September 15, 2021

Fall Welcome

This is a momentous time in UCI’s history. This week, we begin to welcome our wonderful students back to campus. On September 20, we will hold our first in-person convocation in two years. Soon thereafter, in-person instruction for our undergraduate students will resume after having been largely suspended for more than 18 months.

It is a moment we have been waiting for, and a moment of tremendous importance for our students, who are eager to return to a more typical campus experience.

The last 18 months have been difficult, even painful for members of our community, some of whom suffered through illness or lost loved ones. Yet despite the hardships, as a community, we not only persevered, we rallied, we mobilized, we adapted, we continued to do our important work. We met and overcame the profound challenges of this time in history. And we did so on the strength of your resilience, your tenacity, your sense of service, and your commitment to a better world. I hope you are proud of how we came together. I will always be inspired and humbled by your efforts.

And now, we are ready to move forward as we begin a new and better chapter.

As I promised in April, our return to in-person learning, living, and working will be different from what we remember. We have learned a lot over the last 18 months, and we have leveraged the lessons of the pandemic to create a better experience for our employees, students, and patients.

All of this has been made possible by your ongoing diligence and commitment to our mission, and especially to the well-being of our students. It has also been made possible by your participation in our comprehensive and multi-layered plans to support the health and safety of our community as we continue to manage the shifting challenges presented by the COVID-19 virus.

Most importantly, because of your cooperation with UC’s mandatory vaccination policy, I am pleased to announce that, as of today, 92 percent of faculty and staff on the main campus have submitted confirmed records of completed vaccinations. Another 5 percent have received authorized medical or religious exemptions and will be allowed on campus under additional requirements for masking and regular asymptomatic testing.

This means that more than 97 percent of our employees are now compliant with the UC mandatory vaccination policy.

Beyond this, fully 95 percent of all students living in student housing have been vaccinated. The overall number of vaccinated students is now around 90 percent, but that number will increase in the coming days as students arrive on campus and gain greater access to vaccination resources.

These remarkable vaccination statistics, combined with other components of our multi-layered campus health strategy – such as regular asymptomatic testing requirements for people exempt from vaccine mandates, symptomatic testing, asymptomatic surveillance testing of a percentage of our vaccinated population, walk-in testing for anyone who wants it, daily symptom checking, our amazing contact-tracing teams, and isolation and quarantine support – make our campus community one of the safest places you can be in our region.

With your help, our community is creating a model for how all communities can move forward with confidence.

Of course, some of you are still nervous – how could you not be? – and you have asked a lot of questions. We have worked mightily to give you all the information you need and to answer all of your questions. Over the last six weeks we have held six different town halls on a wide range of subjects, from the latest information about the Delta variant to our HVAC systems. In the last two weeks we have focused our town halls on your most commonly-asked questions. Thousands of you have participated, and I thank you for your engagement. If you missed any of these presentations, you can see what was reviewed at Campus Dialogues Series: 2021 Fall Return to Campus Series. And, as has been true throughout all of the last year and a half, we will continue to review and modify our planning as our situation evolves.

I am so looking forward to us reuniting on the campus – for our well-being, and for the well-being of our students, and for the ongoing advancement of our mission to serve our community in countless ways. The early experiences of other UC campuses that started in-person instruction a few weeks ago, and from UCI schools on the semester system (such as our law school), have been very good, and that is even more reason for us to be optimistic and excited. As our beautiful campus becomes more fully populated and regains its vibrancy, I hope you will take advantage of the myriad in-person and virtual events that are being planned for fall quarter by our athletes, artists, clubs and organizations. Your participation will enrich your own experience and show that we are truly back.

Once again, thank you so much for all you have done and will continue to do. It will be great to see you in person again before too long.

Fiat Lux.

Chancellor Howard Gillman