May and administrators discuss winter quarter plans, campus policing and student fees
The California Aggie’s Editorial Board met with Chancellor Gary May, Faculty Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost Ari Kelman, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Pablo Reguerín, Vice Chancellor for Finance, Operations and Administration Kelly Ratliff, Associate Chancellor and Chief of Staff Karl Engelbach, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Dana Topousis, Chief Campus Counsel Mike Sweeney and Director of Athletics Rocko DeLuca on Nov. 24, 2021.
Below is a transcript of the meeting that has been edited for length and clarity.
For many students, the transition from virtual learning to in-person learning has not been easy. What advice do you have for students that are struggling with the increased strain of in-person learning?
May: I think there have been a number of transitions for all of us and those transitions have been challenging not just for our students but for our faculty and staff. I think one thing is to be patient with yourself and with each other and your professors — kind of get back to the rhythm of in-person learning. We have a lot of resources available if you are struggling. There’s all sorts of counseling, tutoring and other resources that are available for students who are having particular problems with the transition.
Reguerín: An important element is also to do some kind of recreation outside of the classroom. Campus Recreation also has a number of different programs. I also encourage [students] to do some of the courses like an exercise group or an outing. Something that gets your body moving. Some people like to work out on their own which I think is fine too, but try to do activities that are more group based. There are student organizations, but try to really compliment what we do in the classroom. For some students it might help to reduce the number of units they’re taking as they transition back. There’s more flexibility in the policies around academics overall, but really try to practice self care through therapy or getting support. I think the key message we’re trying to convey to students is number one, you are not alone. If you do feel isolated, disconnected, overwhelmed and you think it’s just you, it’s a different feeling when that’s happening. And then be supportive of yourself while also being supportive to others around you. Students, peer connections are helpful. Trying to be supportive is one of the tips I would add too.
We noticed a change to the testing requirement in the Winter Planning email from a couple days ago starting Jan. 17. What other changes to COVID-19 policies should students expect in the next few quarters?
May: No other real drastic, immediate changes. The change to the testing was motivated by the fact that we are doing so well. Our positivity rate has never been higher than .1% for our asymptomatic testing. As [Ratliff] described, we’re finding needles in haystacks and we’re spending a lot of money trying to find those needles in the haystacks. So, what we decided to do is strongly encourage testing [rather than mandate] testing after the first of the year, that way we get through the holidays, travel and all those risks. Presumably, if all things continue to go the direction they’ve been going, the virus will continue to decline, the transmission will continue to decline and we’ll be in better shape. There were academic changes that were announced as well, maybe [Kelman] can highlight those.
Kelman: Just a quick point. People who are not vaccinated but are complying with the campus policy, they will continue to be tested. I say that because given that you are the newspaper of record for the campus, it really is important for people to understand that that policy has not changed. The burden will remain for those people that for one reason or another, have not been vaccinated. In terms of academics, I think the Academic Senate just announced considerable flexibility for instructors who choose to use that flexibility around final examinations this quarter. We anticipate that is going to continue into next quarter. The same is true that we will continue the [remote teaching] policy for faculty who have some kind of vulnerability in their family, who take care of someone who is immunocompromised or [who] have a child that is too young to be vaccinated. Those faculty will be able to petition for an exception that will allow them to continue to teach remotely. I think we had a total number of faculty that was about 60 or so in the fall quarter. The committee that is looking for those petitions for exceptions is seeing a decline. A number of people who petitioned for the exception and got it ended up regretting having done so because they saw how well things are going for their colleagues who are teaching in person, so we’re not surprised to see that number going down. That should continue, and that’ll be true for graduate students, TAs and graduate students that are teaching classes.
Ratliff: I will add, we don’t know how to anticipate anything related to masking. That’s of course up to the county health official, we’re in communication with her. If things stay the way they are as we approach winter quarter and then spring, there will be some changes there. The other thing we continue to look at is the Daily Symptom Survey. We don’t have a specific plan yet. It provides all sorts of different aspects to the program tied to that, but there may come a point where we stop using it as a daily symptom survey and instead make it event-based or activity-based. Again, there’s not a specific plan. We’re watching the data and paying attention to what’s happening.
Kelman: If I could add one more thing. It’s just to congratulate all of you and your peers. We’re here because our vaccination rates are extraordinarily high. The most important step that any community can take is to have a very high rate of vaccination, and our student population has been unbelievably enthusiastic around vaccination. All of the changes that we are beginning to implement is owed to the fact that we’ve had an incredibly low rate of infection in our community, and that’s because all of you, all of us, got vaccinated. It’s really something to celebrate.
