Thanks to those of you who responded to our recent survey about fall quarter instruction. We learned a lot about your learning preferences as well as our faculty's teaching preferences. Since the survey was distributed in early February, vaccination rates have continued to rise, case counts and test positivity rates have fallen substantially, and local elementary schools announced they are targeting March 8 for a return to hybrid instruction. While all of this is encouraging news and potentially helpful for our efforts to return to more normal campus operations, uncertainty remains regarding how fast infection rates will fall in our region and how many of us will be vaccinated by the start of fall quarter.
With consideration of the preceding factors, I am announcing an instructional plan for fall that aims for a return to primarily in-person instruction and allows for adjustments to be made in the coming months as new information arrives, uncertainty is resolved, and new guidance is issued. Key elements of the plan include:
1. Strict adherence to health and safety standards. Personal and institutional health and safety standards for on-campus activities including instruction will be developed by the UCR COVID Management committee to be consistent with applicable public health guidelines. This likely will include universal and correct use of masks, physically distanced seating in at least some of our classrooms, and regular testing of anyone participating in on-campus activities who has not been vaccinated. All in-person instruction activities, and anyone participating in these activities, will be required to strictly adhere to these standards.
2. Planning to offer 75-80% of all courses in-person. If public health conditions continue to improve, we are hopeful that we will be able to offer a high percentage of our courses in-person. Smaller classes would be offered with normal classroom seating, larger courses would have reduced seating density, and our largest courses would remain online. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors could expect to take an average of 2 in-person courses, seniors would average 2-3 in-person courses, and graduate students would have almost all of their courses in-person. Importantly, all of this assumes that high vaccination rates and falling infection rates will lead to new public health guidelines that make this possible. If not, we will scale back in-person instruction accordingly.
3. A commitment not to switch remote classes to in-person on short notice. Classes initially scheduled for remote instruction in fall (and indicated as such in the Schedule of Classes) will not be shifted to in-person if public health conditions improve more than expected. Doing so could create untenable situations for students who have already registered and established living arrangements away from campus, anticipating remote classes. However, if conditions do not improve as expected, classes initially scheduled for in-person instruction may be shifted to remote.
In the coming weeks and months, additional details of this plan will be finalized and shared with the campus. We also will continue close monitoring of public health information and guidelines that potentially affect our fall plans. As an institution that places great value on equity and inclusion, we also will continue to think carefully about how our planning affects each member of our community and their diverse and sometimes disparate needs and desires. A successful return to campus will require of everyone the same empathy, generosity, and teamwork that made UCR a special place to teach and learn before the pandemic. I encourage all of you to think about what you can do personally to help us navigate the next phase of this challenge.