Dear Campus Community,
As we begin fall quarter after a long summer of fighting a pandemic, racial injustice, and record wildfires, we also must look ahead—already—and begin planning for winter quarter instruction. Currently, COVID-19 statistics in Riverside County are improving. The county recently moved out of Tier 1 (purple) of the Governor’s four-tier, color-coded evaluation system, and is now in Tier 2 (red). If conditions continue to improve, the county could move into tiers 3 and 4 with progressively relaxed constraints on our instructional activities.
Progressing through the state’s tiers takes time, and it is also possible we could regress. Counties must remain in a tier for at least three weeks, and must meet the next tier’s criteria for two consecutive weeks, before moving forward. If a county’s metrics worsen for two consecutive weeks, it will be assigned to a more restrictive tier.
According to recent guidance for Institutions of Higher Education from the County of Riverside Office of County Counsel, the following restrictions apply to instruction in each tier:
• Tier 1 (Purple): Indoor lectures are prohibited. Courses offered in specialized indoor settings (e.g. labs, studio arts) whose design imposes substantial physical distancing on participants based on the nature of work performed in the space, are permitted.
• Tier 2 (Red): Indoor lectures are permitted but capacity is limited to 25% or 100 people, whichever is less. Courses offered in specialized indoor settings may operate at capacity, after implementing precautions including social distancing.
• Tier 3 (Orange): Indoor lectures are permitted but capacity is limited to 50% or 200 people, whichever is less. Courses offered in specialized indoor settings may operate at capacity, after implementing precautions including social distancing.
• Tier 4 (Yellow): Indoor lectures are permitted but capacity is limited to 50%. Courses offered in specialized indoor settings may operate at capacity, after implementing precautions including social distancing.
What does all of this mean for winter quarter planning? Tier 1 corresponds to our instructional phase 2, and tiers 2-4 correspond to our instructional phase 3. Given the slow migration between tiers, the possibility of backsliding, uncertainty about when a vaccine will be widely available, and generally more challenging pandemic conditions in the winter months, it is very likely we will remain in instructional phase 2 or 3 for winter quarter. Both of these phases require exceptional approval for in-person instruction, and remote-options for all but a small number of clinical courses in the School of Medicine and 1:1 courses such as individual study (at the instructor’s discretion). More details are here in the Instructional Continuity Plan.
We hope this information is helpful as you begin thinking ahead about winter quarter. For instructors who are contemplating in-person teaching, please discuss first with your department chair or program director. Requests for exceptional approval for winter quarter courses should be submitted here. The deadline for priority scheduling is November 1. Proposals received after November 1 will be considered on a rolling basis. If you have questions about the submission process, a user guide is available here and email contacts are listed in the submission form.
For chairs and directors who are thinking about how these instructional constraints are impinging upon program requirements, such as normally required hands-on experience that is currently prohibited, we encourage you to have proactive discussions with your faculty about what might be done to address these challenges. In some cases, alternative pedagogies or modifications to program requirements may be reasonable. In others, it may be preferable to consider shifting capacity for in-person instruction later in the academic year, including summer 2021, if permitted by state and county officials. Developing contingency plans now will greatly benefit everyone, especially our students.
Thank you again for all of your efforts to help UCR through these challenging times. We will continue to keep you updated as conditions change. At a minimum, look for another announcement about winter quarter in early December.
Dear Campus Community,