February 2, 2022

This message is distributed to Academic-Assistant-Deans, Academic-Department-Managers, and Non-Academic-Department-Managers with copy to Deans and Department Chairs.  (Click here to view description of distribution groups.)

To:     Staff in Academic Affairs Departments and Units

From:     David Marshall, Executive Vice Chancellor

Re:     Return to Campus Activities

I am writing to follow up on the recent communication from the Co-Chairs of the Return to Campus Working Group, Vice Chancellor Garry Mac Pherson and L&S Executive Dean Pierre Wiltzius, as well as messages from Chancellor Yang and the medical experts on the COVID-19 Response Working Group. 

As we resume regular in-person instruction after the delays associated with the return of students, faculty, and staff to campus while we were responding to the Omicron variant, I want to acknowledge the ongoing work and dedication of the staff in Academic Affairs, and throughout the campus. In our efforts to provide details about Academic Senate policies governing the delivery of instruction, classroom technology and instructional support, and requirements for students returning to campus, we have not always fully communicated our deep appreciation to our staff, who also are responding to pandemic-related impacts that have complicated lives and increased anxiety. We know that pressures caused by staff shortages and new workplace schedules have been exacerbated by Omicron-related temporary absences. Our administrative colleagues, especially the deans and department chairs, are aware that our successful return to campus in the Fall Quarter, and our delayed return in the Winter Quarter, have depended on the contributions—often behind the scenes—of our staff colleagues. Thank you for your crucial support and commitment. 

I hope that you have read the communications from our medical team and the Current articles describing the analysis and public health guidance informing our decisions to resume campus activities. As the memo from the Return to Campus Working Group indicated, our reopening of campus buildings last summer and fall followed a comprehensive assessment in which “campus buildings were evaluated extensively by Facilities Management and by outside experts to ensure that HVAC systems, ventilation systems, and windows are operating as designed, and to further maximize building ventilation and air filtration levels to the extent possible.” With our masking protocols and enhanced vaccination and testing requirements, in the context of public health assessments, we have confidence that we can now successfully mitigate COVID-19 risks in Winter Quarter and resume campus activities. We know that some disruptions to our work and personal lives will continue in the months ahead, and we count on everyone’s understanding and flexibility. 

In my July 20, 2021, message to Academic Affairs departments, I noted that the Return to Onsite Work Guidance issued by the UC Office of the President emphasized our commitment to an in-person academic experience. Noting that “as an in-person institution, the University will conduct its regular business, including teaching and research, with faculty, staff, and students physically present,” the Guidance reiterated that “the connectivity and common experiences afforded by campus presence are essential for building, strengthening, and maintaining a robust and inclusive university culture that supports our innovative work as a student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented university.” The word “campus,” which was first applied to “college grounds” in 1774, derives from the Latin word campus, which means “flat land, or field.” Technology may transform some aspects of our global university, but we should not lose sight of the fact that our campus is a place that we inhabit together. We are grateful to our staff for being there, and for helping to restore our sense of community. 

As we return to campus activities, and resume current remote/hybrid workplace agreements, we will continue to seek the right balance between a vibrant campus community and new ways of working productively both individually and collectively. Thank you for your indispensable contributions to our common mission as a public university.