Most classes to be offered remotely to abide health guidelines
UCSB announced Thursday its plans for the 2020 fall quarter, which will include most classes being offered remotely in accordance with physical distancing and other health requirements.
The message from Chancellor Henry T. Yang was distributed to members of the campus community and incoming students and addressed how the university will move forward with undergraduate and graduate instructions, campus residences, campus life, orientation, Isla Vista, athletics, testing and contact tracing, on-campus research and remote work.
“We are all eager to see our picturesque campus come to life again with the excitement and activity of discovery and learning,” Chancellor Yang wrote.
“Due to a number of external uncertainties while we await approval from the state of California to resume in-person instruction, we will continue working on many details throughout the summer,” he added. “We will be flexible and ready to adapt should circumstances require us to change course.
“Despite a relatively low COVID-19 infection rate in Santa Barbara to date, we need to plan for the possibility of changing COVID conditions this fall, which could require another rapid transition to fully remote instruction as well as changes to our housing plans.”
Planning teams are working to determine which courses will be conducted via fully remote instruction, offered in person, or a combination of the two. The final scheduled for course formats is expected to be available in July, Chancellor Yang said.
“Although most of our classes will be delivered via remote instruction, we still plan to create a meaningful on-campus experience for as many students as we can, particularly those with special circumstances,” he said.
Remote curriculum will be offered to first-year international students, as well as first-year students who choose to study remotely. Chancellor Yang noted there is no guarantee that all classes will be offered remotely.
Currently it is expected that all courses with an enrollment of more than 50 students will require remote instruction. This may also apply to classes with a smaller number of students, though in-person instruction may be offered for small classes, seminars, labs and select arts and performance courses.
“As we develop more strategies to mitigate risks, we will continue to work with faculty over the summer to develop more face-to-face course offerings. Similarly, we will be working with faculty teaching remotely to consider the many possibilities for hybrid approaches that combine remote teaching and some in-person or classroom instruction,” Chancellor Yang wrote.
Tuition and other mandatory fees have been set regardless of the method of instruction and will not be refunded if instruction occurs remotely for any part of the academic year, he added.
It is expected that graduate education will continue at nearly full capacity, with most seminars conducted remotely.
Undergraduate residence halls are expected to have no more than double occupancy in any room, and officials are planning to limit rooms to single occupancy in the fall. Students returning to housing will be asked for proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
Social interactions may be limited for the first two weeks, and students are asked not to travel away from campus during the quarter. No visitors will be allowed in residence halls, Chancellor Yang said, adding that graduate housing is not expected to be affected.
Face coverings will be required inside all campus buildings and at all times on campus. Students, faculty and staff will be asked to perform daily health checks before coming to campus, as the university is working to develop a digital application to conduct screening procedures while protecting the privacy of the nearby community. More information about this will be offered later this summer, Chancellor Yang said.
A virtual orientation program is being prepared for all new freshmen and transfer students, allowing for “extensive group interaction, individual academic advising, and course registration,” Chancellor Yang said.
For the nearby Isla Vista community, Chancellor Yang said he expects students will be mindful about physical distancing and reduced density living situations.
“Please be aware that any leasing arrangement that exceeds double occupancy in a bedroom can increase the risk of spread and is strongly discouraged. Keeping the population density low in Isla Vista will help protect our campus community as well as the communities of Isla Vista, Goleta, and Santa Barbara,” he said, adding that students who wish to continue with a full remote course schedule will be given the opportunity to enroll with a full course load without being present on or near campus.
No plans have been finalized regarding whether to bring student athletes back to campus in the fall.
Testing, surveillance and contact tracing are expected to play a key role in managing the spread of COVID-19 on campus. While the university does not have a medical school or affiliated hospital, staff has been working to develop an increase in testing capacity. A group of faculty is piloting a research surveillance testing study using a CRISPR-based detection system designed to detect COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals. The research is not yet ready for full deployment and must be approved by the FDA before it is deployed.
“We know many questions remain and many details have yet to be worked out. We are also prepared to make changes to our current plan depending on guidance from public health officials,” Chancellor Yang said. “Our campus has faced challenges in the past, and we are confident that together our community will overcome the difficulties that lie ahead.
“We are deeply grateful for the efforts and sacrifices each of you has made on behalf of our campus and the broader community. Your commitment and dedication are the lifeblood of our three-pronged mission of teaching, research, and public service as we continue to strive for excellence and diversity — a mission more important now than ever before.”