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Students, faculty and staff deserve more information about UC plans
Though the recent University of California Office of the President (UCOP) press release on Jan. 11 stating plans to resume in-person instruction in the fall has come with excitement, the Editorial Board has mixed feelings about the announcement.
The decision was made by UC President Michael Drake in consultation with the 10 UC chancellors, and although we admire the UC’s understanding of “the importance of communicating its plans as early as possible,” the information provided only says that individual campuses will announce further details in accordance with local and state health guidelines.
Around this time of year and in the coming months, there is much for current (and incoming) students to consider, including signing leases, planning for study abroad and the big one—whether to commit to a specific school. In-person instruction is almost certainly a factor that students will consider while making plans for the upcoming year.
But California currently ranks 43rd in the nation in administering the vaccine per 100,000 residents, and across the U.S. there have been issues with rollout. Administrators and graduate students at elite medical centers received vaccines while frontline workers are still waiting, according to The New York Times. In December, the L.A. Times reported that some wealthy patients offered to pay tens of thousands of dollars to cut the line; others are patients with concierge doctors whose services include “working to get their clients vaccinated as soon as it’s possible.”
Phase 2, which most students will likely fall under, has an estimated start date of “Summer/Fall,” and will be determined by California’s vaccine advisory committee. The Editorial Board questions if it is too hasty to presume that COVID-19 vaccines will “soon” become available to students and staff.
The announcement raises more questions than it answers—it provides no real timeline or plan. Will the vaccine be mandatory? Will students need to travel to Davis before Fall Quarter for their vaccinations? And will it be offered to students without a UC Student Health Insurance Plan, free of charge? When asked for further comment on an article by The California Aggie reporting on this news, a UCOP senior communications strategist said that no further information will be provided at this time.
We commend UC Davis on its availability of widespread testing for students and community members—just last week the university administered over 14,000 COVID-19 tests and encouraged students to get tested 1-2 times a week. Given the risks associated with returning to campus for in-person instruction, however, students and faculty deserve more information on how the university plans to ensure access to the vaccine and whether individuals will be required to receive the vaccine before attending classes.
Whether or not UC Davis is actually able to reopen its campus for Fall Quarter 2021, the individual UC campuses should guarantee that there will still be online offerings for both students and staff who feel uncomfortable attending class in-person or are unable to be vaccinated due to health risks.
There are at-risk populations—older and immunocompromised faculty, staff and students—that may suffer extreme consequences from contracting COVID-19. It feels unfair to release a blanket statement without plans in place to ease worries among these groups.
Offering a remote option alongside in-person classes in fall 2021 likely wouldn’t be very difficult—lectures could be livestreamed, and concerned professors could continue to offer their classes remotely. Some people likely won’t feel comfortable returning to campus until the U.S. has herd immunity to COVID-19, which White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci estimated could happen in fall 2021 if the vaccine rollout is efficient—which has not been the case so far and even less so in California.
While the members of the Editorial Board will be getting vaccinated when possible and encourage other students to do so as well, there may be students who have concerns and choose not to receive the vaccine. Will the university provide a minimum threshold of students that need to be vaccinated for classes to resume?
We’ve been hoping for almost a year for the announcement that UC Davis will reopen, but we would like the guarantee that proper measures will be put in place in order to ensure the safety of UC Davis students, staff and faculty. The university must provide answers to the many questions that still remain—releasing vague information can be more stressful than not knowing anything at all.
Written by: The Editorial Board