Update on Academic Building Access

August 13, 2020

This message is distributed to SBCHR-L, Academic-Assistant-Deans, and Academic-Department-Managers.  (Click here to view description of distribution groups.)  

Please distribute to your faculty and staff.

To:          Academic Departments

From:    David Marshall, Executive Vice Chancellor

Re:         Update on Academic Building Access

I am writing with an update for faculty and staff in academic departments about planning for Fall Quarter. In our communications at the end of the Spring Quarter, it was anticipated that over the summer, with the approval of the Chancellor’s COVID-19 Response Working Group, we would develop plans to gradually bring back some faculty and staff to academic offices, consistent with plans to manage a limited return to some laboratories and research facilities and resume some classroom instruction. We acknowledged that any resumption of campus activities, even on a reduced basis, depended on decisions by County and State officials and public health agencies, as well as our campus efforts to carry out testing, contact tracing, and rigorous cleaning protocols.

Unfortunately, conditions in the State have worsened rather than improved, and the recently released State Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education about the resumption of campus activities is still very restrictive, and dependent on improvements in the conditions in Santa Barbara County. The limited resumption of activities in labs and research facilities has taken place with the special permission of County public health agencies. We do not yet have permission to resume most campus activities beyond essential functions.

The carefully managed research ramp-up has been very successful, and there is hope that it can be expanded in the near future. We have been planning to bring some students back to the residence halls and resume some classroom instruction on a limited basis, if this is allowed by State and County public health agencies. As for staff in academic departments, consistent with plans developed by Human Resources and Administrative Services, as well as the State Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education, we are assuming that remote work will continue through the Fall Quarter. Unless staff have a mission-critical need to be on campus and have permission to do so, they should continue to work remotely for the rest of 2020. Staff should contact their supervisors if they have concerns or need to access their offices for any reason. Our goal is to reduce the population on campus and limit contacts and proximity as much as possible.

With the exception of the Library, which has some staff working to support essential instructional and research activities, authorized labs and specialized research facilities, campus buildings remain closed and should not be utilized. Given the extended period that some buildings have been closed, special measures must be taken by Design, Facilities, and Safety Services staff to recommission them to ensure that they are safe for work, apart from any COVID-19 related precautions.

Delivering remote instruction is considered an essential activity and limited use of offices or other campus facilities is allowed for this purpose, but we will need to establish a protocol for Fall Quarter instruction for any instructors who need to use offices for this purpose. We recognize that faculty would like to utilize studios, performance spaces, and offices in order to pursue their research and creative activity; this is anticipated in the next phases of the Office of Research plans. However, this return also needs to be carefully managed in order to reduce density, proximity, and contact, and take into account air transfers and cleaning schedules.

In order to establish a process for the use of offices for remote instruction, and the eventual return of other research activities, we will expand the effective building committees established for the research ramp-up and create new building committees where needed. Taking a building-by-building approach, these committees will be tasked with coordinating plans across departments, units, and divisions, and across floors within buildings, to ensure that overall density for all buildings (both in general and on individual floors) remains low.  Department chairs and unit heads will be asked to work with their deans and the building committees to coordinate requests by those with essential campus access needs and to help manage scheduling if access is allowed.

Access for critical on-campus research (required access to resources available only on campus) will continue to be overseen by Office of Research. In close collaboration with Vice Chancellor Joe Incandela and Vice Chancellor Garry Mac Pherson, I have asked the deans to expand and augment the building committees to develop protocols for the limited use of offices in the Fall Quarter for other reasons. A process will be established for faculty and staff to gain access to offices or other departmental spaces for:  (a) Preparation for Remote Instruction (lecture preparation, asynchronous instruction recording; lab/studio course preparation, recording); (b) Instructional Delivery (delivery and/or support of synchronous remote instruction; delivery and or support of approved in-person instruction once approved to resume); and (c) Other Essential Business (required access to campus to support approved research or instruction and to maintain business continuity).

We want to emphasize that, at the moment, only essential work activities and authorized access to labs and other research facilities are permitted on campus. All activities that can be conducted remotely should  continue to be conducted off-campus. We urge instructors to offer their remote courses from off-campus locations unless their presence on campus is absolutely necessary.

In addition, anyone working on campus is required to wear a mask or face covering at all times, indoors or outdoors, and maintain appropriate physical distancing, among other requirements and responsibilities. Safety protocols are being determined by the building committees, consistent with public health policies and campus best practices. Anyone working on campus will be required to complete a daily online symptom checker and to follow its protocols for follow-up action. More details of these requirements will be communicated if and when access is allowed.

We will continue to make adjustments consistent with public health requirements and guidelines, as well as UC and campus policies, with the hope that we can gradually resume more campus activities, as we are allowed to do so. These measures, exercised with an abundance of caution, will increase our ability to plan and eventually implement a greater resumption of work on campus.

The Chancellor’s COVID-19 Response Working Group is actively monitoring conditions and reviewing options for in-person classroom instruction, lab instruction, and studio instruction. Our plans for a relatively small number of in-person classes with special protocols for occupancy, physical distancing, face coverings, and cleaning are well-advanced, but we do not yet know whether classroom instruction will be allowed in the Fall by the State Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education, County public health officials, and UC and campus policies. It is not currently allowed. We will be in touch with instructors as the situation evolves.

Thank you for your cooperation and your many efforts to carry out our academic mission in these difficult circumstances.