Thank You at the End of the Academic Year

June 22, 2020

This message is distributed to All-Instructors and EVC-Department-Managers.  (Click here to view description of distribution groups.)  

To:     Academic Affairs Departments

From: David Marshall, Executive Vice Chancellor

Re:     Thank You at the End of the Academic Year 

Now that the Spring Quarter is over, and Chancellor Yang has provided his June 19, 2020, update on campus planning for the Fall Quarter, I am writing on behalf of Academic Affairs to thank everyone for their remarkable efforts since the COVID-19 pandemic began to transform our lives at the end of the Winter Quarter. We reinvented our classrooms, labs, studios, and workplaces in a virtual environment with almost no time to prepare; this required enormous determination, stamina, and imagination on the part of instructors, staff, graduate students, and undergraduates—as well as the understanding of those families who were compelled to share in this enterprise. 

I am especially grateful to deans and department chairs, and our colleagues in Undergraduate Education, Instructional Development, and CITRAL, as well as our IT colleagues, who helped make it possible to continue teaching and learning in a remote environment. Without the strong partnership of our Academic Senate, we would not have been able to maintain our curriculum and protect our core academic values. Despite difficulties and inevitable compromises, we can be proud of how we carried out the educational mission of the University of California, and drew strength from the culture of collaboration, entrepreneurial resourcefulness, and creativity that has transformed our campus into a great public research university dedicated to discovery and education. 

The COVID-19 Response Working Group convened and chaired by the Chancellor, which has overseen our response to the crisis, is coordinating plans for the careful and strategic resumption of some campus activities, as allowed by public health policies and rigorous campus guidelines designed to minimize risk and ensure safety protocols. Research facilities are gradually reopening on a limited basis; the Library is also expanding services as part of this process. Later in the summer, we will implement similar plans for academic workplaces and faculty offices, with the goal of reducing population density through some ongoing remote work and physical distancing protocols. Many instructors are spending time this summer working with our teaching and learning experts to enhance the pedagogy of their remote classes. We are preparing classrooms for a limited number of in-person courses, and also working with instructors to find ways to include in-person components in remotely taught courses. With many students expected to return to campus, we are looking for ways to maintain and recreate the sense of an academic community that engages students intellectually and socially. 

As we prepare for Fall Quarter and look ahead to the academic year, we know that more challenges are on the horizon, not the least of which is the need to plan without knowing what the facts on the ground will be three months from now or what decisions will be made for us by public health officials or government agencies. We know that the COVID-19 crisis will have a serious impact on our finances, although we do not know the full magnitude of lost revenues, increased expenses, and reduced state allocations. National crises also have had a profound impact on us all, especially our students. It is more important than ever to strengthen our campus community and to learn from each other’s experience, whether we are present to each other physically or remotely. 

At moments like this, I am reminded of the observation that former UC President Clark Kerr made in 1982 in an update to his 1963 book, The Uses of the University. Kerr noted that there were then 85 institutions in the Western world that had been in continuous existence since 1520; 70 of those 85 institutions were universities. This continuity could be seen as a sign that universities are conservative and resistant to change, but it is also a sign that they are resilient and adaptable. Kerr understood the enormous capacity of universities for re-invention, and their ability to change from within. As we protect the principles and practices of an arts and sciences education within the context of a research university, and assert the crucial importance of our great public university system to California’s recovery, we should look back and look forward at the same time. The University of California will need both renovation and innovation to get through these difficult times. 

Thank you again for your dedication, resilience, and ongoing commitment to the academic mission of the campus.