June 11, 2021
Dear Members of Our Campus Community,
This week has been a highlight of our academic year. We have been celebrating our graduating students and recognizing their achievements through our 2020-2021 Grad Walk, with more than 20,000 graduates and guests participating in the processional. And tomorrow morning, the festivities will culminate in our live-online graduation recognition ceremony with keynote speaker Oprah Winfrey. As we close this chapter and look ahead, I want to share some updates on our progress toward resuming a more normal level of campus activity this summer, and our plans for returning to primarily in-person instruction with regular classroom occupancy this fall.
In anticipation of California’s reopening plan, our faculty and staff and numerous campus teams and committees have been working throughout the spring to prepare for a gradual return to more normal campus activity. The significant decline in COVID-19 cases across the state has profoundly changed the landscape. This decline has provided us with enormous opportunity to move forward under the guidance of our regulatory agencies. There are still many details yet to be worked out as we await the finalization of UC policies and guidance from federal, state, and local regulatory agencies.
Return to Campus Workplace
California will no longer use tiers as of June 15, 2021. Beginning that date, we will no longer be imposing constraints on building occupancy in offices and laboratories on our campus, provided six feet of distancing can be maintained between work spaces, as required by California’s Division of Occupational Health and Safety (Cal/OSHA). Increased access to campus buildings will be available to faculty, staff, researchers, and graduate students. In addition, after June 15, fully vaccinated students who come to campus will no longer be required to test for COVID-19.
Based on the ongoing requirements of Cal/OSHA, for the time being we are required to operate under existing worksite safety plans (WSSPs). As such, we will need to continue with daily symptom surveys, distancing of six feet, and masking for all occupants, pending anticipated changes to Cal/OSHA regulations. While building committees will be expected to maintain a master list of authorized occupants, we no longer need to log daily visitors, control access, or maintain a schedule of occupants. Departments should create and maintain a list of authorized users and provide a copy to their building committee. These changes will help to facilitate general access to offices and labs, including small group meetings, provided there is compliance with distancing and masking requirements. Masks will not be required outdoors unless persons are less than six feet apart.
All buildings have been evaluated by Facilities Management and outside experts, and ventilation meets requirements defined by the state. Our Facilities Management colleagues have sought to maximize building ventilation wherever possible, consistent with best industry practices.
Our COVID-19 Working Group, COVID-19 Response Team, and our campus medical experts will continue to meet throughout the summer to evaluate and implement evolving higher education guidelines and/or Cal/OSHA regulations, and will keep our community informed and up to date. State regulatory agencies and UCOP are expected to update their requirements for masking, distancing, and vaccinations in the coming weeks. Our COVID-19 Response Team will continue to maintain vigilance for increased transmission risk to our community through surveillance testing and consultation with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.
Our staff colleagues should expect to continue their current work arrangements through June 30, 2021, according to our February communication. During the two-month period from July 1 to September 1, 2021, per recommendations from our Return to Campus Working Group, our employees will gradually transition to normal in-person, on-site work.
During this transition period, campus units may wish to explore flexible work arrangements that are in accordance with UC and campus policies. Such arrangements will require approval from immediate supervisors, in consultation with departmental, unit, and divisional leadership. These arrangements should be guided by the operational needs of our campus, reflecting the experience we gained during the pandemic.
More information and guidance regarding flexible work arrangements will be forthcoming from Academic Personnel and Human Resources offices, as recommended by our Return to Campus Working Group.
With full occupancy beginning June 15, 2021, we are optimistic that we can continue to ramp up our on-campus research activities during the summer, and we are on track to return to full, on-site research operations before the start of fall quarter. Additional details regarding updated safety protocols will be forthcoming from the Office of Research.
UC Vaccination Policy
The scientific data confirm that COVID-19 vaccines are the best defense against the virus. Vaccinating as many members of our community as possible will be critical to resuming normal campus activities. In April, the University of California proposed a mandated vaccination policy with the goal of allowing ample time for students, faculty, and staff to receive their vaccinations ahead of the fall term.
The policy for faculty, staff, and students will be finalized and issued by July 15. UCOP will share additional information and FAQs by mid-July concerning general implementation guidance. More information regarding the policy and FAQs will be posted by the Office of the President in the coming weeks.
The effective date for vaccination policy compliance on our campus will be Monday, September 6, 2021, two weeks before the start of the fall term. Fall quarter begins Sunday, September 19, 2021, with the first day of instruction on Thursday, September 23, 2021. The same timeframe will apply for those already on campus.
Our campus is already preparing the processes and tools that will be used to record vaccination status. Faculty and staff members who received vaccinations anywhere other than Student Health Services are encouraged to upload their vaccination information into the confidential Student Health Services patient portal. Uploading vaccination information now will allow the University to verify vaccination status, and will assist our campus in resuming in-person activities. More information about uploading vaccination records will be sent out by the COVID-19 Response Team. Students planning to access any UC campus for the fall will need to update their immunization documentation on file to indicate vaccination or an approved exception or medical exemption prior to coming on campus.
The UC COVID-19 vaccine policy will allow for narrow medical exemptions consistent with CDC guidance and manufacturer labeling. As with other UC policies, and, in the case of employees as required by federal and California law, faculty, staff, and students will also be eligible to request accommodations based on disability or religious belief.
Individuals in California can make vaccination appointments at My Turn, the California Department of Public Health’s scheduling site. Those throughout the U.S. can do so at vaccines.gov. Out-of-state and international students may also be able to obtain a vaccine without appointment and without insurance at certain U.S. airports. Students may check airport websites for the most recent up-to-date vaccine information. For students and employees who are unable to receive a vaccine prior to arriving on campus, our Student Health Services will have vaccines available by appointment beginning this summer.
Students and faculty and staff members without a documented and confirmed COVID-19 vaccine will likely be required to undergo asymptomatic COVID-19 testing twice a week until further notice, or until they are fully vaccinated. Our asymptomatic COVID-19 testing program will continue to be available on campus.
Living on our beautiful campus and being a member of our academic community is a rewarding part of the undergraduate experience. To accommodate our first-year students and first-year transfer students as well as our second-year students and transfers who did not have that opportunity this past year, we plan to open our student housing to full capacity for the fall quarter. We will, however, need to remain flexible in the event of changes in public health guidelines or UC policies. Students who have expressed interest in on-campus housing will be contacted directly by our Housing office in the coming weeks.
To our third- and fourth-year students, we so look forward to having you back in the classroom and on our campus once again.
We are deeply grateful for all the hard work and patience shown by every member of our community throughout the challenges of the past 15 months. The trends we are seeing in increased vaccination rates and decreased transmission rates, and our campus community’s commitment to supporting each other, make us extremely optimistic that we will see the return of our vibrant campus life this fall. We will continue to keep our community updated throughout the summer on our progress and our planning.
Henry T. Yang