To the UC Merced community,
Following consultation among campus stakeholders, UC Merced intends to return to face-to-face instruction in stages between Jan. 31 and Feb. 11. It is essential to keep in mind, however, that throughout the pandemic we have seen circumstances shift, and our plans with them.
We intend to begin Jan. 31 with in-person instruction only for upper-division and graduate courses (all courses numbered 100 and above), excepting those few upper-division lectures with enrollment over 100.
On Feb. 7, all other classes except lecture classes of over 100 students will return to in-person instruction.
On Feb. 11, classes will be completely in-person.
Only those classes that have been approved for online delivery by the Academic Senate may be delivered by remote means beyond Feb. 11.
Deans will be available over the coming days to answer specific questions from department chairs.
Campus leaders have made these decisions predicated on six criteria:
1) The current state of the omicron surge in the state broadly and in Merced County specifically. While data across the state show that we are past the peak of the surge, Merced County trails the state by about one week. And even for the next few weeks past the peak, we will continue to experience many positive cases.
2) Adequate quarantine and isolation (Q&I) spaces to manage the expected number of positive cases among student who live on campus. Effective Q&I space is only in our suite-style residence halls, with small numbers of rooms per suite and separate bathrooms. Without enough of this space, we might have to sequester entire residence halls, making it difficult to hold in-person classes.
Given the high rates of transmission of the omicron variant, we need to quadruple our Q&I space from what we needed for fall semester. This requires significant shifting of students from residence hall space that is appropriate for Q&I to other available housing. We have been working assiduously to find this space since December. Since most on-campus residents are first- and second-year students, delaying face-to-face instruction for lower-division courses will help slow the return of students to the residence halls and lessen the demand for Q&I spaces until a time we will have more available.
We also test all students on their return to campus and are finding a significant number of asymptomatic cases that require us to isolate the students. While this will help us slow the spread, it creates an upfront need for Q&I space. Thus, we need to space out the return of on-campus residents to ensure that we can manage the likely surge of cases.
3) Staff availability to maintain key operations. We need to flatten the curve among staff and faculty to ensure that we can provide instructors and support staff to keep classes running. A staged return should enable us to slow transmission beyond students. Staff should continue with their current work modality, 100% remote if possible, through Feb. 7. After Feb. 7, all staff should resume their pre-holiday work modality, or adjust after discussions with and approval of supervisor and documented on an updated Alternate Working Agreement.
4) Instruction can be maintained without oscillating between in-person and distant delivery.
5) Research operations are not impacted.
6) We provide the best learning experience possible for our students.
UC Merced has updated its directive on campus health and safety protocols; it is available here.
Thank you for continuing the critical work of teaching, research and public service that make UC Merced a beacon of light and knowledge, even during challenging times like this. Our students, our region and our world are the better for it.