Office of the Chancellor

September Update from Chancellor Howard Gillman

September 2020

Dear Anteater community, 

Many members of the Anteater community have been affected by the wildfires raging across our state and the coronavirus pandemic raging throughout our world. Our thoughts and well-wishes go out to them and all the valiant firefighters, medical professionals, caregivers and other first responders who are on the front lines. As always, the health and safety of our UCI community is paramount.

And it is this principle of good health that guides us to the start of the fall quarter, nearly two weeks away. I thought it would helpful to give you an overview of how we’re preparing and what is expected. We’ve been busy, so this message is longer than most. Yet this information is critical if you are near campus or plan to visit soon. 

Although it seems like it has been a lifetime, it was only six months ago that we made the hitherto-unthinkable decision to pause virtually all in-person operations and move to remote activities and instruction. The response from all parts of our community was nothing short of outstanding. I could not be more proud of how our faculty, our staff, and especially our students – indeed, all members of our university community – accepted and adopted the “new normal.”

Since March, and in addition to all the regular activities that go into running this extraordinary teaching, research, and healthcare institution, we have been devoting countless hours to learning best practices and exploring ways to bring faculty, staff and students back to campus in an appropriate way and at the appropriate time. Multiple teams have been working closely with health experts from both government agencies and our own public health program to help us redesign spaces, establish cleaning and rapid response guidelines, and educate our community about how to operate and interact in this new chapter in the COVID-19 environment. 

Our goal is to create an experience that is as enriching and comfortable as possible, with appropriate and reasonable caution, while maintaining the high quality standards that have made our university one of the best in the world.

It is vital that we – each one of us reading this message – commit to following the procedures and processes we are setting in place. The best plans in the world will fail if they are not followed, and the single biggest impact on virus transmission and community outbreaks is the behavior of the individual. Wearing a face covering, maintaining appropriate physical distancing, completing daily symptom screening, and participating in testing and tracing protocols, for example, are not difficult things to do, and they go a long way toward keeping us all safe and healthy. 

General Rules

All students, faculty, staff and frequent volunteers on UCI-controlled property must:

All students – undergraduates and graduates alike – must take the “Anteater Pledge” for healthy behavior, take the Healthy Practices Training module and complete the Daily Symptom Check. Those living on campus must also participate in our asymptomatic testing program, administered at move-in and each week thereafter.

Instruction

Our enrollment this fall is going to be roughly comparable to last year’s, with nearly 38,000 students pursuing their education at UCI. The School of Medicine and the School of Law, which are on a different academic calendar from the rest of the schools, are already conducting classes.

Virtually all instruction will be done remotely, in keeping with the general policy forbidding large gatherings, even for the students living on campus. The only exceptions will be a few graduate, laboratory or creative courses that are taught in person, following all the necessary protocols.

We have accommodated physical distancing, increased the cleaning and maintenance schedule, and augmented the heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) systems through increased percentage of outside airflow, and are flushing buildings with fresh air before and after occupancy.

Student Housing

This fall, we expect to have about 4,900 undergraduate and 2,200 graduate students in our campus housing. Most of those students will be moving in from September 22 to 29. The students were asked to quarantine for 14 days before arriving and, as mentioned above, will be tested before moving in and each week thereafter, pledge to follow safety protocols and healthy behavior, and follow a daily screening procedure.

Our traditional resident halls will be at about 30 percent capacity, with each student in a single-occupancy room. Residents will be clustered into small “ZotPods” of about 6 to ten students who share a bathroom and participate together in meals and organized events. These small groups help us control community spread if a student becomes infected; those who test positive for the virus will be isolated in one of 400 rooms reserved for that purpose. We enhanced our cleaning protocols and augmented the HVAC systems for each residence building. 

Those in on-campus apartments will also live in single-occupancy rooms unless part of a family unit. Activities in communal dining halls, study and recreational rooms, fitness centers or the like will be restricted. Visitors and large gatherings will not be allowed.

Faculty and Staff

Over the summer, we slowly and carefully brought some of our research, academic and administration teams back to campus. While it is important to continue some of the work that can only be accomplished in person, most of our faculty and staff will continue to work primarily remotely through the end of the calendar year.

Those who plan to visit or work on campus – even occasionally – must complete a training course and a daily symptom-check self-assessment. While on campus, face coverings, physical distancing and compliance to posted safety protocols are required.

Athletics and Events

While the fall sports season has been postponed, the teams are training and practicing on their normal schedules. At this time, we are planning for our men’s and women’s basketball teams, both winter sports, to start their seasons in November. While we may host some home games in the late fall, they likely will be held without spectators to lessen the risk of community spread. 

Our athletics departments will not be hosting any external events, nor will we hold any other large events on campus, such as public lectures, concerts, etc. Fortunately, our Claire Trevor School of the Arts is planning many virtual performances, building on the success of the New Swan Shakespeare Festival’s Zoom presentation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” last month.

Visitors

To help mitigate possible exposure to and transmission of COVID-19 on campus, I have issued a strict directive that limits non-UCI affiliated guests and visitors. Non-essential guests must not be invited onto UCI controlled property. Any faculty, staff or student inviting guests or visitors for university-business becomes a UCI Host and is responsible for obtaining written approval from their designated approver and informing guests of university policy, protocols, executive directives and all applicable return to campus guidelines, and ensuring they truthfully answer daily symptom check questions through the Coronavirus Response Center.

Individual Responsibility

All the COVID-19-related campus procedures and directives are intended to keep the UCI community healthy by limiting the spread of COVID-19. Members of the UCI community are expected to behave in ways that respect the health of others. Each of us trusts that all members of the UCI community – faculty and other academic appointees, staff and students – will take responsibility for their own health and act in a manner that demonstrates respect and consideration for those around them. 

While it is expected that each individual will assume personal responsibility to help protect the UCI community, it is also understood that mistakes and lapses in compliance, or intentional non-compliance, may occur. Generally, issues with compliance should be addressed with care and understanding. The overarching goal when addressing non-compliance is to de-escalate rather than intensify a situation.

Staying Up to Date

The UCI Forward website is the campus’s online hub for the information above and more. It is your source for the latest information and updates as the campus heads into the fall quarter. 

Together, we are embarking on a fall quarter like none other before. I am confident that with each of us taking responsibility and doing our part on campus and in the community, we will safely and successfully move UCI Forward.