August 27, 2021
Dear Members of Our Campus Community,
The beginning of a new academic year is almost upon us. With it comes the excitement of Move-In, New Student Convocation, and the first day of classes on our vibrant campus, and perhaps also some apprehension and uncertainty as we continue to navigate the evolving circumstances of the pandemic.
Though the start of fall quarter is still nearly a month away, all of us have been actively working throughout the summer to prepare for the beginning of our fall quarter. Our dedicated faculty and our Academic Senate are finalizing their plans for fall instruction, including contingency planning efforts.
While we are keeping to our previously announced plans to resume in-person instruction this fall, as discussed in our April 16 and June11 messages to the campus, we are diligently monitoring the COVID-19 case rates in Santa Barbara County and in California. We continue to work closely with our campus medical experts, local public health officials, and the University of California Health coordinating committee comprised of subject-matter experts from around the system. We also are monitoring the latest scientific studies and modeling about the effectiveness of vaccine and masking mandates. We are prepared to make modifications to our campus operations as needed, and to follow all public health guidelines and best practices for COVID-19 mitigation.
Addressing Student Housing Challenges
Although we have not increased enrollment above pre-pandemic levels, we are aware that some of our students, both undergraduate and graduate, have had difficulty securing off-campus housing. The particularly tight Santa Barbara and Goleta rental market combined with less dense housing situations in Isla Vista and neighboring communities have caused a great deal of uncertainty. We have been working diligently to address the situation. Our housing team is seeking to maximize our housing options both on and off campus, and we already have been able to accommodate a significant number of students from the waitlist.
To provide additional housing options, the university has been negotiating with local hotels to make rooms available to those who cannot find suitable housing elsewhere for fall quarter. These include both single- and double-occupancy rooms. The cost that exceeds what students would pay for similar rooms in university-owned housing will be covered by funds provided by our university from a combination of campus funds, including gift funds raised to address this issue. Most hotels are located along regular MTD bus routes. Our housing team is working to address concerns raised by our students related to safety, management, and meal plans for these arrangements.
We are extremely grateful to our housing and community housing offices for the work they have done, and for all those in our UC Santa Barbara community who have responded to requests to assist and support our students.
Welcoming Back Our Faculty and Staff
We look forward to welcoming many of our staff and faculty back to campus beginning September 1, following all mitigation protocols, worksite safety plans, workplace plans, and required training. As we noted in our June planning message, all campus buildings have been evaluated by Facilities Management and outside experts, and ventilation in all buildings meets or exceeds requirements defined by the State of California.
Face Mask and Testing Protocol
As announced in our August 3 message to campus, all students, faculty, staff, and visitors are required to wear masks in any shared indoor space, and they must complete the daily symptom screening before coming onto campus. We will continue to offer testing to members of our campus community, including mandatory weekly testing for those individuals who have received an approved vaccination exemption or deferral. Our COVID-19 Response Team is developing a mandatory random surveillance testing program for our vaccinated students in order to gather additional data that could help us identify cases and address them before they spread. This surveillance testing will also provide real-time assessments of the general COVID-19 status of our campus community.
Vaccination Rates and Verification
The FDA’s recent full approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine came as welcome news, which we hope will encourage more people in the greater Santa Barbara region to become vaccinated. We are still a few weeks away from the deadline for providing vaccination verification or being approved for an exemption or deferral. We don’t yet have complete vaccination information for all of our out-of-state students, but 92% of our incoming and returning in-state students have been fully vaccinated or are in process. We will be adding a section to our COVID-19 dashboard in September that highlights the campus’s compliance with the University of California’s vaccination policy mandate. Earlier this week, a message was sent by our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn informing students of our plans to enforce the UC vaccine mandate.
Our Student Health team has been offering vaccination appointments to students throughout the summer, and is planning to hold vaccination clinics after move-in and prior to the start of the fall quarter to assist students who have been unable to receive an approved vaccine.
We embark on this new academic year with a mix of optimism for our exciting journey together and care for the health and well-being of our campus community. While we know there will be challenges, we will rise to meet them together, as a community, and we will continue to make our decisions informed by the best and most recent medical and scientific updates. We are deeply grateful for all of the hard work and patience shown by every member of our community throughout the difficulties of the past 18 months, and this same spirit of determination will carry us through the coming year. We look forward to seeing you again, in-person, on our beautiful UC Santa Barbara campus.
Henry T. Yang