May: To congratulate the students and community again, even wearing masks outside, which is not required. Everytime I walk outside I feel guilty because all of you have your masks on. I ask students: “Why are you wearing your masks outside?”, “Because we don’t want to go back to remote instruction.”
There does not seem to be a consensus on how instructors should be supporting students when they cannot come to campus due to showing COVID-19 symptoms. What messaging has been relayed to instructors on this matter? Do you plan on implementing more consistent guidelines across departments?
Kelman: Throughout the pandemic, instructors have been asked to be as flexible as they can be, while still keeping the integrity of the course. We don’t want people sacrificing the learning outcomes, but at the same time, we want them to be very flexible — both supportive individually and collectively. The Academic Senate as of last week has strongly reiterated its hope that faculty can continue to be supportive. The question of consistency is a complicated one, because of the way in which shared governance functions. The faculty control the curriculum on this campus. There’s a very good reason for that. I’m a former interim dean of the College of Letters and Science, and no one wanted me in my role as dean to tell the faculty what they should do in their own classrooms, so the administration can’t dictate to the faculty how it handles most classroom situations. Again, there’s a lot of autonomy. One of the campus leaders noted the overwhelming majority of faculty and people on campus are rising to the occasion. They’re being very supportive of others; then there’s a very, very small group that is considerably less supportive and is not rising to the occasion in the same way. So, we’re trying to help people understand the need for empathy, understand the need to be supportive to students in this while at the same time recognizing the importance of shared governance.
The Campus Ready website states that students who are in close contact with someone who is COVID-positive do not need to be quarantined if they are fully vaccinated. How are students supposed to navigate having a housemate or roommate test positive for COVID? Does this mean they should be going to classes and events as usual?
Ratliff: There’s a lot of importance in the definitions here, and in the Campus Ready website, we’ve tried to do our best to spell these things out. Someone who’s in close contact with someone that is COVID positive, if you’re vaccinated and you don’t have symptoms, you’re not required to quarantine. If you have symptoms, then it’s different. If you have symptoms, you won’t get an approved status on your symptom survey, you’re asked to go to Student Health and get a symptomatic test. Then, the contact tracing process will help students. But, if you’re vaccinated and don’t have symptoms, you don’t have to be quarantined. There’s not a CDC recommendation or requirement for folks to quarantine if you’re vaccinated and don’t have symptoms. If you’re noticing something on the webpage and you think we could make something clearer, let us know. That part of the webpage, we’ve redesigned a couple of times — partly because it’s so confusing — but it is unnerving to know someone tested positive. Again though, if you’re vaccinated and don’t have symptoms the guidance we have is you pay attention to symptoms but you go about your life.
Reguerín: Also, I think it’s confusing because it’s changing. Sometimes I find students or community members will apply pre-vaccine instructions versus post-vaccine. It might seem counterintuitive or you got used to what we did prior to having the vaccine, but the key thing is the contact tracers are the ones that are interviewing people who were positive, and it is very specific. It is important that students follow the guidance of the contact tracers. That allows us to then mitigate any further spread.
Many professors have been recording their lectures, so we are wondering if they will continue to be encouraged to record lectures in winter quarter, especially since it’ll be during flu season, in order to discourage students from coming to class while sick?
May: I think encourage is the right word. We can’t require it or mandate it, but we will continue to make sure to encourage people to be as flexible as possible.
Kelman: The [Academic] Senate has already encouraged faculty to continue to maintain the instructional flexibilities. As the chancellor says, it’s that jump between encouraging and requiring, we can’t require that. There’s too much variability among classes and in classes, so it’s not a step that we are able to take.
The 10th anniversary of the pepper spray incident was last week. How would you evaluate the reform that has taken place over the past 10 years?
May: The pepper spray was obviously something regrettable and an unfortunate part of our university’s history. I think it’s important to first acknowledge that no one in leadership here now was in their same position at UC Davis then, including the police officers. I’m not saying that to not take responsibility, but I mean it as a lot has changed in both the university leadership and practices. There’s been so much reform here at UC Davis, I would consider us one of the leaders among the UC system in policing, but I would arguably say we’re among national leaders. The Police Accountability Board, our CORE Officers, the fact that our force is accredited nationally, the work the chief has done with mental health — there are many other examples of our desire to have a community policing approach where students can feel confidence in and at the same time feel safe. I take some pride in that. We just had a year long safety task force to examine the things we were doing and making recommendations on how to move forward. I’m okay with where we are with that one.
