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Fall 2021

Re: Fall 2021
To: All students
March 10, 2021

Dear Students and Families,
Earlier this year, the University of California announced that we will return to primarily in-person instruction for fall 2021. UC Merced is planning for fully in-person instruction this fall.
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.
Further, we have heard loud and clear, from both returning and prospective students, that they want to be in Merced this fall.
Of course, we will adjust if circumstances dictate, but we believe it is important to share our planning principles for the fall semester:
  1. 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 likely will 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.
  2. In-person courses. The vast majority of fall semester courses will be offered in-person. We do not expect fully remote participation to be an option, so students should plan on being in Merced. We have plans in place for various fall public health scenarios and plan to maintain in-person instruction for courses even if we are in the yellow or orange tier. This will involve further social distancing in the classrooms. In the unlikely event that we will be in red or purple tier in fall, we would shift to mostly fully remote courses for some time at the start of the semester.
  3. Offering a campus life experience on campus that is meaningful and fun, while adhering to appropriate health guidelines. This includes living on campus and a return to athletics and the other co-curricular activities that renew old acquaintances, make new ones and build memories.
In the coming weeks and months, additional details will be finalized and shared with students and families. We will continue to think carefully about how our planning affects each member of our community and their diverse needs and responsibilities. And we all need to continue to do our part in keeping ourselves, our campus and our communities healthy.
A town hall for students, to be announced shortly, will focus on these plans in greater detail and address what we recognize will be many questions.
On behalf of the faculty and staff of UC Merced, I look forward to welcoming you to campus this fall.
Charles Nies
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs