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Update: Fall 2020 Instruction and Student Housing

June 12, 2020
Re: Fall COVID-19 Campus Operations Plan, for Student Housing & Residency
To: All students, faculty and staff
June 12, 2020
Dear Campus Community,
Fall 2020 presents us with the opportunity to explore new frontiers in higher education that we have never traversed before, while building from our strengths. Together, we will uphold UC Merced’s mission of excellence in teaching and research, while demonstrating the concern and care for one another that have always been the hallmarks of our campus.
Today I’m providing an update on overall campus operations to support instruction, with an emphasis on student housing and residency plans.
Teaching and Instruction
Our academic year will begin as scheduled on Aug. 26 and will progress according to the established academic calendar until Thanksgiving, with the remainder of instruction delivered remotely through the end of the semester. Courses will be taught in a range of modes: remote, in-person and hybrid — with an overall mixture of in-person and online delivery. The blend of in-person and distance will vary by size and kind, with programs deciding on how best to use valuable in-person learning experiences. The aim is for 20 to 30 percent of overall instruction to be in-person.
We will communicate specific plans for teaching, research and return to onsite work as those plans are finalized via our COVID-19 website and through schools and divisions. All plans will be aligned with state and national health guidelines and reflect best practices modeled here and at other universities.
Facilities and Student Housing
Welcoming students back to residence halls is an important part of the educational experience and has been the subject of intense planning by campus leadership, the Division of Student Affairs and Housing Services. Reducing health risks due to COVID-19 by aligning with the CDC and World Health Organization guidelines and conducting evidence-based planning in partnership with the Merced County Department of Public Health, California Department of Public Health and the UC system is the fundamental building block of our campus reopening plans. Please note that all plans are subject to re-evaluation and change based on guidance from health authorities and campus conditions.
Consistent with our longstanding commitment to student success, priority for campus housing this fall will go to incoming freshmen, housing-insecure students, foster and former foster youth, and our students with an ADA accommodation request. Any rooms still available after those students have been accommodated will be offered to continuing students on our waiting list.
Students invited to live on campus may elect to wait until the spring semester or change their minds once they are here; the housing cancellation fee will be waived in such cases.
For 2020-2021, our two-year residency requirement will be waived. Martin Reed, assistant vice chancellor for student life and residence education, will contact continuing students who have shared their desire to live on campus, to explain options for the coming year.
Students who choose campus housing will be placed into groups of 20 to 30. We will ensure their classes take place in ways designed to minimize potential COVID-19 exposure between these groups and students in other groups. We are studying the possibility of block scheduling classes for these groups as one important way to facilitate learning and enhance a strong sense of community.
The Pavilion and other dining services will meet the dining plan needs of each student. We will offer dining services in modified fashion to minimize potential risk, including increased outdoor seating options.
Promoting Healthy Behaviors
Resident students and all those who are physically on campus will be asked to help limit the potential spread of COVID-19 by cooperating with our policy , by self-reporting symptoms through an app currently in development, viral testing as required, and observing these six healthy behaviors:
  • Physical distancing (6 feet and limiting unnecessary physical contact or large gatherings)
  • Proper hand-washing protocols
  • Sneezing and coughing into a tissue or elbow
  • Avoiding touching surfaces unless necessary
  • Wearing a face covering (mandatory when proper distancing cannot be maintained)
  • Self-isolating if showing symptoms
Some rooms will be set aside as isolation rooms for those who test positive or experience symptoms, once we finalize appropriate occupancy levels for this fall.
We will continue to update you as we develop new plans or receive new information from health officials.
In addition, information and full signage for building use will be readily available throughout campus and our websites will provide updates on keeping our campus a healthy and safe environment.
We are our greatest asset and greatest protection. We have a duty to one another to return to campus safely and commit to safe behaviors on campus and in our community.
Nathan Brostrom
Interim Chancellor