Ratliff: With respect to how we’re approaching the task force, we’re actually framing it related to four separate reports. There was the report of the Next Generation, we used the report from the ASUCD task force that also came out last summer. Kelechi Ohiri, who was hired as a public safety analyst in student affairs, published some findings in respect to students and stakeholders. Finally, President Drake and that process that happened university-wide in the UC community safety plan. We’re really using all four of those reports as a series of steps. Knowing it was the anniversary last week and a lot of progress has been made, the chancellor had a statement, we had a release in Dateline, our internal publication. We had the opportunity to meet with folks from ASUCD earlier in the quarter to talk about some of the progress. The set of recommendations is very broad, and the report we got from ASUCD is one of the tools we are using.
Engelbach: I would just add that we implemented more communication between students and campus administration. We now have monthly meetings between ASUCD leadership and the chancellor and other campus leaders, which, prior to the pepper spray incident, was not as consistent. We’re hoping that further dialogue will help us ensure that we understand the concerns and address them in a more timely manner.
You’ve mentioned the taskforce a couple of times already. Are there any follow-ups regarding the timeline about when the campus safety task force recommendations will be put into action?
May: There are a few. We have a Campus Safety Oversight Committee now that follows the progress of the recommendations and makes sure we’re keeping our progress on those. There’s a new safety transparency dashboard on the UCDPD website that has all sorts of metrics on the activities of the police so everyone can see every stop: what they do, what the result was, how many they make in a period of time, the place and different situations. The chief had three vacant positions that we decided to transform. One of those was a position that [Ratliff] just mentioned and there are two other positions that have been created for police officer vacancies. I think that’s a pretty good summary of ongoing activity.
Reguerín: I’ll add one more. There’s a project from student affairs and the fire chief that they are putting together called Health 34. In a nutshell, it puts a more mental health approach, provider approach on public safety issues and crises that come up. It reduces the need for the police to come out, something you would consider lower-level 911 calls. It’s ongoing, so they are developing ongoing relationships. It’s what people call a mental health approach to crisis. We’re hoping that will help the relationship with students as they reach out. It’s for students and community members more broadly. This is still a partnership. The police are partners in this program but I think all of these reforms are going to have some impact on student experience. It’s going to have a fundamental impact on how students are engaged and who they need if they feel their safety is at risk or need additional support. It’s a much more proactive approach. You respond differently if you have an ongoing relationship than just coming out for the crisis. We’re going to work whether it be [through] our Aggie Compass or different offices [that] are plugged in to provide support, similar to our counseling and psychological team. It is a very integrated approach, it is very exciting. It is not going to be easy and will take some time, but I think we have all the key ingredients and collaboration to do this so we are very excited about it.
Topousis: Over the past couple of years, ASUCD worked with our police department to identify where there needed to be better places for students and other members of the community to report if they were feeling unsafe. We received federal grants, the police department did, to develop these blue lights. I think the police department and others walked with students over a period of time to develop where they wanted to have those blue lights so that wherever you are, I think there will be 20 total safety stations, so that anyone who is feeling unsafe can call. There’s cameras there so anybody who is answering can see what is happening around. That was at the request of students so we went and got funding to get all of that done so we could get that done. I think that’s another measure where students feel like there are other ways we are trying to ensure safety as well by having mechanisms like that.
Does the administration have any plans on being involved with ASUCD Senate’s Resolutions of No Confidence in two career staff members given that Vice Chancellor Atkinson was present at the Senate meeting yesterday?
May: Ironically, we just met with ASUCD leadership and discussed this yesterday afternoon.
Reguerín: [Atkinson] is working with other campus partners to investigate the allegations. That’s really all I can say at this point. But, we are working with multiple offices on campus to look at other concerns that were raised at the meeting.
Chancellor May, you have said in the past that students are the most important donors for the UC Davis Athletics program. What do you think of the proposed referendum to eliminate a portion of student fees that go toward funding athletics? Should it be passed, how does the university plan to find additional funding for the ICA program?
