Chancellor May’s costume is easy to figure out, but you’ll have to watch Thursday Thoughts, above, to hear LeShelle describe hers. The chancellor says our Aggie Public Health Ambassadors are doing “an outstanding job of reminding people about their safe behaviors,” and he urges everyone: “Come on, let’s just stay in this, do the right thing, keep each other safe.”
To the UC Davis Community:
We asked our students to avoid Halloween gatherings with people outside their households — and, wow, I am pleased to know our students have planned accordingly!
More than 600 applied for small grants for Halloween activities that will adhere to our health and safety guidelines. Three-quarters of these activities are going to be held within household pods, while the others will be virtual. All of the activities together will involve some 2,500 students.
Activities will include creating a haunted house and livestreaming it, showing movies outdoors, and carving and painting pumpkins, and this from an agriculture student: a blind taste test to try to identify different kinds of gourds. A big thank-you to the organizers for taking steps to safeguard your health and your community’s health.
And, to everyone, please enjoy your Halloween safely. Remember, during the pandemic, the more you interact with people from different households, as well as the closer you interact and the longer you interact — the more risk there is of the coronavirus’s spread.
By the way, we asked all the applicants for Halloween grants: Are you wearing a mask every time you leave the house? Ninety-seven percent said “yes.” Go Ags!
I am grateful for our continued vigilance, confident that face coverings and physical distancing and our other safety protocols are contributing to the low number of positive-COVID-19 results in our asymptomatic testing program for students who are living on campus, and for residents of sororities and fraternities off campus.
For the week ending Oct. 24, we administered 2,402 tests and had zero positives, according to our COVID-19 Dashboard. Out of 12,000 tests administered since Sept. 14, we’ve detected six positives.
Good work by all. Let’s keep it up.
- Thanksgiving — Students leaving campus for Thanksgiving will be tested for COVID-19 before they leave and when they return.
- Winter quarter — A majority of winter quarter classes will be remote; students should check Schedule Builder for any in-person offerings.
Students will receive an email next week with more detailed information about Thanksgiving and winter break and planning for winter quarter.
The UC Office of the President has put forth a proposal for a minimum five-day curtailment program under which employees around the system would be required to take some unpaid leave in 2020-21, except for employees in the lowest income tier. Others would take one to five unpaid days. President Drake has asked for feedback on the proposal by Nov. 9.
Earlier this week we announced our own curtailment plan, separate from the UCOP proposal, under which most nonacademic staff on the Davis campus (excluding the School of Veterinary Medicine) will have six days off around the four winter holidays, thus giving the staff two weeks off, Dec. 21-Jan. 1.
Staff can cover their salaries for all six days by using vacation time or compensatory time. Those who do not have enough accrued leave can borrow up to six vacation days.
Deans and vice chancellors/provosts will exempt staff whose continued work is essential, and I want to acknowledge and thank them now for staying behind to provide emergency/critical services while others have time off.
You can read more about the UC Davis and UCOP curtailment plans in this Dateline article.
UCOP’s proposed curtailment is a cost-cutting move, a reflection of the financial challenges brought on by the pandemic. We expect more hard decisions are coming, at the systemwide level and the campus level.
At UC Davis, prior to the pandemic, we expected an increase in state funds. Now we are expecting a significant loss in state revenue, $46 million, and no tuition increases. Add to that significant pandemic-related net revenue losses (e.g. housing, dining, recreation, etc.).
All of this has impacted the effort we began in March to lessen our reliance on state funds and tuition revenue. Our work continues. We are pursuing strategies to avoid the need for extreme decisions in the short term in favor of a more measured and strategic approach over several years.
Whatever actions we take will come only after much consultation and review. But we must acknowledge the situation we are in.
Meanwhile, we are committed to the best possible stewardship of our workforce during these unprecedented challenges, through temporary work reassignments, employee support funds, emergency leave and other personnel programs, as well as the Vacancy Management Program, which provides central review of all recruitments.
Election Part 1
I am going to talk about voting — how to get it done in the next four days — but first I want to address the anxiety surrounding this general election and what may come after. Indeed, beyond the election, there are a multitude of challenges and hardships that many of us are experiencing, and it can feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders.
I referred you last week to this flier, and I want to share it again: Tips for Managing Socio-Political Stress, created by Aggies for Aggies. Also, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has developed an Election 2020 webpage with a variety of resources on how to care for ourselves and our community, including wellness resources and recommended reading.
Students, staff and faculty: Please reach out for support. Make a note of this page, Resources for Health and Well-Being. It’s among our COVID-19 resource pages, but just as applicable to election anxiety.
Election Part 2
Now, for the voting — our opportunity to make our voices heard! I expect many of you have already returned your ballots, just like millions of other people around the country. If not, here’s how to return your ballot:
- Use an official ballot drop box in your county of residence by 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 3 (Election Day). See the locations of all of Yolo County’s ballot drop boxes.
- Or, visit a voting center in your county. UC Davis is hosting a Yolo County Voter Assistance Center in Ballrooms A and B at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). It will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Not registered? You can register and vote the same day at the Voting Assistance Center. See the locations of all of Yolo County’s Voter Assistance Centers.
- If you’re using the mail, your California ballot must be postmarked by November 3, and you should check with your post office to ensure your ballot will arrive at your county elections office by November 20.
Voters going to the ARC can park for free in unrestricted permit spaces in Lot 25 in front of the ARC, 30 minutes maximum, when the Voting Assistance Center is open. If you’re using public transit, good news: Unitrans, our ASUCD-city of Davis transit system, will be free on Tuesday, as will Yolobus, Sac RT and the Causeway Connection.
Checking in elsewhere:
- Campus Recreation — Students: Your best Halloween treat may come tomorrow when we reopen the Activities and Recreation Center and the Craft Center! Access will be limited to students in November, with staff and faculty allowed starting December 1. Under public health guidelines, occupancy will be limited to 10 percent of capacity. And you will need to make reservations.
- Fall back — I suspect no one wants to relive any part of 2020. But that’s what we must do when daylight saving time comes to an end at 2 a.m. Sunday (November 1). On the plus side, we will have an extra hour of sleep after setting our clocks back.
The pandemic and its economic repercussions will continue to challenge our community in the months to come, but I am heartened by the resilience and resourcefulness of our students, faculty and staff and by the outpouring of care that Aggies have shown for one another.
Gary S. May