Re: Fall 2021
To: All campus
March 9, 2021
Dear Campus Community,
We are greatly encouraged by trends in Merced County and California and expect to be in the orange or yellow tier by the start of the fall semester. Vaccination rates continue to rise, case counts and test positivity rates have fallen substantially, local schools are beginning to return to partial in-person instruction, and the Centers for Disease Control have issued new guidance for K-12 schools. Revised guidance for higher education is anticipated soon. If the revisions are similar to the new K-12 guidance, we could see a reduced emphasis on physical distancing in the lower transmission tiers.
Of course, we will adjust if circumstances dictate, but we believe it is important to share our planning principles for the fall semester:
- Strict adherence to health and safety standards. Personal and institutional health and safety standards for on-campus activities, including instruction, will be developed by the COVID Response Center to be consistent with current public health guidelines. This will likely include universal and correct use of masks (even for those vaccinated), physically distanced classroom seating and regular testing of anyone participating in on-campus activities. All in-person instructional activities, and anyone participating in these activities, will be required to adhere to these guidelines.
- Offering in-person instruction. Courses will be listed as in-person in the course schedule, which will be published this week. The Instructional Sustainability Implementation workgroup has devised in-person delivery alternatives for yellow and orange tiers that conform with public health guidelines. A process by which faculty can request an exemption to in-person teaching for medical reasons will be shared in the near future. Note that according to Academic Senate guidelines, programs can always request that individual courses be offered in online, hybrid or hyflex formats for pedagogical reasons by submitting a course action form and online approval supplement. We will continue to think carefully about how our plans affect each member of our community and their diverse needs and responsibilities.
A town hall for faculty and staff, to be announced shortly, will focus on these plans in greater detail and address what we recognize will be many questions.
A successful return to campus will require the same understanding, cooperation and passion for student success that have guided UC Merced since its founding. Each one of us is critically important to the university’s mission and to the future of the amazing young people we bring to Merced full of hope for their future.
Please join with us in planning for how we can each personally make the fall semester another historic one for UC Merced.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost