February 22, 2021
Dear Members of Our Campus Community,
We are writing to provide our campus community with updates on our campus’s planning efforts and actions regarding:
Staff Guidance for Remote Work
Enhanced Summer Quarter
But first and foremost, we want to take a moment to thank our entire University community for your unfailing dedication during this challenging time. We are deeply grateful for the countless hours our faculty and staff have spent working to provide world-class teaching and learning experiences for our students, and to support the ground-breaking research and scholarship that are hallmarks of our campus. And we appreciate and acknowledge the hard work and resilience of our students and families throughout the past year.
We also want to express our enormous appreciation for the work of our campus medical experts, health professionals, and staff and student support teams who manage our testing and vaccination programs, the COVID-19 Response Working Group, and all those across campus who are working around the clock and through every weekend and holiday to help us continue to meet the complex challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your expertise and your unwavering commitment to our University are critical beyond measure.
Beyond the public health aspect, one of the many challenges we have faced is the profound budget impacts of the pandemic. Last year, the State reduced its support for the University of California by 10 percent ($300.8-million) per year. The Chancellor’s Coordinating Committee on Budget Strategy has been working throughout the year to address this significant loss to our campus budget, without reducing our workforce. Last Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced an economic relief agreement that adds 10 percent back to next year’s (2021-2022) allocation to UC, essentially returning state support to the levels prior to last year’s reduction. We expect more details to emerge in the coming week, and while this is good news for our campus and the UC system, the state Legislature will not vote on the final budget until June, and we still must address the 10 percent reduction to our current fiscal year (2020-2021), which has not been restored. Our campus will continue to review our budget strategy, and will keep you updated with the latest information as we know more.
Our campus has been fortunate to be able to support the efforts of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (SBCPHD) by administering vaccines to individuals in our community who are involved in campus frontline health care and COVID-19 testing efforts and to those 75 years and older. We were permitted to offer the remaining vaccines from our initial delivery to some active staff and faculty members age 65 and older. We expect that all second doses will be administered by the end of February to all those who received their initial vaccines. We would like to thank SBCPHD and UC Office of the President for their efforts in distributing vaccines to our campus so we can help our community as part of this important collaborative effort.
The SBCPHD recently announced that vaccine eligibility in the County has expanded to include individuals age 65 and older, and that UC Santa Barbara is eligible to participate in an SBCPHD-approved pilot program using the current distribution guidelines set by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the University of California for Phase 1B (see below). Our Student Health Services has already begun reaching out directly via email to those active staff and faculty who are now eligible to schedule a vaccination appointment under the current guidelines. We will continue to post updates on our Vaccine webpage at https://www.ucsb.edu/COVID-19-
STATE PHASE 1B includes the UC Groups below:
UC Group #1: Employees age 65+
UC Group #2: Employees working on-site in: Child care, Emergency services, Food service, Agriculture
UC Group #3: Other employees (offered by age, starting with those who are 64 years old)
These distribution guidelines are subject to change, and may be affected by the State’s decision to appoint California Blue Shield as the sole vaccine distribution entity.
Because the number of doses we receive may not be enough for all eligible individuals, we strongly encourage everyone to consult their primary care providers about getting a vaccine. Depending on their vaccine supplies, they may be able to administer vaccinations more promptly than our University can. Please accept the first available opportunity for a vaccine, wherever it may be.
While we had hoped to offer more in-person courses in the spring, given the prevalence of COVID-19 in the Santa Barbara community and the predictions of a potential new surge in the coming months, we expect our spring quarter to be similar to our current winter quarter. The majority of our courses will be offered remotely, and we will continue to offer selected laboratory, performance, and field experience courses in a face-to-face format. We encourage students who have questions about specific courses to check with their instructors.
Library and Recreation Center
We are continuing to follow all local and state public health guidelines as well as UC policies regarding access to campus facilities. Our campus medical experts and COVID-19 Response Working Group meet daily to review County data and health guidelines. We have developed extensive COVID-19 mitigation plans that will allow us to implement limited, reduced-occupancy openings of our UC Santa Barbara Library and RecCen when the number of cases in Santa Barbara County decreases, consistent with public health guidance. We are hopeful we will be able to open these facilities to accommodate some student usage during the spring quarter.
We have been able to accommodate all students with special circumstances since the beginning of the academic year, and starting this winter quarter, all those who had previously expressed interest in campus housing; thus campus housing in spring quarter will continue the same as winter quarter. Our graduate and family student housing will also remain unchanged since the beginning of the academic year. Our mitigation efforts and weekly testing requirement for students in campus housing have helped to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus, and to date have resulted in very few cases among our students living in campus housing. However, the prevalence of COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County, and in Isla Vista specifically, remains quite high.
We commend our on-campus students for their conscientious adherence to public health protocols, wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing, and avoiding groups. Our success in minimizing the spread of COVID-19 will help us to resume more campus activities in the months ahead.
Staff Guidance for Remote Work
In light of the current COVID-19 numbers and our plans for spring quarter instruction, we are asking those members in our campus community who have been working remotely to plan to continue doing so through June 30, 2021. However, since we are hoping to provide expanded access to some of our campus facilities, we are asking members of our dedicated staff, such as those who work in the Library and RecCen, to continue to stay in close touch with their supervisors.
Enhanced Summer Quarter
Our campus is working on plans to offer an enhanced summer quarter for our students, with both remote and residential opportunities, including the possibility for some students to live in campus housing. Student surveys indicate that many want to be on campus, even if they are reluctant to return to the classroom.
We have been developing a program specifically targeted for our second-year students, many of whom will be coming to campus for the first time. Although most courses will remain remote throughout the summer, there may be opportunities to teach some small seminars outdoors. We are also planning a significant expansion of mentoring and retention programs that make use of summer to support students who have been impacted academically by remote instruction. The program will also focus on building campus community and encouraging as much informal interaction as possible between faculty and students. More details will be available later this spring through the Summer Sessions website.
It is typically about this time of year that we announce dates and information regarding our Commencement ceremonies, one of our most proud and joyous traditions. While we are planning to have a virtual celebration to recognize the achievements of our graduating seniors in June 2021, we are delaying our decision with the hope that the current situation in Santa Barbara improves enough to allow us to host some kind of hybrid ceremony for those graduating students who will be in the area.
It is likely that any in-person event will be limited to the graduating students only, given the expected public health guidelines. We are consulting with our Deans, faculty, students, event management team, and planning staff, and we will continue to keep our graduating students and their families updated as the situation develops.
We are also keeping in mind our extraordinary graduates from 2020, and we are still planning to invite them back to campus for an in-person recognition ceremony in the future when the situation permits.
We want to assure our community that everything we are doing now through the summer is working toward the goal of resuming primarily in-person instruction for Fall 2021, as University of California President Michael Drake announced in January. How we proceed will continue to depend on public health guidelines, but we are hopeful that through widespread availability of vaccines, our robust testing program, our mitigation plans, and continued use of face coverings and physical distancing, we will be able to offer a more normal on-campus experience for our students in the fall.
We look forward with great optimism and anticipation to the time when we can be together again in person. I am grateful for the dedicated and collaborative efforts of every member of our academic community as we plan and work together toward that goal, while remaining unflagging in our commitment to take care of each other and our community.
Henry T. Yang