May: I’ll answer the second question and then I’ll ask [DeLuca] and [Reguerín] also to chime in. If the referendum were to pass and we had to eliminate the fee, that’s about $20 million. It’s 19 something but we’ll round and say $20 million. So, we have to find $20 million elsewhere, so if we wanted it to continue as it does now, we would have to find it from another source other than fees to maintain the operation. Chances are very low that we would find that money from the academic enterprise. We would probably have to find it somewhere else in Student Affairs or another side of campus activity, which would have some consequences. Some other services would be curtailed or eliminated. We could say “Well, instead of doing that we will just reduce the ICA budget by $20 million” and make them live off of that. That would have some repercussions. We would have to cut sports I would imagine and cut personnel for sure. All sorts of things we would have to consider. It could also be something in between those two extremes. Maybe a little bit of both of those things we’d have to do. I don’t want to respond directly about my opinion on the referendum because I don’t think that would be appropriate given that it may go to a vote, but I will say some things that will probably make my feelings pretty obvious. The referendum appears to be framed from the notion that Intercollegiate Athletics benefits only the 700 or so students who participate. I think that’s a logical fallacy, I don’t think that’s true at all. This type of model of funding is not unusual in our society. I pay property taxes to benefit public schools but my kids are not in school anymore, so it’s not like this is a strange way of doing things in American society. That aside, you have to think, many of those 700 student-athletes come from marginalized communities and would not be able to go to a university without that scholarship support. We have examples of other fees that only benefit specific student populations. For example, should we extract these because there are only a small number of disabled students on campus, should we not charge the fee that funds the Student Disability Center? That’s the kind of logic that the way the referendum is framed leads you to. I said I would give some examples on how everyone benefits. I think there’s a community benefit. It builds community. It sounds corny, but school spirit and all those sorts of things. Athletics gives us tremendous visibility. When we were in the NCAA Tournament in 2017, the announcers on the television said such nice things about the university and our students. Similarly, when we won a football playoff game here against Northern Iowa, I was standing right next to Coach [Dan] Hawkins as ESPN was interviewing him after the game, and he didn’t say a word about athletics. He talked about being the No. 5 public university and agriculture, everything the university is known for. We couldn’t buy a commercial that would give us that kind of publicity. [Topousis] will tell you, that would be her budget for two or three years to give us that kind of visibility and publicity. The fee that is in question generates financial aid. It generates about $7.5 million in return to aid. That financial aid goes to all students, as all our fees do in this return to aid mechanism. The local community benefits. Davis hotels and restaurants, when we have teams from other universities come and play us, there’s an economic benefit to the community. You as students patronize those establishments. Our student-athletes go on to become very successful alumni and give back to the university. I’ll give a couple of examples. Darryl Goss was a football player and more recently became a CEO of a company and donated a chair in African American Studies. Mike Child, water polo enthusiast, has funded the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship that all students benefit from. Both of these people have been multi-million dollar donors to the university after having an experience in athletics. We have recently renamed the ARC Pavilion to the University Credit Union Center. The naming rights generated revenue that directly benefits all students. There has been a notion of “Well why can’t we just raise the $20 million elsewhere? We’re great at fundraising.” A couple things there, we’ve raised about $1.4 billion dollars in the current campaign. Very little of the money is unrestricted. We can’t tell the donor we’re going to use their money to build an engineering student design center and say we’re not going to do that, we’re going to use it for Athletics. These funds are restricted for the purpose they were raised for. Going forward, maybe we can raise $20 million dollars this year, but remember this is not a one year thing. We have to raise $20 million every year to maintain this current level of operation. Or, we could build an endowment that would generate $20 million, that would be $400 million to do that. The largest gift ever given to the university was $100 million so we have to raise a gift four times that size to do it with philanthropy. So, you can understand where I’m coming from.
DeLuca: From where I sit, the transparency on the fee, we do present four times a year to the COSAF board to say how the fees are used. We’re very open and transparent with that piece. We publish our financials on our website, so we feel like we run a very lean and efficient operation with very little waste, and we take great pride in that. Ultimately, we’re very transparent from the beginning when people decide to come to Davis that there is an athletics fee component to that. It’s not like we hide that or bury it into other areas. From entry point all the way through, including the student engagement at our athletic events, we try to be as good of partners as we can. I think that’s at the heart of what the chancellor’s message is about treating our students like major donors. Our donor advising board gets the same information that we give to the COSAF group. We let everybody know how the money is being taken in and how it’s used. Ultimately, we do try to do a lot in support of the student-athletes.
