Hello, Banana Slugs! Spring has always been a season of renewal and hope, but this year it is especially so. Today is almost a year to the day since the start of the COVID-19 shutdown, and it is only now that there looks to be real hope on the horizon. As I write this, cases are trending downward locally, statewide, and nationally. Vaccines are becoming more available by the day. That has certainly boosted my spirits.
Like all of you, I am allowing myself to dream a little about what life might look like on the other side of social distancing, and remote learning and work. I am imagining a bustling campus again, with students and faculty talking after classes on Science Hill, Slugs of all sorts relaxing in the sun at Quarry Plaza or throwing Frisbees on the East Field. I miss that energy. Like all of you, I simply miss being on our campus. There’s no place in the world like it.
As you likely know, with COVID vaccines giving us all a shot in the arm, the UC system announced earlier this year that all campuses anticipate instruction will be mostly in-person this fall. I could not be happier. Last May our campus created two Recovery and Resilience task forces, with Academic and Organizational focuses, to help us manage the shift to remote instruction. These task forces, comprising about 15 subcommittees and more than 200 members, have now pivoted and are hard at work planning what our “return” this fall might look like. I am extremely proud of the work these groups have done, and the resilience our staff, faculty, and students have shown during the entire pandemic.
I want to paint a clear picture of fall 2021 for everyone, but the truth is, that’s challenging right now. We hope everyone in our community will be vaccinated by then, but it’s hard to say with 100 percent certainty that will be the case. There have been numerous virus variants springing up in recent months, and vaccine makers are exploring different strategies to bolster their immunizations. Our Genomics Institute, I’m proud to say, is routinely sequencing the genomes of virus samples tested at our campus diagnostic lab. That work has the potential to impact the local response to the pandemic in several ways. Not only will our campus be able to detect new variants of concern, but sequencing could also enable clinics to track the path of the virus with a level of precision that goes beyond traditional contact tracing. We are showing time and again the value of a research university to our greater community.
What I can say about this coming academic year is that it won’t look like fall 2020 or the pre-pandemic fall 2019, but likely something in between. We’ll have thousands more students on campus, but likely not a full house. Many classes will be in person, but there will also be remote, online, and hybrid offerings. Our community will be able to gather again. I’ll welcome that.
Until then, alumni will be able to get their UC Santa Cruz fix virtually. Our alumni celebration event, formerly Alumni Weekend, is going all virtual this year, expanding from a weekend to a full week, April 19–25, with a menu of exciting events to choose from. I hope you will join us in this virtual plaza, wherever you may be on the globe.
Take care, be safe, and I hope to see you all soon, in person of course.
Chancellor Cynthia Larive