July 8, 2020
Re: Fall Instruction Update
To: Faculty and staff
July 8, 2020
As we have shared in earlier communications, UC Merced has been planning for a fall semester that would include some in-person instruction, with the majority of courses delivered remotely, and with some students residing on campus. We also have begun ramping up our research agenda, with research buildings opening cautiously this summer after a thorough cleaning and testing of facilities. All of our planning for fall has factored in public health guidelines, and we have been studying the data available regarding the spread of COVID from public health agencies and other experts in the region, state and nation.
Recently, however, the situation in the United States, in California and, particularly, in Merced has taken a significant downward turn . While this alone is cause for serious concern, all of us in the Central Valley are also well aware that our access to doctors and health care facilities is severely limited. As a community institution and major employer in the region, we take seriously our responsibility to ensure that we don’t add to the burden of an overtaxed health care system. (It is worth noting that we recognize yet again the critical need for medical education and facilities in the Central Valley — a concern for which UC Merced will be part of the solution.)
The well-being of our community — both on and off campus – will always be at the forefront of our plans. Thus, we are revising our earlier thinking after extensive consultation with public health officials, experts across the UC system and our own faculty and administrative leadership.
We believe today that a minimum number of classes — only those that by their nature are hands-on — should be delivered in person, and that campus residency should be offered to students for whom UC Merced is the best or only place to live while pursuing their education. Our goal of course is to minimize in-person contact on campus to the fullest extent possible, while still remaining true to our mission.
For all students, regardless of residency, we have developed a robust and exciting support structure, the Student Den program, which will create online communities around shared interests. We will share details of that program in coming days.
Staff designated to be on campus must directly support the research, teaching and student life missions of UC Merced. All staff returning to campus must comply with the symptom checking and mitigation protocols we have developed; managers must ensure that those staff are formally designated to allow these protocols to work.
Telework agreements for staff — a way to reduce density in campus buildings and thus mitigate risk — are set to expire at the end of July; guidance will be issued shortly by Human Resources about extending them. Managers and supervisors should use the coming weeks to reach out to staff to review job assignments and determine which can be continued remotely through fall semester. If there are business needs that require a return to campus, please ensure that they are consistent with your unit’s business continuity plan.
Together, the UC Merced community is facing unprecedented challenges; together, this community will weather them. We appreciate your patience for a few more days as we work to ensure that faculty, staff and students can begin the fall semester thoughtfully, carefully and with the passion for teaching and learning that epitomize a UC Merced education.
Chief Resilience Officer