UC Davis released details about its fall instruction plans on Friday in a letter to teaching assistants and faculty members. While most teaching will be done remotely, there are plans to hold some classes outdoors under tents.
In June, UC Davis announced a plan to offer remote instruction for all classes and also hold some in-person classes should public health guidance allow. Friday’s letter affirms those plans and expands on what they might look like.
“We had hoped to be writing under circumstances both more favorable and less uncertain,” Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan and Academic Senate Chair Kristin Lagattuta said in the letter.
In recent weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Yolo County and across California has risen sharply. On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all counties in the state to shut down most indoor businesses, putting the brakes on reopening efforts. On Friday, Newsom ordered most K-12 schools, including those in Yolo County, to begin the school year online.
“Our fundamental approach to instruction during the pandemic remains unchanged: Prioritizing the safety of all members of our UC Davis community while doing all we can to maintain educational excellence and student success,” Croughan and Lagattuta said.
Due to public health precautions, “the majority of teaching will need to be remote,” the letter states. Specifically, all classes with 50 or more students enrolled will be held entirely remotely, without any in-person instruction.
Pending public health restrictions, smaller classes may have in-person meetings, which would be at the discretion of instructors and with the approval of administrators.
“For classes with fewer than 50 students, in-person instruction may be possible. The decision to hold an in-person class will be decided by the Instructor of Record in coordination with department chairs and deans, followed by committee review and approval by the Provost,” the letter states.
“When feasible, this in-person instruction will take place outdoors under tents, with necessary AV and audio equipment, physical distancing of six feet, and all participants required to wear masks,” the letter continues. Research shows that transmission of COVID-19 is significantly reduced in outdoor environments, while face coverings and physical distancing further reduce the risk of transmission.
For courses which cannot be outdoors, Croughan and Lagattuta said “we hope to have other options available for offering laboratory-based, studio-based, and equipment-based instruction to meet both safety and educational needs.”
Faculty and administrators are currently working to finalize the list of courses that will be taught in person, the letter states. The decision-making process includes taking into account pedagogical and other factors as well as the appropriate location and necessary resources for each course.
“We are also in the process of determining what resources faculty need to be most successful in both in-person and remote teaching. For example, some faculty may require improved Wi-Fi, specialized equipment, or additional Teaching Assistants,” the letter states.
During Spring and Summer, UC Davis implemented emergency policies that allowed students to take more classes on a pass-or-fail basis instead of for a letter grade, as well as other policies that provided greater flexibility. According to Friday’s letter, the Academic Senate is currently considering which of those flexibilities and exceptions to extend to fall quarter.
A more comprehensive plan for the quarter, which begins Sept. 30, is due to be released by the end of this month, Chancellor Gary S. May said Friday in a weekly planning update.
“We look forward to a successful Fall, confident in our collective ability to provide top-quality educational experiences even under these challenging circumstances,” Croughan and Lagattuta said. “For our students, their families, and our broader world, we know how important it is to succeed in these efforts.”
— Reach Caleb Hampton at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @calebmhampton.ShareTweet