July 29, 2020
We hope that this message finds you staying well during this unique and challenging time in our history. Nothing is more important than maintaining your own good health and that of your family and friends. We encourage you to follow the basic public health guidance – wear a face covering, wash hands frequently and practice physical distancing – to help prevent the spread of disease, allow local businesses and services to resume operations safely, and eventually move toward a return to normalcy.
We write to update you on our recovery efforts and what the coming months may bring. We’ll start by thanking you for all your hard work, flexibility, professionalism and tenacity. The uncertainty of the pandemic has affected the way you work and learn, and we expect it to continue to evolve as we await further guidance from state and local governments. You’ve risen to these challenges and proven that the foundation of our success is our people – the faculty, staff and students who make this a place where some of the world’s most innovative and transformative work is performed, regardless of the environment. We are proud of each of you for maintaining this standard during an extraordinarily trying time.
We continue to be impressed with how the campus adapted to remote work. This successful experience is allowing us to ease back into on-site operations in a thoughtful way. A handful of units have reinstated limited on-site operations and several others have submitted applications to return to work on campus. Our Campus Recovery Implementation Team (CRIT) continues to work through the many issues related to reengaging campus operations. Before any unit returns, facilities management carries out a full assessment of the space to make sure that workplaces are thoroughly and frequently cleaned and sanitized, appropriate signage is in place, nationally recommended standards for ventilation and air quality are implemented, and other best practices are followed. Prioritizing the health and safety of our campus community remains a top priority.
While some units take these early steps to return, the default continues to be remote work. Many have asked how long this situation will last. We recognize that you need to make plans for childcare, school and other aspects of your personal lives, so please plan to continue working remotely through the start of the winter quarter, January 4, 2021, unless you have been notified otherwise. If you have circumstances that make this continuance a challenge, please speak with your unit head. We appreciate your patience and flexibility as we try to remain nimble in this changing environment.
The pandemic has created financial challenges, yet our budget situation remains relatively stable for our current fiscal year. UCI entered the pandemic in a solid financial position and we are managing our resources in a way that allows us to prioritize ongoing employment. As a result, our budget reflects no current plans for layoffs or furloughs, beyond those that occur within our normal or seasonal operations.
While we remain committed to preserving jobs, we will also continue to actively control expenses, as state budget cuts, uncertainty around enrollment, COVID-related costs and lost revenues are expected to take a toll longer term. We previously announced a hold on staff merit increases and faculty scale adjustments for the current fiscal year. Open positions are also receiving an additional review before being filled. A 2 percent budget cut has been implemented across all units, and a limited allocation of new resources was implemented at the start of the fiscal year. We may consider urgent requests for additional funding in the fall when we know more about enrollments and state finances. And we will use some reserves on a one-time-basis to provide us with the time to plan for the possibility for additional cuts in the 2021-22 academic year. Our budget workgroup is working very hard, closely examining the budget for efficiencies and opportunities across the entire organization.
Screening, testing and contact tracing
The keys to controlling the spread of COVID-19 on campus include regular symptom checking, testing of symptomatic individuals, and contact tracing for individuals that test positive. It is vitally important that everyone participate in our daily screening protocols and cooperate with our process to notify the contacts of those who test positive.
UCI is continuing its public health leadership in these areas, launching a health equity contact tracing workshop for Orange County Health Care Agency staff, UCI students and community members. This effort is developed by Dr. Bernadette Boden-Albala, director and founding dean of the Program in Public Health, and led by Dr. Daniel Parker and Dr. Alana LeBron. This bilingual (English and Spanish) effort kicked-off several weeks ago to an enthusiastic response with 1,000 individuals expressing interest and 600 registered, with the remainder on a growing waitlist for future opportunities. This is yet another way UCI is using its foundation as an academic research university with a medical center to help the COVID response in Orange County. You can read more about this on the Public Health website.
This significant recovery effort could not be possible without the work of the special workgroups and committees dedicated to the reengagement of campus operations. We send a special thank you to all who have served on these teams, and we commit to keeping our community updated on their progress. And additional thanks to all of you for your dedicated service as we face one of the fiercest challenges of our lifetimes. Pulling together, we can advance through this pandemic and enter a brilliant future. We hope you will be able to take some time this summer to pause and rejuvenate.
Chancellor Howard Gillman
Interim Provost Hal S. Stern