Re: We Must Remain Adaptive
To: All Campus
August 3, 2021
Members of the UC Merced community,
UC Merced was built on innovation, adaptability, entrepreneurial drive and sheer hard work. This campus is a result of faculty, staff and students pitching in together to create a modern research university in the Central Valley — everyone doing their part, and often more.
These times call for that same foundational spirit: the grit and responsiveness to circumstance and opportunity that, over 15 years, have made UC Merced a top-100 institution.
Our guiding principle this year will be to conduct research, teaching and public service in ways that put health and safety foremost in our operations. To do so, we must remain ever flexible.
We must be responsive to the latest county, state and federal guidance, along with policy from the University of California. We must recognize that in responding to a fast-changing pandemic, in a county that lags significantly behind both U.S. and California vaccination rates, we will at times be required to revise our mitigation approaches. Rules on face coverings, physical distancing and room occupancy may be revised, and revised yet again, as we adapt to a pandemic that is not yet contained in Merced, California, the United States or indeed the world.
On one issue we will remain steadfast: Faculty, staff and students must prove their vaccination status or have an approved exemption before the start of instruction on Aug. 25. Failing to cooperate for the safety of our community is untenable and actively undermines our ability to deliver on the mission of the university.
This past 17 months has been trying for us all. Many have lost loved ones and many others have suffered significant illness; most have endured isolation from friends, family, colleagues, and community. Yet as an institution, UC Merced has endured and, in some aspects, even prevailed. Groundbreaking research is still being performed. Students are learning and co-creating knowledge with the most amazing faculty in the UC system. State of the art facilities will soon be occupied for the first time. Staff, many of whom have worked on campus throughout the pandemic, have redefined dedication in ways that should make us all proud.
I cannot promise this coming year will be easy. We will be working as hard as those who first built UC Merced, and we will be changing some policies and practices along the way, often with short notice, as conditions change. We must remain flexible and adaptive.
But I do promise this: With your support and dedication UC Merced will continue its upward journey. Over the past year, while we learned to research, teach and learn in new ways, we also joined the top 100 of US News & World Report’s national research universities. We received our largest philanthropic gift ever. We admitted our largest first-year class in fall 2020 and are on track to welcome an even larger class this month. We have come together to draft our first-ever strategic plan. We have come into our own, and the future remains so very bright.
All of this is the result of our community’s spirit, hard work and ability to adapt. I ask you to join again as we begin the work anew.
Juan Sánchez Muñoz, Ph.D.