June 18, 2020
Dear Members of Our Campus Community and Incoming Students:
We are writing today to share with you an update on our plans for the upcoming fall quarter. This communication will address:
• Undergraduate Instruction
• Graduate Instruction
• Campus Residences
• Campus Life
• Isla Vista
• Testing, Surveillance, and Contact Tracing
• On-Campus Research Ramp-up
• Remote Work
We know that our students, parents, faculty, and staff have been anxiously awaiting more information about our plans for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. We are all eager to see our picturesque campus come to life again with the excitement and activity of discovery and learning. In the period following the May 14, 2020, message in which we outlined our planning for our path forward, our deans, administrative colleagues and I have been consulting with our faculty, staff, and students to seek input to develop options for the fall quarter. We continue to receive valuable input from parents, alumni, Trustees, and members of the Goleta and Santa Barbara community. We also have been working closely with our sister campuses and with all relevant agencies as public health guidelines and requirements are developed, so we can comply, while still maintaining the unique traditions and strengths of UC Santa Barbara.
Due to a number of external uncertainties while we await approval from the State of California to resume in-person instruction, we will continue working on many details throughout the summer. We will be flexible and ready to adapt should circumstances require us to change course. Despite a relatively low COVID-19 infection rate in Santa Barbara to date, we need to plan for the possibility of changing COVID conditions this fall, which could require another rapid transition to fully remote instruction as well as changes to our housing plans.
Our students and many of our parents have made it clear how much they value the on-campus experience. Informal surveys indicate that while most students would like a hybrid or fully in-person experience, some would prefer to continue their education remotely in the fall quarter.
As is the case for all California universities — and for many others across the country — most classes will need to be offered remotely in accordance with physical distancing and other requirements. Planning teams are working with faculty to identify which courses will be conducted via fully remote instruction, which will be offered in person, and which will use a format combining remote and face-to-face components. The final schedule of courses indicating course formats will be available in July.
• For the fall quarter, we are planning a curriculum that includes some face-to-face courses, and courses with a mixture of remote instruction and some face-to-face components, subject to the availability of COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and the approval of State and local public health officials.
• Although most of our classes will be delivered via remote instruction, we still plan to create a meaningful on-campus experience for as many students as we can, particularly those with special circumstances.
• For our first-year international students, we previously committed to offering a remote curriculum appropriate to the major and General Education requirements sufficient for full-time status.
• We will similarly offer this remote curriculum commitment to any first-year student who chooses to study remotely. Please note there is no guarantee that any particular class a student might desire will be offered remotely.
• Any student who wishes to continue with a full remote offering may do so without being present on or near campus. Our teaching and learning experts are working closely with faculty this summer to enhance remote instruction and utilize innovative strategies to make all of our courses, regardless of the format, as rewarding and engaging as possible.
• We have been reviewing our classroom capacity, analyzing air flow in our buildings, adding hand sanitizing stations, and developing guidelines to ensure that we can observe the appropriate physical distancing requirements. Currently, we anticipate that all courses with an enrollment of more than 50 students will require remote instruction. And even where a class may have a smaller number of students, there is no guarantee that such classes will necessarily be offered in-person.
• To reduce the population density on campus and to maintain physical distancing in classrooms in order to help mitigate the spread of the disease, in-person instruction will for the most part be limited to small classes, seminars, some labs, and select arts and performance courses.
This is not the final word on teaching. Faculty and staff will be working during the summer to create curricular and co-curricular activities for students, both on-campus and by remote connection. Our Reimagining Instruction for the Student Experience (RISE) Institute is one example. As we develop more strategies to mitigate risks, we will continue to work with faculty over the summer to develop more face-to-face course offerings. Similarly, we will be working with faculty teaching remotely to consider the many possibilities for hybrid approaches that combine remote teaching and some in-person or classroom instruction. We also want to maintain the undergraduate research opportunities and mentoring that are so important to our students. And, beyond traditional curricula, we will be thinking creatively about opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and faculty to interact in innovative ways in order to preserve and strengthen the strong sense of academic community that distinguishes UC Santa Barbara, such as office hours and faculty-led discussions held outdoors on our beautiful campus.
Tuition and Student Fees for Fall 2020
The UC Regents and the Office of the President have determined that tuition and mandatory fees have been set regardless of the method of instruction and will not be refunded in the event instruction occurs remotely for any part of the academic year. Mandatory university charges for tuition and student services help cover ongoing operations, which include the delivery of instruction and the cost of student services such as registration, financial aid, and academic advising.
We envision that graduate education at UC Santa Barbara will continue at nearly full capacity during the fall quarter. Departments are currently working on ways to ensure that incoming and continuing graduate students receive the instruction and training needed to meet the milestones of their programs in a timely fashion. We will offer a range of curricular (small seminar) and other activities to ensure that incoming graduate students are able to start their programs.
Although most graduate seminars will be conducted remotely, in cases where face-to-face interaction is essential, members of the faculty are developing creative ways to weave in such instruction while maintaining safety protocols. We will be fully consulting with our administrative colleagues and our Academic Senate to develop approaches to the broad issues and challenges that COVID-19 has created for graduate education.
We have begun to ramp up campus laboratory‐based research, described in more detail later in this memo, so valuable graduate student training and mentoring in the laboratory will be ongoing.
