Re: Weekly Briefing from the Chancellor
To: Faculty, staff, students and parents
May 22, 2020
Dear Campus Community,
Fiat Lux — let there be light. The University of California motto, emblazoned on our logo and various places around campus, holds more meaning for me now than ever. In the midst of the trials and uncertainty we have faced as a result of COVID-19, UC Merced and her sister campuses have shone a light to our communities, to our state and to the world.
As Regent John A. Pérez recounted in his remarks at the UC Board of Regents meeting earlier this week, UC campuses all over the state are stepping up to create innovative solutions to the major challenges facing us in this moment. At UC Berkeley, biochemistry students are manufacturing hand sanitizer for first responders. At UCSF, medical personnel have volunteered to go to New York and the Navajo Nation to assist health care workers. At UCSB and UCSD, engineers are designing and 3-D printing face shields and ventilators.
Here at UC Merced, our own public health and engineering professors are leading critical research on telehealth for low-income Californians, a low-cost and user-friendly sanitizer, a new means of rapid COVID-19 antibody detection and risk assessment of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater for vulnerable populations.
Beyond these groundbreaking faculty contributions, frontline staff have also stepped up to serve the more than 200 students who were not able to return home to loved ones. Many thanks to these colleagues for supporting our scholars who stayed on campus to brave the storm.
As you know, Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz was nominated by President Janet Napolitano and unanimously appointed UC Merced’s fourth chancellor by the Board of Regents on Wednesday. As I have grown to intimately know and love the UC Merced community over the past year, I am certain the regents selected a perfect leader for this unique and burgeoning campus. I look forward to working with Dr. Muñoz during this transition, and formally welcoming him into his new role in early July.
In his acceptance remarks, Dr. Muñoz expressed a deep commitment to a centuries-old promise that the UC system would be “of the people and for the people” — and we will continue to live those values here at UC Merced. Our People First Workgroup is a testimony to that very promise, as it works to ensure our response to COVID-19 and our eventual return to campus is guided by the vital principle of putting our people — our staff, faculty, and students — first.
It’s also important to note that the regents, after a very long and robust debate about equity, made a decision that will have ripple effects across the country and far into the future: The UC will suspend the requirement for SAT/ACT tests for admission through 2024, and in 2025 we will either have designed our own standardized test or eliminate the use of tests entirely in admissions decisions. The implications for current and future undergraduate admissions will be significant, potentially opening up the possibility of a UC education to an even broader swath of young people.
Finally, I want to express congratulations once more to the graduates of 2020 — the first class in UC Merced’s history to graduate virtually. Our newest alumni took our “new normal” in stride and with an outpouring of joy that illuminated our digital landscape and brightened our week. Though the road they have before them is uncertain, the resourcefulness and grace with which they pivoted during this crisis will always light their path.
Fiat Lux . Let our light shine brightly as we all continue our journeys.
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