vacaville and backfire operations around Winters.

We had been keeping our fingers crossed for our natural reserves in the area: Stebbins Cold Canyon, Quail Ridge and Cahill Riparian Preserve. But we learned at mid-afternoon that we lost the director’s residence and eight tent cabins at Quail Ridge. Thankfully, the reserve director and his family got out safely Tuesday night. On the plus side, the field station, researcher house and another dwelling were still standing and did not appear to have been damaged.

It was Shane Waddell, the reserve director, who discovered the destruction today. He also saw while driving that Stebbins Cold Canyon appeared to have completely burned on both slopes.

Our UC Davis Medical Center has taken in patients with burns and other fire-related injuries from the LNU Lightning Complex and elsewhere in Northern California, and the School of Veterinary Medicine is caring for four-legged patients, including a horse, a pony and an alpaca. See the school’s fire response updates.

Campus provides housing for 45

Human Resources jumped into action, too. Yesterday we announced our offer of short-term emergency housing for campus affiliates including faculty, staff and registered students and their families who have been impacted by evacuations or lost their homes due to the wildfires in Northern California. For campus affiliates who have lost their homes, the university can help explore options for longer-term housing solutions.

This was absolutely the right thing to do: As of 11 a.m. today (Aug. 21), we were providing shelter for 19 people from seven households (four staff members and three students). One household lost its home, the others had to evacuate.

Updated: As of 8 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 22), we had provided emergency shelter for 45 people from 15 households (five staff members, eight students and two faculty, as of 8 ). One household lost its home, the others had to evacuate (nine from the local area, four from the Santa Cruz area and two from Sonoma County). They came with 19 animals, including a service dog and an emotional support dog.

Please, if you need assistance, call the Human Resources Shared Services call center at 530-754-4772 — they will be answering from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, Saturday, Sunday or Monday (Aug. 21-24).

As the sky grew hazier and air quality worsened, our smoke protocols kicked in, whereby we limited outdoor work/operations and provided outdoor workers with N-95 masks. We will rely on our decision-making matrix to guide further actions.

HR provides more information on this new webpage, Supporting Employees During Wildfire Impacts.

Summer instruction and wildfires

We know that instructors and students participating in summer courses have been impacted by the wildfires and power outages. Many have faced evacuations from their homes, others are graciously hosting displaced families, and some have even lost their homes to fire. We ask that, when feasible, instructors record their lectures so that students can access them outside of scheduled class hours. Students directly affected by the fires may also need flexibility for class attendance as well as due dates for assignments and exams. Students, please keep in mind that your instructors may also be facing evacuations and power outages, so please be patient and understanding. Communication between instructors and students is essential.

Undergraduate final exams in the fall

As for fall quarter, the Academic Senate announced a waiver of its requirement for final exams in undergraduate courses — a waiver currently approved only for fall 2020. Instructors will decide if their courses will have final exams, and that information must be provided to students in the syllabus/course outline by the end of the first week of classes.

As part of this waiver, the Committee on Courses of Instruction emphasized that final exams are used to demonstrate cumulative (or comprehensive) understanding of course materials. The committee encourages instructors to explore alternative assessment methods that will achieve similar goals, as appropriate for their courses. Some examples of alternative assessment methods can be found on the Keep Teaching website.

P/NP for undergraduates in the fall

The Academic Senate also announced flexibilities pertaining to Passed/Not Passed grading for undergraduates in fall 2020:

  • Deadline extension — Students will have until the last day of instruction for fall 2020 (Dec. 11) to opt for P/NP grading or to revert back to letter grading.
  • Students not in good academic standing — They may opt to take specific courses on a P/NP basis up to the limits specified in Davis Division Regulation A545(B) via petition and approval by their dean’s office.

Whether courses can be taken P/NP for a major during fall 2020, as well as policies regarding college P/NP unit caps for graduation, will be determined by each college.

The Academic Senate’s guidance on undergraduate final exams and P/NP grading has been incorporated into the Campus Ready Student FAQ.

