January 3, 2022

To: Academic Affairs Departments

From: David Marshall, Executive Vice Chancellor

Re: Winter Quarter Beginning
I write to send best wishes for the new year and to follow up on communications from Chancellor Yang, our COVID-19 Response Work Group, our Instructional Support Team, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Michael Miller, and Academic Senate Chair Susannah Scott. Thanks to the efforts of our entire campus community, Fall Quarter was very successful. Our COVID-19 mitigation measures were highly effective, with no evidence of any COVID transmission in the classroom, and an extremely low testing positivity rate on campus. Despite the inconvenience of masking and the continuation of some meetings on Zoom, we were able to resume most campus activities. Most students and faculty were grateful to be back in the classroom; along with staff, they were able to begin the process of rebuilding a sense of campus community. 

In my message at the beginning of Fall Quarter, anticipating the resumption of in-person instruction, I acknowledged that we could experience “advances and setbacks, as well as tactical adjustments in the months ahead.” The rapid spread of the Omicron variant is certainly a setback that requires tactical adjustments, which is why, like other UC campuses, we have delayed in-person instruction for two weeks so students can return to campus more gradually, get vaccine booster shots, and undergo COVID testing upon their arrival. I want to emphasize that the primary motivation for this decision was dictated by the logistics of testing so many students as they return to campus. We also anticipated the possibility that many students and some instructors might be unable to attend classes over the next two weeks because of COVID-mitigation protocols related to travel, isolation, or child-care responsibilities. These precautionary and transitional mitigation measures are intended to allow us to resume classroom instruction on January 18th. Our expanded testing program, compliance with UC mandates to receive booster shots, and masking and other protocols, are again designed to mitigate risks and ensure a successful academic quarter.

Out of an abundance of caution in this transitional period, we are restricting public events with more than 25 people attending, and we are encouraging all faculty and staff to get tested upon return to campus. Testing is available to the campus community without charge. Appointments can be made through the Student Health Patient Portal. Almost all campus facilities remain open, including labs and the Library. We are confident that our plans and mitigation protocols will allow us to bring students back to campus, reopen offices, and resume other activities soon. Our policies related to academic visitors are posted here; we expect that candidates for academic positions will be able come for campus visits in January and related events will proceed as scheduled. Winter Quarter remote/hybrid work agreements for staff will continue, but we understand that some additional flexibility may be needed in this interim period. 

Our Keep Teaching website has information and resources to assist instructors in remote teaching as the Winter Quarter begins. Since the next two weeks will serve as a transitional period and we anticipate returning to in-person instruction soon, we do not expect instructors to completely redesign their courses. However, information for instructors who need assistance setting up remote lectures is available. These resources offer both technological and pedagogical assistance and advice. If instructors or TA’s have questions about technology (GauchoSpace, Zoom, or GauchoCast) they may email help@id.ucsb.edu. Those who would like pedagogical consultation can request it here.

We emphasize the importance of communicating with students at the start of the quarter so they understand how their courses will begin, how wait lists will function, and how they can communicate with their instructors. It is recommended that instructors use the GauchoSpace welcome message to inform their students what to expect and how the course will meet. Instructors also should enable their GauchoSpace sites for course crashing. As previously announced, instructors can request permission to hold their classes in person if they have a compelling pedagogical reason to do so. 

The January 13, 2022, meeting of the Faculty Legislature will include an overview for faculty about the health and logistical considerations related to teaching modalities from Professor Scott Grafton, our campus COVID-Mitigation Program Coordinator. The Chancellor’s COVID-19 Response Work Group will continue to keep the campus community informed. See the latest Campus Updates.

Throughout the pandemic, the campus has worked closely with public health agencies and the UC Office of the President, monitored scientific and medical literature, and erred on the side of caution. We also have tried to support our students, staff, and faculty as they navigated the local manifestation of a global pandemic and to mitigate its impacts where possible. The Chancellor’s COVID-19 Response Work Group will continue to monitor conditions on campus and in the community, exercising the same conscientiousness, rigor, and compliance with public health requirements that have guided our decisions since March of 2020, and adapting policies and practices where and when appropriate. Thank you again for your dedication, flexibility, and perseverance as we work together to fulfil the academic mission of the University of California in a new year.