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Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

Chancellor Gary May speaks with ASUCD senate about new school year

ASUCD held a special session to discuss with May the resources and plans for students this year

The senate met in person at the Memorial Union for a special session dedicated to Chancellor Gary May and his messages to campus.

This special session was called to order at 5:46 p.m.

ASUCD Vice President Juliana Martinez began the special session with the UC Davis Land Acknowledgment.

The senate moved for an interim senate president pro tempore election, where an interim senate president is appointed. Senator Kabir Sahni was confirmed for this position with no objections.

 The senate called a five minute break while awaiting the chancellor’s arrival.

At 5:54 p.m., May arrived, and the session was called back to order.

May began his presentation by sharing his excitement for the upcoming year. He attributed many of the successes this past year to ASUCD.  

“Your leadership has been crucial to our success,” May said. “You give voices to our students, make sure they’re a part of the governance of the campus.”

May acknowledged ASUCD’s participation in the Healthy Davis Together Initiative which has been recognized by the New York Times and NBC News as a potential guiding program for other universities.

He gave updates on the current state of COVID-19 on campus.

“We’ve conducted more than 460,000 tests of asymptomatic people in the Davis community since September 2020,” May said. “The positivity rate has been consistently below 1%.”

Next, he discussed the Aggie Public Health Ambassadors located around campus responsible for checking symptom surveys at highly-trafficked buildings across campus. May informed the senate that there are still positions open on Handshake for health ambassadors.

He then spoke about the record admissions statistics from the past year, noting that the university saw a 12% increase in freshman admissions. He also celebrated the high rankings UC Davis has received in the recent weeks from Forbes, and U.S. News and World Report.

Next, May expressed the importance of the UC Davis Principles of Community.

“These values foster a community of belonging and vibrancy,” May said. “They reinforce our commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

May then discussed the three task forces that have been put in charge of affordable housing, food insecurity and mental health. These challenges can be addressed at the Aggie Basic Campus Needs Center located inside of the Memorial Union.

“When it comes to food insecurity, there’s no better support on campus than the ASUCD Pantry,” May said.

Next, May spoke about the current construction projects happening on campus.

“You might have heard that UCD now stands for: under construction daily,” May said.

An estimated 4,300 beds have become available to students in recent housing projects including Shasta Hall and The Green. May stated that UC Davis is close to being able to house half of the student population.

May then provided an outline of upcoming events on campus including sporting events, the first performance at the Mondavi center in 19 months and the 2020 commencement ceremony. 

“We haven’t forgotten about the class of 2020 which had commencement postponed due to the pandemic,” May said. “That class will have a make-up celebration planned for December 10.”

The chancellor then fielded questions from the senate.

The first question addressed safety concerns on campus due to the high number of students.

“There is quite a bit underway,” May said. “One example is more blue lights you can see at night. The goal is to put enough of those so that anywhere on campus you can see one from where you are standing.”

The next question expressed concerns about international students and the percentage of students able to attend classes in person after a year and a half online.

“I don’t have a percent definitely yet, but what I can say is that we have not had a great deal of concerns expressed from international students,” May said.

He added that if any students did not have access to a vaccine in the country they were living in, then they were vaccinated upon arrival in Davis.

A senator then asked about the location and shortage of health ambassadors. With their placement only in highly-populated areas, the senator was concerned about the possibility of students purposefully avoiding the daily symptom survey.

May said that they are hiring more staff for the public health ambassador program, and he encourages all students to adhere to the safety protocols available on campus.

May then addressed a question about students’ basic needs on campus. According to May, to break the stigma of asking for help, the Aggie Basic Needs Center is centrally located so it is easy to find and access. There are also initiatives underway that work to eliminate food insecurity at UC Davis.

Next, May responded to concerns about the over admission of students and the impacts this may have on class sizes.

“Making the class larger is not always the pedagogical thing to do,” May said. “So, I think more sections and bigger sections is the approach.”

A senator asked about the resources that are being provided for LGBTQ students on campus as they return from being distanced from their peers.

May responded that there is the LGBTQIA Resource Center which provides support, and a dozen more positions have been approved in counseling and psychiatry to address mental health and suicide. UC Davis has also been developing more telemental health resources that are available to students. In response to a similar question later on, May added that UC Davis counseling services are covered by campus-approved health insurance plans.

The next question regarded the diversity and inclusion initiative and how they are supporting new students.

“There’s literally dozens of things that the Diversity Equity and Inclusion office is working on right now,” May said. “The antiracism syllabus is a pretty big initiative, there’s a number of events that are being planned for all different demographics within the institution.”

A senator asked about parking on campus and how the administration plans to accommodate students who do not have access to the necessary technology for reserving parking.

May stated that there are some accommodations in place for students without smartphones although he is not certain what they are. 

In response to a question about the price of new student housing and how administration will make it more affordable for students in the future, May said that as more supply is created, they project prices will go down.

The final question was about how the administration and ASUCD can work together to communicate more efficiently to better support the UC Davis student population.

“I meet with your leadership regularly,” May said. “If you want something more than that, I’m certainly happy to come to these meetings as often as you’ll have me, as well as my team.” 

The meeting was adjourned at 6:32 p.m.

Written by: Emily Redman — campus@theaggie.org


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