S/U for graduate students in the fall

The Academic Senate announced the following flexibilities for Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading in fall 2020:

  • Deadline extension — Graduate students will have until the last day of instruction (Dec. 11) to submit Grading Option Change request forms for fall 2020.
  • Maximum S/U course exception — Current Academic Senate policy, Davis Division Regulation A546(A), limits the number of optional S/U courses allowed each term. For fall 2020, graduate students in good standing (or who receive approval from the Office of Graduate Studies) are authorized to undertake, in addition to courses graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory-only basis, not more than two courses on an optional S/U basis.

High-throughput screening for COVID-19

While all this goes on, we are still hard at work getting Campus Ready for that other crisis: the coronavirus pandemic. Today we announced our plan to screen the entire on-campus population for COVID-19 this fall, with results coming quickly through our Genome Center, so that we can isolate people who test positive and do contact tracing if necessary. Most classes will be held remotely, and many employees will continue working from home, but we may still have several thousand people living, working and studying on campus — and we have to have a way to quickly identify and isolate those who test positive. So we are devising our own screening process, while still following local, state and national health guidance. Read more about our high-throughput COVID-19 screening.

As Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan said, “This is a major undertaking, requiring the hard work of many people to pull off successfully” — and we thank them for their good work.

At UC Davis Health yesterday, we gave the first inoculations in the vaccine trial that we told you about last week. Six people rolled up their sleeves as volunteers in this lifesaving mission. It was truly “a historic day at the School of Medicine,” as described by Dean Allison Brashear. We will enroll 200 people altogether as part of the worldwide trial, and we are proud to include this research among the many other coronavirus projects we have underway on the Sacramento and Davis campuses. UC Davis Health has posted a story and video about yesterday’s vaccinations.

Update on student fees

Over the past few months we have been evaluating the overall impact of COVID-19 on the campus, and, at the same time, exploring opportunities to be responsive to students’ needs and alleviate some of the financial burden through expanded services. This week, Kelly Ratliff, vice chancellor of Finance, Operations and Administration, and Pablo Reguerin, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, announced there will be no increases to the majority of campus-based fees for the 2020-21 academic year. And the campus will continue to waive course material fees and support instructors who will ship materials to students at no cost. Read the joint statement from Vice Chancellors Ratliff and Reguerin.

The statement also highlights some additional medical, counseling and instructional resources that will be available to students. The Students and Families page of the Campus Ready site also includes a new section on Financial Aid that provides information about enhanced aid opportunities for eligible students.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

Vice Chancellor Renetta Garrison Tull, having asked the campus community this summer to read, learn, listen and reflect, reported back this week with a fall plan of anti-racism and implicit bias training and professional development; examination of data on identifying, attracting, retaining and graduating a diverse student body, and identifying, attracting and retaining a diverse faculty and staff (Goals 1 and 2 of the Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Vision); and convening a working group to assist with developing survey questions to assess campus climate related to all five goals of the strategic vision.

Writing in DEI’s For Your Information e-newsletter yesterday, VC Tull noted the fall plan is complementary to other initiatives that various departments and units are undertaking. She described a webinar next week as “a step toward cohesion.” The program “Restoring Justice. Transforming Education at UC Davis,” is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday (Aug. 26), presented by UC Davis’ Transformative Justice in Education Center and VC Tull’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. More than 1,200 people have registered and there’s room for more. Register here.

Sign up for DEI’s For Your Information e-newsletter here.

Checking in elsewhere:

  • Get to know Cynthia Carter Ching and Pablo G. Reguerin — Cynthia was appointed in mid-July as interim vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Education, and Pablo came on board the same month to be our new vice chancellor of Student Affairs. Learn more about them in these Q&As.
  • Congratulations, Professor Lorena Oropeza — On her appointment as interim associate vice chancellor for academic diversity and selection by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities to be part of its second Leadership Academy/La Academia de Liderazgo. Read our news release.
  • Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy — UC issued a revised SVSH policy on Aug. 14, in compliance with Title IX regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education, which became effective on the same date. Note that the university disagrees with many aspects of the new regulations and strongly advocated against them, but we were legally required to implement them. Read a summary of the major policy changes.

My thoughts are with all Aggies, their loved ones and others, including our colleagues at UC Santa Cruz, which has been evacuated due to a wildfires. While the path ahead may be obscured by smoke at this time, we will get through this, together.

"Campus ready" email signature (with web address and cow on bicycle)

Gary S. May

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