Chancellor's Update -- August 2020

August 20, 2020
Kim A. Wilcox
August 20, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

Before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, UC Riverside became “America’s Fastest Rising University” as a result of our jump in national rankings. Over the last six months, I have experienced and observed the strain from this pandemic. I worried how it might change our trajectory. But, as we meet each new challenge, we continue rising. Some of this is literal; some is metaphorical. Despite all of the difficulty we have faced, we are building the future now, and it is evident everywhere I look on campus.

Construction Progress
On the heels of The Barn re-opening in July, the Dundee Residence Hall and Glasgow Dining Hall are set to open this fall. Next, the Plant Research 1 greenhouse is scheduled to be complete in November. Early in 2021 we will finish a new parking structure, adding 800 incremental parking spaces. Later next year, both the Student Success Center and first phase of North District housing, which also includes a new parking lot, should be complete. 

Watching the growth of our physical campus is a reminder of the opportunity we possess and the promise of new knowledge on which we deliver. Whether you return to campus intermittently or currently work offsite, I hope you’ll take a look at this video that highlights the ways we are expanding.

Fall Quarter Update
While building our capacity for future years, we are also working to determine how many students and courses should be on campus this fall. Since making the decision to provide a remote option for all students and faculty, we have evaluated proposals for in-person instruction. We anticipate that only 35 labs, field courses, and visual and performing arts courses will be offered in-person this fall – assuming UCR remains in phase 2 of our instructional plan. Additionally, in keeping with the announcement made in June about fall quarter instruction, we will also provide a remote option for each of these classes.

Meanwhile, we are continuing to review the demand for on-campus housing against state guidelines, which limit the number of students to one per room. Unlike many other universities nationwide, we are actively trying to limit the number of students and employees on campus this fall.

Testing Lab
In order to support the students, faculty, and staff planning to be on campus, we are in the process of opening a new diagnostic lab for rapid COVID-19 testing at the Multidisciplinary Research Building. 

Increasing testing capacity and timeliness for reporting results was a critical step in the process of prioritizing health and safety for those living, learning, or working on campus. We hope to regularly test all students, staff, and faculty who are on campus full-time this fall. Additionally, the work to develop the lab highlights both the intellectual resources and tremendous community in which we work. A special thanks is owed to Katherine Borkovich, professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology, and Isgouhi Kaloshian, professor and chair of the Department of Nematology. Together, they led creation of this important lab. 

The Important Work of Staff Organizations
Another way to build and strengthen our campus community is through staff organizations. These groups of community members support our commitment to a healthy campus climate that will foster equity of experience and ensure that staff, students, and faculty of all backgrounds feel safe, welcome, and included.
The work that our staff does through these organizations is, in fact, work on behalf of the university. This is not volunteer work that an employee does in their free time. Staff should have time during their regular workday to do this as part of their jobs. 

Whether you are actively participating in a staff organization such as Staff Assembly or a supervisor ensuring your team members have time to participate, thank you for your continued support of the amazing staff on our campus.

Budget Update
Next week I will share preliminary recommendations from the Budget Advisory Committee and a summary of next steps to continue the budget reduction process. There is no way to cast budget reduction in a positive light. However, I want to reinforce the importance of unit or departmental cost cutting. Many of you have found ways to reduce expenses. We see and appreciate your work to find savings. Over the coming months, we will bring our campus budget into alignment with cuts. 

As a final note, this isn’t like any summer I’ve known. Sometimes I catch myself singing songs about this time of year. Then, I stop at a lyric that describes the laid-back quality of summer days. By contrast, “easy” and “carefree” are not adjectives most of us would use to describe recent months. Vacations are difficult if not impossible. Many of you are transforming your home into schools as children begin pre-k through high school remotely. And the recent heatwave complicates our ability to escape outdoors. 

I know that all of this creates an emotional toll. I hope you will find ways to take breaks and take care of yourself during this time.

Stay healthy.