Undergraduate: In order to decrease the density on campus, we are currently planning for all undergraduate residence halls to have no more than double occupancy in any room. Limiting our halls to double capacity will reduce the number of spaces we will be able to offer our students. We also are planning for the possibility that we may be required to limit rooms to single occupancy during the fall quarter. Our Housing colleagues are still working on their assignment process and will be communicating directly with undergraduates as details are finalized. The process will take into consideration students in their first year on campus and those with special circumstances.
• According to current University of California guidelines, students returning to housing will be asked for proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
• We are reviewing additional strategies to mitigate the potential spread of disease once students return to campus, including limiting social interactions for the first two weeks and asking students not to travel away from campus during the quarter.
• Housing will be enforcing a strict no-visitor policy in residence halls.
Graduate: Graduate housing is already structured in such a way that will not require us to reduce the number of units available to students. Housing will continue to communicate directly with our graduate students.
If we receive approval from State and local public health officials and UC Office of the President, we plan to offer a range of student and campus life activities as well as co-curricular programming, both remotely and in-person (with proper physical distancing and in accordance with public health guidelines).
• Face coverings will be required inside all campus buildings and at all times while on campus where physical distancing is not possible to minimize transmission. The University has purchased additional face coverings to supply to those students who may need them.
• Students, faculty, and staff will be requested to perform daily health checks before coming to campus. We are working to develop a digital application that will enable a simple screening procedure that also protects the privacy of our community members. More information will be available about this protocol later this summer.
• Any in-person campus activities or programs will need to meet physical distancing and public health guidelines regarding attendance size and other health requirements.
We will continue working with public health officials and our campus health experts as we develop more detailed and comprehensive guidelines and protocols. In the meantime, questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
UC Santa Barbara has prepared an engaging and highly interactive virtual Orientation program this summer for all new freshmen and transfer students and their families. Students will have the opportunity for extensive small group interaction, individual academic advising, and course registration. Orientation will offer participants live group workshops and drop-in times for individual questions to get answered, as well as social events to meet other new UC Santa Barbara community members. Visit http://orientation.sa.ucsb.edu/ for information on Orientation registration and session dates.
We expect that students who are in the process of deciding whether to sign leases in Isla Vista will carefully explore all options, and be mindful about the importance of physical distancing and reduced density in living situations. Please be aware that any leasing arrangement that exceeds double occupancy in a bedroom can increase the risk of spread and is strongly discouraged. Keeping the population density low in Isla Vista will help protect our campus community as well as the communities of Isla Vista, Goleta, and Santa Barbara. As mentioned earlier in this message, we will provide students who wish to continue with a fully remote course schedule the opportunity to enroll with a full course load without being present on or near campus.
The Intercollegiate Athletics Department is finalizing its plan to bring student-athletes back to campus in preparation for fall competition and the academic year. Athletics has been working collaboratively with other UC campuses in the Big West Conference and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, as well as with multiple campus departments, to develop the plan in alignment with the NCAA’s resocialization action plan for college sports.
Testing, Surveillance, and Contact Tracing
We are instituting a wide variety of safety measures to prepare for a resumption of campus activities. Testing, surveillance, and contact tracing will be key components for managing the spread of COVID-19 on campus this fall. Our campus is actively preparing to comply with the guidelines developed by the UC Systemwide Testing and Tracing Task Force. While our campus does not have a medical school or affiliated hospital, we have been working assiduously to develop the means for increasing our campus testing capacity. A group of our faculty experts is piloting a research surveillance testing study using a CRISPR-based detection system that is designed to detect COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals. While this research continues to show great promise, it is not yet ready for full deployment and must be FDA-approved before possible deployment as a clinical diagnostic tool. That being the case, the campus is also putting in place a structure that will enable the testing of campus community members who show symptoms of COVID-19 with traditional qPCR testing. This testing program will be costly but necessary in our efforts to provide rapid disease detection and deployment of appropriate containment measures as necessary.
Campus officials have been working closely with local public health officials, and will be supporting Public Health’s efforts to conduct contact tracing of campus community members who test positive for COVID-19.
On-Campus Research Ramp-Up
The Office of Research, in consultation with our academic deans and chairs, has developed a detailed, staged plan for a methodical and cautious ramp-up of our on-campus research. The goal of the plan, which includes guidelines for risk mitigation such as physical distancing, cleaning protocols, building monitoring, and health screening, is ultimately to get all on-campus research projects underway again at effective levels, while still reducing the number of people working on campus during the pandemic. Each lab and building has been working collaboratively to develop a plan with mitigation protocols that are being reviewed and approved by departments, academic deans, and the Office of Research.
Earlier this week a number of approved research projects returned to campus laboratories in accordance with the plan, with the expectation that more stages will occur in the coming months.
Although we are taking measured steps to resume some on-campus research activities, we ask staff who have been working from home and who are not involved in approved research projects that take place away from home to plan to continue working remotely this summer. More guidance will be shared by our Human Resources team and administrative colleagues in the coming weeks as our planning process progresses.
We know many questions remain and many details have yet to be worked out. We are also prepared to make changes to our current plan depending on guidance from public health officials.
Our campus has faced challenges in the past, and we are confident that together our community will overcome the difficulties that lie ahead. We are deeply grateful for the efforts and sacrifices each of you has made on behalf of our campus and the broader community. Your commitment and dedication are the lifeblood of our three-pronged mission of teaching, research, and public service as we continue to strive for excellence and diversity — a mission more important now than ever before.
As always, please take care of yourselves and each other.
Henry T. Yang