March 12, 2020
Dear Members of Our Campus Community,
I write to follow up on my earlier message regarding the steps the University is taking to protect the health and well-being of our students, staff, and faculty, and to slow the spread and mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic we are facing needs an urgent response from our entire UC Santa Barbara community. As of today, we do not have any cases on campus or in Santa Barbara County. However, cases are rapidly spreading around the country. Undetected cases are likely to be present more widely than we can now detect. Once a case lands in a community, you can think of it as an ember that will start a new fire. We need to be prepared for the potential of COVID-19 transmission on our campus, and this requires the collective effort of our entire community. In these challenging times, we appreciate and thank everyone for taking a community-minded approach.
Our health experts advise that the COVID-19 pandemic should not be viewed as a regular cold, or even as a new kind of flu. The virus can cause severe disease, and presents a high risk of mortality, particularly among the aging and chronically ill. Even if a young adult gets a mild form of the disease, it can be transmitted to parents or grandparents or others in the community in whom the disease can be deadly. Many cases require hospitalization, and the system can rapidly become overwhelmed. We urgently ask everyone to carefully consider their own vulnerability and that of those around them. Please continue to be aware and keep informed.
By working together and being community minded, we can help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in a way that will help our medical community in responding to this evolving crisis. Our sister UC campuses and numerous other universities across the country are taking similar action, which is in line with recommendations of many health experts regarding social distancing in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
To expand on the earlier guidance from the COVID-19 Response Working Group (members listed below), we want to be more clear:
• By not coming back to campus after travel, our students can play a significant and critical role in helping slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We are asking students who are traveling for spring break to stay away from campus for at least the month of April. We are asking those students who plan to stay on campus for April not to travel during spring break.
• No student will be required to attend in-person lectures or seminars during the month of April. We are asking our colleagues to be flexible in making accommodations at all levels.
• Students who are planning to leave campus will receive the same education as those who stay and will not be disadvantaged for remaining away. We are continuing to work out issues related to work-study, financial aid, housing, and dining so that none of our students are disadvantaged by these changes. Please know that responding to all the different individual cases in order to make accommodations will take time.
• Due to the shift from in-person final exams to on-line and other alternatives, we are extending the deadline for winter grades by one week to 11:59PM, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. To minimize the impact on our students, we urge those who can, to please submit grades by the original deadline or as soon as possible.
• The campus will remain open and operational in order to accommodate our students who need to stay on campus and to continue critical research activities. Keeping the campus operational and achieving the highest standards of remote instruction cannot be accomplished without our dedicated staff and faculty. We will follow UCOP’s guidance in order to protect their health and well-being while asking managers to exercise maximum flexibility.
We understand how the decision to move toward remote instruction and limiting the presence of our students on campus has created a great deal of uncertainty not only for our students, but also for our faculty, staff, parents, and visitors to our campus. We deeply apologize for the hardships and the increased anxiety this disruption is causing for all of us. We did not make the decision lightly. It was driven by our responsibility to protect the health and well-being of our students and their families, as well as that of our dedicated staff and faculty.
We know this decision calls on many of us to sacrifice our own personal interests in service to the greater well-being of our campus community, as well as Isla Vista, Goleta, Santa Barbara, and the families of our students, faculty, and staff.
This transition will be difficult. It will take time. An institution as complex and decentralized as a university campus, especially one as committed to shared governance as UC Santa Barbara, cannot change in one day or even in one week. What we can do, however, is work tirelessly to implement the changes, to develop new policies, and to provide information and updates through this challenging transition. We will listen to and appreciate the concerns raised by our community so we can understand the hardships and disruptions, and find ways to address and mitigate them wherever possible.
To our faculty and teaching community, please know that we are working to support your efforts in rapidly adjusting to new instructional modalities.
For our students and parents, please know that our entire faculty, our instructors, and our staff are working around the clock to answer your questions (see FAQs here), address your concerns, and ensure that we can continue to maintain the highest educational standards despite the threat posed and disruption caused by COVID-19.
For our staff, who provide the foundational support for our mission of education, research, and service, please know that we remain committed to keeping our community safe and to being as accommodating as possible, with maximum flexibility, during this unprecedented set of circumstances.
We have experienced the tremendous capacity of our community to overcome hardship, natural disaster, and tragedy. We know our community is compassionate, supportive, and resilient. We know our community embraces a challenge, and welcomes innovation and change. We are proud of the strengths of our UC Santa Barbara community. I am deeply grateful for the extraordinary efforts being made by our staff, our faculty, and our students.
Henry T. Yang
COVID-19 Response Working Group
(Coordinated by the Office of the Chancellor)
Carolina Arias, Assistant Professor, Director of the Arias Lab (for understanding virus-host interactions)
Henning Bohn, Chair of the UC Santa Barbara Academic Senate
Willie Brown, Associate Vice Chancellor for Housing, Dining and Auxiliary Enterprises
Jim Caesar, Campus Emergency Manager
Chuck Haines, Associate Chancellor for Finance and Resource Management
Matt Hall, Associate Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer
Nancy Hamill, Chief Campus Counsel
Joseph Incandela, Vice Chancellor for Research
Ali Javanbakht, M.D., Medical Director for Student Health
Margaret Klawunn, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Kenneth Kosik, M.D., Harriman Professor of Neuroscience
John Longbrake, Associate Vice Chancellor for External Relations
Garry Mac Pherson, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services
David Marshall, Executive Vice Chancellor
Charles Samuel, Research Professor, C.A. Storke II Professor and Distinguished Professor, Emeritus
Cynthia Señeriz, Director for Human Resources
Jeffrey Stopple, Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education