To the Anteater community:
Less than two months ago, life at UCI was proceeding much as it had for the past 55 years. And then the world turned upside down. Faced with a situation unprecedented in our lifetimes, and making our first concern the health and safety of every member of our academic community, we made the hitherto-unthinkable decision to pause virtually all in-person operations and move to remote activities and instruction.
Yes, the campus is quiet, but UCI is not closed. We are still accomplishing our noble mission of teaching, research and public service.
As the only world-class research university in our region, we have a special obligation to mobilize our distinctive expertise to serve the public during this difficult time. We have adopted a “whole university” response. Our front-line doctors, nurses, and clinical staff are providing nation-leading clinical care to our friends and neighbors who have taken ill and are exploring innovative treatments that will improve people’s chances. Our public health experts are advising on how best to protect our community and are developing partnerships with public health entities to ramp up testing. Our scientists are researching the basic dynamics of the virus as a step toward improved clinical outcomes, the development of vaccines, and increased testing capacity. Researchers are developing smartphone applications for contact tracing. The Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute has developed a free eight-week class to bolster one’s ability to better manage stress and its effect on the body.
Every corner of the campus is making a contribution. Our faculty continue to transmit knowledge to the next generation. The School of Education has prepared online K-12 materials to help parents whose children are restricted to remote instruction. The Paul Merage School of Business is working with the local business community on adaptations to our new environment. Beall Applied Innovation has mobilized regional investors and innovators to respond to pressing needs. The School of Social Sciences has developed a Zoom lecture series on timely topics related to COVID-19. The School of Humanities has created an initiative entitled “The Humanities Respond” that explores the cultural, creative and philosophical impact of COVID-19. UCI Law students are adding remote pro bono activities to help those in need. The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion is mobilizing research on social inequities under the rubric of whether we really are all in this together. Student health, counseling and social work are as busy as ever helping our students.
There are too many examples for me to include in this message, but you can learn more about these inspirational and life-affirming steps by visiting “UCI in Action” and “Expert Voices”. Our online resources for the Orange County Community can be found at OC COVID-19.
I could not be more grateful for, and proud of, our physicians, nurses, researchers, scientists, faculty, staff and students. Every single day we are proving that universities such as ours were built to serve society when society is most in need of clinical expertise, scientific breakthroughs, expert discussion and reliable information.
A special thank you to our staff, the finest there is, for the innumerable ways they are contributing to our continued excellence during this difficult time. Working from their homes, which can be as close as University Hills and as distant as Pasadena or the Inland Empire, they are keeping all our operations up and running. For example, we would not have been able to transition to completely remote instruction without the considerable talents and expertise of our IT staff. We would not be in the relatively stable financial situation we currently enjoy without the resourcefulness of our finance and budget staff. We would not be able to care for the students who remain on campus without our housing staff, janitorial staff and food service workers. Our incredible UCI Police Department is on the job keeping everyone safe. I could go on and on – my heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude and admiration.
I also want to recognize our parents, alumni, donors and community advocates for your continued trust in UCI. Your support, investment, and partnership are central to our ability to make vitally important contributions at a time when our community most needs what we have to offer, as well as our ability to persist in our educational mission. If you have an ability to support our collective efforts, please consider making a gift.
I am often asked when we will get back to “normal,” and, especially, what are the plans for the fall quarter. I understand the desire to look ahead, and I know that other campuses have been making some announcements – although if you look carefully, none of these announcements are definitive. There is still lot we do not know, and it is too soon for any of us to know with certainty what the fall will be like. I can assure you that hundreds of people are working countless hours planning for a wide range of scenarios. I would specifically like to acknowledge the leadership of Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Hal Stern, who is leading our primary strategic advisory group.
We should have more to say sometime later in May, but our goal is to have as many students back to the campus as possible, and as many in-person activities restarted, consistent with prevailing public health guidance. It is very likely that some “social distancing” requirements will still be in place, but the amount of activity consistent with this will also depend on the state of testing and contact tracing later this summer. At this time I believe it is extremely unlikely that we will be going back to the “old normal” by the time the fall quarter starts, but we are doing all we can to begin the transition away from the remote routine we are currently experiencing.
I hope you are doing as well as possible with your own remote routine. Like you, Ellen and I are isolated. We are not as young as we used to be and so we are trying to be careful, for example, figuring out the best way to get food safely into the house. I miss terribly seeing my friends and colleagues in person. I miss the dynamism of the campus. Like many of you, Ellen and I wonder how long it will be before we can hug and kiss our children. We are all going through a lot. Still, I also know that the steps we are all taking now are saving lives and creating the conditions for better days to come, before too long.
I look forward to the day I can see you all again walking around the campus. Until then, please take care of yourselves and your loved ones.