January 24, 2022
The following message is being sent from Academic Senate Chair Susannah Scott and Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall to All-Instructors, Academic-Assistant-Deans, Academic-Department-Managers, and Non-Academic-Department-
Resumption of In-Person Instruction
The campus has just reaffirmed the decision relayed in the Chancellor’s January 8th memo to return to regular classroom instruction on January 31st. This decision is consistent with current public health guidance, our analysis of the most up-to-date medical data as students have returned to our campus, and the success of our vaccination policies and masking and testing protocols.
The Fall Quarter Academic Senate policies for in-person, remote, and online teaching related to modes of instruction, accommodations, and adjustments remain in place for Winter Quarter. These policies allow some additional workplace adjustments beyond the standard medical accommodations, including flexibility for instructors with serious medical conditions and those who live with immunocompromised household members. For information and procedures, please see the information posted here on the Academic Senate website.
In addition, we note that Senate policies also allow for the temporary use of remote instruction for caregivers of young children due to school or daycare closures, as well as required quarantines or isolations due to COVID exposure or infection. These policies apply equally to all instructors, including faculty, teaching associates, and teaching assistants.
The brief period of dual mode instruction in January, when instructors teaching in person were required to offer remote options for students not on campus, will end on January 31st. After that date, consistent with Fall Quarter policies, instructors must continue to offer remote options for students with Disabled Students Program-approved accommodations, and with the support of DSP personnel if needed. Other students are expected to be available for in-person instruction if their courses require it. However, as we previously stated, arrangements should be made for students who must be temporarily absent due to COVID-19 protocols or conditions that would prevent them from having a green clearance badge. We also understand that some instructors may be temporarily absent for similar reasons.
We realize that the need for remote instruction in January was an unwelcome interruption to our successful return to the classroom in Fall Quarter, and we acknowledge the anxiety and stress of uncertainty and unexpected changes in plans. When we decided to delay in-person instruction for the first two weeks of Winter Quarter, we were primarily motivated by the logistical challenges of testing all of our students rapidly as they returned to campus after an extended holiday period, and the likelihood that there would be an unusually high number of absences among students, faculty, and staff as the quarter began due to COVID-mitigation protocols related to travel, isolation, or child-care responsibilities.
We subsequently decided that additional time was needed for our precautionary and transitional mitigation measures before we resumed full classroom instruction. In addition to allowing members of our community more time to make the transition back to in-person instruction, making allowances for expected absences and ensuring compliance with the booster component of the UC vaccine mandate, this delay also allowed us to carefully monitor and analyze recent medical data from our campus and from Santa Barbara County, as well as state, national, and international data.
In the context of the improving and expected public health conditions in the County and the State, with the effective mitigation measures that we have in place, the Chancellor’s COVID-19 Response Working Group has concluded that we are prepared to return to our classrooms, offices, and academic activities. Information and analysis from our medical team will be distributed soon, but we note here that the campus is almost completely vaccinated, and booster compliance (required for students by February 1st) is already very high. Indoor masking has been demonstrated to be a very effective strategy to reduce transmission and infection rates, and compliance on campus has been excellent.
On our campus, as on all UC campuses, there have been no known cases of transmission of COVID-19 from person to person during regular classroom activities, as assessed by rigorous contact tracing. Detailed modeling of UCSB classroom sizes, occupancy, and ventilation in the summer of 2021 had predicted less than one transmission in Fall Quarter. When applied to in-person instruction beginning January 31st, the updated modelling for the Omicron variant still predicts that the risk of classroom transmission will be very low.
We again urge instructors to communicate with their students and with their Teaching Assistants to discuss expectations and arrangements as we prepare to return to classroom instruction, and throughout the remainder of the quarter. While our precautions and protocols in January, as well as the improving public health context, will allow us to resume in-person instruction at the end of the month, we will continue to follow public health guidance in the best interests of our community. Thank you for your ongoing dedication to our students and our mission as a public university.