Faculty Access to Buildings and Offices for Instructional and Research Purposes

November 1, 2020

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

We write to update you on the progress our campus has been making regarding access to faculty offices for instructional and research purposes. Access had to be restricted until now, to comply with public health guidelines. While we have made significant strides throughout the spring and summer to provide access for our on-campus research ramp-up, there was more that needed to be done to accommodate our faculty, and to create more opportunities for those who have critical needs to use their offices. We recognize that not having access to our own office space has been a major disruption for some faculty.

We realize this has been a lengthy and often frustrating process. To date, we have faced two noteworthy challenges: 1) California State and Santa Barbara County Public Health guidelines restricting access to campus, and 2) limited technical personnel needed to complete required building re-opening assessments (including required inspections of ventilation/HVAC and water systems).

Although some labs and classrooms have been inspected and cleared for use, we are required to undertake complete building inspections, which includes assessments of building systems as well as each office space, and complete required worksite safety plans for every building. We have been working diligently with County public health officials, and as of last week, we received approval for limited and managed access to individual faculty offices for the purposes of instruction and research.

Every campus building now has a designated Building Access Committee, representing faculty and staff from the departments, centers, and laboratories that occupy space in each building. Each Committee must develop and oversee an individual plan for managing density, monitoring access, assigning priorities, and implementing required mitigation protocols for everyone entering the building. The COVID-19 mitigation protocols developed for the research ramp-up plan have resulted in almost five months without any known transmission in our laboratories. Our goal is to create similar systems for all our buildings that reduce the risk of transmission to our colleagues and community to the greatest extent possible. Faculty interested in office access and details regarding site-specific protocols should contact their individual BAC or departmental representative on the committee. Faculty can contact Department Chairs for information regarding departmental representation on the Building Access Committee.

The recent move of Santa Barbara County from the purple to the red tier, based on our COVID-19 transmission statistics, as well as the revisions by the State and County of their higher education guidelines (which are distinct and more restrictive than the guidelines for K-12 institutions and private businesses) now allow for more on-campus operations. These changes will enable us to increase the number and level of activities on campus, although it is critical that we strictly adhere to all the mitigation steps being developed for office use until the end of the pandemic. News reports from around the world highlight the benefits of maintaining strong mitigation protocols as well as the dangers that may result from letting our guard down.

We are currently working to address faculty space needs, while maintaining important mitigation protocols, in several ways: 

  • In response to the changes in public health guidelines and to provide faculty access rapidly and safely, our Design, Facilities, and Safety Services (DFSS) team has contracted for the services of an engineering firm to assist with building inspections. 

    As of Friday, assessments have been completed for 30 buildings and structures, and the respective building committees are preparing protocols and scheduled access for faculty. We expect additional buildings assessments to be completed in the coming weeks.

    Before faculty can be given permission to work in their offices, the building must undergo a complete assessment and a building plan (including a Work Site Safety Plan and plans to schedule and manage office access) must be approved.
     
  • Building Access Committees should complete building plans in order to be ready when their building assessment has been completed. Department Chairs may consult with Assistant Deans and refer to the Guidance for Use of Faculty Offices
     
  • To address immediate concerns and requests for faculty who need on-campus space for the purpose of delivering remote instruction, the campus has space in the Library and on the first floor of HSSB that faculty can reserve. (Library - https://libcal.library.ucsb.edu/reserve/library; HSSB - https://libcal.library.ucsb.edu/reserve/hssb.)

It is important to note that most staff are expected to continue working remotely and not to return to campus until at least January 4, 2021.

We will continue to update you with additional information regarding the building assessment schedule, ongoing discussions with the County, and guidance related to issues of office use. 

We know how challenging this situation is for all of us, and we will continue to work hard to expedite access for our faculty. Our highest priority is ensuring that we have the best possible protective measures in place, and we appreciate your patience as we ramp up this area of on-campus activity.

Thank you for your dedication, adaptability, and perseverance throughout the crisis. With your help in following all of the protective measures we have adopted for those people working on campus, we will be able to continue to function and minimize the risks to our community.

Sincerely,

Henry T. Yang
Chancellor
Susannah L. Scott
Divisional Chair, Academic Senate
 
David Marshall
Executive Vice Chancellor
Joseph Incandela
Vice Chancellor for Research
 
Garry Mac Pherson
Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services
 

Additional campus resources:

  • Kerr Hall has facilities and staff available to assist instructors with recording lectures for remote delivery.
  • UC Santa Barbara COVID-19 Prevention Plan: an all-inclusive mitigation and preparation plan for the campus for the gradual return to in-person instruction, research, operations, and other pursuits. It includes a comprehensive risk assessment of all work areas to minimize the risk of virus transmission. 
  • UC Santa Barbara Worksite Specific Safety Plan, a template to assist departments with the development of their building-specific work plans to ensure compliance with all local, county, and state requirements for managed re-opening.