November 18, 2020
Dear Members of Our Campus Community,
I am writing to you with updates regarding instruction and housing, focusing on winter quarter, with an eye toward spring and summer. In making our decisions, we have taken into consideration a variety of challenges, including COVID-19 outbreaks in California and across the country and the globe, state and local public health guidelines, and our concern about the living circumstances and density in Isla Vista. We have consulted widely and carefully, keeping as our highest priority the safety and well-being of our students and community in all of our planning efforts.
Winter Quarter – Academic Instruction
Like most counties throughout California, Santa Barbara County was reclassified this week into the most-restrictive purple tier in the State’s COVID-19 reopening system. Consistent with the updated public health guidelines, and given the current trend of increased COVID-19 cases, UC Santa Barbara will join other UC campuses in continuing to offer most of our undergraduate and graduate courses via remote instruction for the winter quarter.
We are, however, currently planning a small increase in the number of courses offered in person in winter quarter, as a step toward the possibility of greater in-person offerings in spring and summer. The courses available in winter will be mostly upper-division and graduate classes. Of course, our plans are dependent on public health guidance, which currently prohibits indoor lectures. The students and instructors in every in-person course will be required to comply with campus testing protocols, and to follow physical distancing, face covering, and other required mitigation protocols. Classroom facilities will also adhere to required cleaning protocols. Additionally, as we did in fall quarter, we will continue to offer selected laboratory, performance, and field experience courses in a face-to-face format.
While most graduate classes will continue to be offered remotely, some face-to-face courses are scheduled for the winter.
Course information for the winter quarter has been posted to Gold.
Recognizing that not all students are willing or able to return to campus for the winter quarter, the University is committed to making accommodations if a required course meets in-person in the classroom and a student cannot or does not want to attend in person. Our guiding principle is to ensure that students who are not in Santa Barbara or who continue their instruction remotely have a path to timely graduation. Departments will carefully consider how to ensure that students have an alternative option for fulfilling requirements, either by offering parallel remote sections, by repeating the course in another quarter, or by allowing students to substitute a different class to meet the requirement.
Undergraduates with questions concerning courses or accommodations should contact Academic Advising:
Winter Quarter – Housing
Contingent on public health guidance and the incidence of COVID-19 in our community, we are planning to offer limited winter quarter housing in our undergraduate apartments, with priority given to students who had campus contracts for the fall quarter. Our housing office will be sending out information to those students who applied for campus housing for the fall quarter to let them know their status. For questions related to undergraduate housing, please email email@example.com.
Our graduate and family student housing will remain unchanged from the fall quarter.
We recognize that many students have challenges with remote instruction at home and would prefer to be on campus, even if they continue with remote instruction. Our plan to offer more campus housing is a cautious but important step forward to address the needs of our students and to begin to resume campus life. By opening some campus housing for fall and winter quarters, we are incrementally ramping up occupancy, which we plan to increase for the spring and summer quarters if the local public health situation allows.
For winter quarter, we will limit occupancy to one student per room, based on UC and public health guidelines and best practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. All undergraduate students living on campus will be required to undergo testing and sequester for a minimum of seven days upon arrival, and comply with our campus testing protocol, which currently mandates weekly testing. All UC Santa Barbara students are also required to complete both an online COVID-19 educational module and a community compact through which students must agree to practice precautionary measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Our housing plan is based on current COVID-19 information and guidance. If changes are made to public health guidelines and County regulations, the campus may be compelled to reverse course and maintain current restrictions on campus housing levels. In that case, we may have to require our students not to come to campus housing. However, if changes occur after move-in, we are prepared to quarantine students who are living in campus housing and to increase testing frequency.
Increasing COVID-19 Cases in Isla Vista
The density and occupancy levels in Isla Vista are still of overwhelming concern to us, especially given the number of COVID-19 cases and continuing reports that some residents are disregarding public health orders regarding social gatherings and face coverings. Since the beginning of fall quarter, through our campus testing program and from self-reporting, we have identified 25 cases of COVID-19 on campus and 186 cases in our neighboring community of Isla Vista, where an estimated 8,700 of our students live, as well as several thousand students from other local, California, and out-of-state colleges. The cases in Isla Vista represent a significant increase from what we saw prior to the start of the fall quarter, and are happening amidst surges elsewhere across the state, country, and around the world.
We are deeply grateful to all of our students and community members who are following public health orders, taking seriously the directive prohibiting social gatherings, and complying with the COVID-19 mitigation protocols that include physical distancing and the use of face coverings. However, to address the increasing number of cases, to protect our families and friends, and to help our Santa Barbara County community make progress in stemming the spread of COVID-19, we implore everyone, especially our students living in Isla Vista, to do their part, as our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs wrote last month in a letter to students. We have also sent out a communication to our students regarding Thanksgiving travel guidance to help minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 over the holiday break and endangering both students’ families and our local community.
Stop the Spread
Since the fall quarter began, our campus health and medical experts have significantly increased our testing capacity to more than 6,000 tests per week, and have substantially decreased the wait time on test results. Current plans will increase our testing capacity even further in the near future. After receiving CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) approval for an extension of our campus clinical lab to provide COVID-19 testing, we are now able to produce test results in-house with a very fast turnaround time. We also have established partnerships with Fulgent Genetics and UCLA’s Computational Medicine Department to run additional diagnostic tests. Taken together, we have established a multi-pronged testing apparatus to serve our campus community. To complement our robust diagnostic testing protocols, we continue to use the expertise of our UC Santa Barbara faculty who developed a CRISPR-based COVID-19 test for surveillance testing for our students, faculty, and staff.
It is important to realize that testing alone cannot eliminate the possibility of an outbreak. Our testing and contact tracing can help identify and possibly contain an outbreak before it spreads widely, but our students need to play a much larger role in mitigating the spread in our community. We ask students who return to campus housing to refrain from socializing in densely populated Isla Vista. And we urge all of our students to strictly follow physical distancing and public health guidelines and always wear face coverings.
If our campus community, along with the County, State and the rest of the country, can mitigate and even prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the months ahead, we will be able to make more progress toward reopening more campus facilities and resuming more residential and instructional programs in the spring quarter and the summer. The more we can manage this pandemic, while awaiting the approval, manufacturing, and distribution of a vaccine, the sooner we will be able to bring more of our students, faculty, and staff back to the campus that we all miss so much.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of our campus community who are making the necessary sacrifices to maintain our academic mission and to help slow the spread of COVID-19. It will take a concerted effort by each and every one of us to safeguard the health of our community, and to move toward increasing activities on our campus. Together, as a campus family, I know that we can rise to the challenge.
Henry T. Yang