Office of the Chancellor

What’s Next: A New Day

May 11, 2020

Dear UCI Community,

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we are nearing the end of the beginning. After an anxious two months of sheltering, our community is eager to fully experience the light of a new day.

At UCI, we’re ready for what’s next. Our Strategic Advisory Group, skillfully led by Interim Provost Hal Stern, has been in place for several weeks, mapping out the details related to our workforce, research, students (current and prospective), instruction (undergraduate and graduate), health (patient and public), technology, and business operations.

Their good work paved the way to a new chapter in the COVID-19 environment. Starting today, we will begin to share our plans for reengaging some campus operations, beginning the careful transition from remote work.

Not all of us will return to the campus at the same time or soon. On-site operations will resume at a gradual pace, with some areas ready for in-person operations before others. Some mission-critical areas that involve discrete locations and smaller numbers of people, such as some lab research, will likely resume first while many others may continue to work remotely for an extended period. We will do this with care, in phases, assessing as we go, building on lessons learned. You will be informed when your unit is prepared to begin a transition phase.

The phase-in decisions are being made with an abundance of thought and planning, with the health of our community at the forefront. Our guiding principles are as follows:

  1. Our primary concern is our people. Plans and activities will incorporate precautions to help protect the health and safety of our faculty, students, staff, patients, research participants and visitors. We will create a process to accommodate those who believe they cannot return to an in-person work environment.
  2. We will follow public health directives. This includes guidelines on physical distancing, large-group gatherings, masking, protective equipment and testing, as outlined by federal, state and local governments and our own public health experts.
  3. Transitions will be measured, careful, and flexible. Decisions will be made based on thorough planning in light of prevailing and anticipated public health guidance, with a commitment to assessing the impact of each new step before proceeding to the next, and with a willingness to retreat to earlier phases if necessary.
  4. We will learn as we proceed and incorporate new techniques and technologies as they become available. We are already learning lessons from existing campus activities, and new methods and discoveries are emerging rapidly. We will adjust our plans as new testing, tracing and therapies become available.
  5. Our standards of quality will not waver. Whether our activities are remote or on-site, we will continue to provide a high-quality experience for our students, faculty, staff and community.

As for the fall quarter, here is what we know. Classes will start on schedule. Most classes will be offered remotely, either as the only option or a complement to in-person instruction. We are doing everything possible to prepare classrooms for in-person instruction, but it’s too early to determine which courses will be ready for traditional on-site learning. Deans and department chairs are working with our Office of Teaching and Learning to identify which classes can be prioritized for in-person instruction. It is likely that there will be a higher percentage of in-person graduate classes than undergraduate classes, given the nature of graduate instruction in most disciplines and the apartment-style nature of most on-campus graduate housing. Small studios and labs may be more possible than large lectures. Most importantly, all students enrolled in the fall will be able to begin or continue their courses of study. More information about our plans will be sent to students soon.

And here is what we don’t know about the fall. We’re still working on how many residents we are able to accommodate in student housing, especially in our large undergraduate dorms. We are committed to having as many students on campus as possible, but we need more time and information to plan a re-population of housing. Rooms with three or four residents probably will not be possible, but doubles may be acceptable, depending on dorm policies and safety regulations. We also don’t know how large gatherings – from sporting events and festivals to lectures and symposia – will be structured, but it’s safe to assume we will be following physical distancing protocols throughout the quarter. We are working with outside governing bodies, such as the NCAA and local health agencies, and our own public health experts for guidance in these areas. We will provide an update on our plans for housing and related matters by mid-June.

In the days and weeks ahead, you will begin hearing from specialized areas about the phased return to on-site operations. Deans, unit heads, supervisors and team leaders will inform individuals about specific, local plans when the time is right. Please also continue to visit our information hub at www.uci.edu/coronavirus for updates throughout the coming weeks.

I could not be more proud of the way our university has responded to this crisis. We did what was necessary to help protect ourselves and our community. But, the time has come to plan for, and imagine, a new day. Our UCI Health community is doing the same, as you can see from a rough-cut of this wonderful What’s Next TV spot running later this month. We are all about creating a Brilliant Future for ourselves and the world, and every journey begins with a few short steps.

With all best wishes to all of you, and your loved-ones, friends and neighbors. Stay safe. Be Well.

Fiat Lux “Let There Be Light”

Chancellor Howard Gillman