June 14, 2022
This message is distributed to Senate-Faculty, Non-Senate Faculty, Academic-Assistant-Deans, Academic-Department-Managers, Non-Academic-Department-Managers, Deans Department Chairs, and Directors.(Click here to view description of distribution groups.)
To: Academic Affairs Departments
From: David Marshall, Executive Vice Chancellor
Re: Completing the 2021-22 Academic Year and Looking Forward
Now that we have completed the 2021-2022 academic year, I am writing to again express my admiration and appreciation for our staff, faculty, and students, whose remarkable efforts since March of 2020 allowed us to maintain our mission as a public research university. We made significant progress since returning to campus life in Fall of 2021. Our students were grateful to be in the library, residence halls, classrooms, performance spaces, laboratories, athletic facilities, and other venues. Faculty and staff reunited, or met each other in person for the first time, and began to restore a sense of community. Yet the transition from our remote exile and the pandemic continues, with inevitable stops and starts, detours, and uncertainties. Although we have experienced the relief and rewards of returning to our campus community, there is also exhaustion and stress. We should acknowledge both our successes and the losses and struggles that we and others have experienced. Even as we emerge from the pandemic, we will feel COVID-19 impacts for a long time.
COVID-19 impacts: merit and promotion cases
We have recognized COVID impacts in our Academic Personnel merit and promotion procedures, and we will continue to monitor these impacts and take them into account over the next several years as faculty resume research, creative, and professional activities that in some cases were interrupted by closed lab and performance and exhibition venues, inaccessible archives, or care-giving responsibilities at home. Over the past year, we also learned more about the educational and psychic toll that the pandemic and remote education took on both faculty and students, and how this is reflected in our teaching experiences.
COVID-19 impacts: staffing
We can see COVID-19 impacts in the unprecedented number of staff vacancies on campus, as we experience a local version of the “great resignation” that is occurring across the nation. Increased retirements and separations across campus have resulted in a greater than usual number of staff pursuing promotional opportunities in other units. We are working with the deans and Human Resources to streamline and accelerate recruitment and classification procedures, clarify policies on staff retentions, identify budgetary and policy roadblocks, and look for creative solutions. We may need to reexamine how we structure staff support to ensure that the needs of faculty, students, and staff colleagues are met. We understand that this situation, which has greatly increased the pressure on both faculty and staff, is not sustainable.
COVID-19 impacts: remote and hybrid work
The transition back to campus was more complex and prolonged than we anticipated last summer. We continue our experiment with remote and hybrid work arrangements in the context of an evolving and increasingly competitive workplace. We should be open to innovation and new possibilities as we rebuild our community and reimagine the academic workplace, yet we still need to assess the effects of these arrangements as we continue the transition to a post-pandemic workplace. Unless deans or supervisors instruct otherwise, current agreements will continue. We will follow up the assessments we conducted last March with a survey this summer to better understand the impact of remote and hybrid agreements on various constituencies. We want to balance the desires of individual staff to work productively and lead balanced lives with the needs of units to support instructional, research, and service missions. We must work together with good will and open minds to maintain our culture and community, and re-envision new ways of working.
COVID-19 impacts: housing
Another COVID-19 impact in the national economy can be seen in the volatile housing market. We were recently pleased to report progress with the final phases of Ocean Walk homes and the approval by the UC Regents of the new Ocean Road faculty and staff housing project; its 540 housing units include 180 for-sale townhomes and 360 rental housing units. The new zero-interest, forgivable loan option for Faculty Relocation Allowance funds will help faculty with down payments for home purchases, and the Landed shared equity program may help staff with down payments for home purchases. Yet we are aware of the new challenges facing faculty and staff due to escalating home purchase and rental prices, mortgage rates, and delays caused by supply chain issues. We are actively working with the deans, the Academic Senate, and the Community Housing Authority to identify any solutions within our control. One small measure we have taken is to subsidize the cost of accessing the rental listings compiled by the Housing Office. This service is now available to academic departments free of charge.
Fall 2022: classroom teaching
Consistent with Academic Senate policy, we anticipate that in Fall 2022 we will return to pre-pandemic norms and expectations for in-person classroom teaching. We have identified $1.5 million to upgrade classroom technology. Sixteen classrooms were upgraded this past year and at least 40 classrooms will be upgraded in the coming year, with more than half of these scheduled for completion this summer. A comprehensive review of classroom technology, support, maintenance, and equipment replacement schedules, including both General Assignment and departmental instructional spaces, is underway. We are upgrading our Course Management System, and we look forward to the opening of the new Interactive Learning Pavilion with 28 new state-of-the art classrooms of varying sizes in 2023. The Senate is reviewing criteria for its approval of online and hybrid courses. While we have reclaimed our place in the classroom, in the future there will be a place for online courses designed with high pedagogical standards, supported by instructional design professionals. The Governor’s budget calls for increased access to online course offerings. We need to proceed responsibly, judiciously, and creatively to explore various modes of excellent teaching with technology.
The new State budget has important increases for the UC system. This year, COVID relief funds, a loan, and the use of carry-forward funding again spared academic departments budget reductions that would have resulted from an annual shortfall in our permanent campus budget. The Chancellor’s Coordinating Committee on Budget Strategy continues to discuss strategies to address these annual shortfalls and seek new budget savings. The State budget includes a 4.5% increase to the base salary of eligible policy covered staff employees. Represented staff receive increases consistent with contracts. For faculty and other policy-covered academic appointees, salary scales will be increased by a general range adjustment of 4%. For faculty, additional funds will address select cases of equity, compression, and/or inversion, in consultation with deans and the Academic Senate, consistent with past approaches, and informed by Faculty Salary Equity studies.
Student success and enrollment pressures
As we refocus on our academic mission, important projects are underway. Our WASC re-accreditation study is studying time to degree and course repeat rates, which will help us understand how students move into and out of programs. We need to improve our enrollment management strategies, and fulfill our responsibilities as a Minority-Serving Institution to support student success. We will review our College and departmental advising infrastructure to address staff workload issues and better guide our students. A new Online Course Catalog will help students explore their interests by topics and themes and discover courses in a variety of departments, with links to requirements, learning outcomes, and career pathway information. We will work with departments to review course rubrics and descriptions and to better inform students about degree options. Summer Sessions, offering impacted courses, bridge programs, and innovative online courses, is also a key part of our strategy to increase student FTE without increasing undergraduate enrollment. This could give us more room to increase graduate student enrollment. We have focused more on LPSOE and LSOE in our faculty recruitment planning this year. They can help us with pedagogical and curricular reform, as well as address teaching needs in impacted departments.
More news about our faculty recruitment plans will come later in the summer. I will note now that although increasing faculty diversity is an ongoing goal, we have had some success this year, thanks to the many efforts of departments, chairs, search committees, deans, associate deans and faculty equity advisors, and our revitalized Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Program reviews repeatedly identify departmental climate issues. All of us are responsible for creating and ensuring a sense of community that fosters inclusive excellence and advances racial justice.
Returning to the office, classroom, and campus of February 2020 is not possible, but we can reassert the values that have sustained universities for centuries: the campus communities in which we pursue dialogue, debate, and the collaborative processes of experiment, discovery, and creation. The California State Constitution of 1879, which declared the University of California to be a “public trust,” affirmed that a “general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence” was “essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people.” Today, we must reimagine what it means to carry on these values and traditions in a 21st-century public university, dedicated to excellence and accessibility, in a multicultural state and a global society. I hope that you can find time this summer for rest and reflection, and then return with a sense of renewal as we face the challenges before us in pursuit of a common vision.