Reguerín: I also wanted to say too, I think students, particularly high school students, middle school students, whether they are going to play at the school or not, look at what the school has in the online college tours. This is a factor in their decision whether they will play sports or not, they are coming from an environment where sports are taking place generally. It’s hard to measure exactly what the impact is on the incoming class, but I think it plays a factor. Also, I think the facilities that are used and shared in our Campus Recreation — club sports programs have a lot of practices, play games. There’s a lot of sharing of resources and facilities. There are thousands of students who benefit from it. There are many places where it benefits more broadly. Just to add one more thing to what Chancellor May said, we have a number of different student services that are funded through the student referendum process, so the loss of revenue is going to impact the broader set of services one way or another. While there are different sources and uses of funds, we have to look at the bigger picture too. I don’t believe you can simply extract any one of the referendums on their own and not see an impact in other places. They are individual areas but they have a relationship as well.
Sweeney: One of my concerns has been one of the motives behind this initiative has been premised on what I would call misinformation. There is misinformation being circulated by some folks to try and drum up support for the referendum and looking backwards and misrepresentating things that occurred in the past. The misinformation implying that there has been corruption is simply not true. I would encourage our student reporters to ensure that you are reporting facts and base in reliable sources, and not just people repeating misinformation.
Ratliff: One of the offices in my organization, Budget and Institutional Analysis [BIA], this is part of the university modeled after our Legislative Analyst’s Office. Obviously we are a part of the university, but independent analysis. We do this for every budget in the university so we routinely review budget requests from throughout the university. In this case in particular, we have provided two documents and we’ll soon provide a third document where we attempt to assemble some of the facts and the history and provide an overview so that there is additional context and information available. The BIA office again, while it reports to me, has a dual reporting relationship to the provost and we can talk separately if it doesn’t feel independent enough, but there have been other outside university reviews of the Athletics program over the years. We also report to the NCAA, financially and programmatically, and there is a lot of compliance around this set of activities. Those documents are available and have been provided to COSAF, ASUCD has a representative but they are also generally public documents, so happy to share those as well.
Reguerín: There is some element of fact analysis that people miss whether it be on social media or in conversations: How do you make comparisons? It’s very complicated. The paper [Ratliff] mentioned that was shared with COSAF helps someone walk through. The one I’ve already heard twice is UC Berkeley and it really is a false comparison. It is complicated but I think the document does a nice job of laying that out. How to describe that in an article or in a way that is succinct for a reader, we need some help with that, but it is complicated. I think that document does a good job of doing that so you aren’t cherry picking the data to get the outcome that you want.
DeLuca: On that point that [Reguerín] mentioned, the funding model for UC Berkeley and UCLA is what they call FBS institutions that play a higher level of competition than we do in football specifically. PAC-12 revenue is like $33.4 million for those schools so the reliance on student fees is not as high as ours at the FCS level. Again, our percentages are right in line if not a couple percentage points below our peers in relation to our need for that outside support.
We do have a quick follow up about that. You’ve mentioned COSAF a lot and ASUCD recently passed a Resolution of No Confidence in COSAF. With regard to that, is there anything you would say in terms of those concerns that ASUCD government and Senate seem to have with COSAF?
May: This was also a topic in our meeting with ASUCD yesterday. I would say there are certainly parts of the way that organizations operate that could be looked at and optimized in certain ways. But over the years, COSAF is our mechanism to get student input on fees. The vast majority [of the organization] is students. We really rely on COSAF as a way to receive student input on those financial decisions. They have some authority to make those decisions. With regard to the specific resolution, I think as you read it, I’m not sure in all cases it was a fact based assertion and there is some misinformation in there as well.
Reguerín: ASUCD does have a voting seat on COSAF as well as [ex-officio members]. I’ve never seen these issues raised from ASUCD so I think to come out with a resolution like that when you have a seat at the table and you haven’t raised those issues at the table, I think, is problematic. The COSAF chairs, which are students, will take a look at it as well and look at how best to respond. We try to give COSAF quite a bit of independence. I don’t want to speak for the student co-chairs but I think they will take a look at each one of those issues. I do think it’s problematic though to raise these issues in that format, especially when you have a seat at the table, but we will certainly leave it to the co-chairs to see what course of action they would like to pursue so there will be more coming from COSAF on that.
Many students feel as though they were left in the dark for many months while the baseball team was under investigation. What was the reasoning for this lack of transparency, and how is that justified when a part of student fees are going to Athletics?
May: Your fees don’t buy the right to trample in others’ privacy, confidentiality or due process. That’s not what fees allow so I don’t follow the connection between fees and when we have an investigation of this sort, it is not a unique situation. We follow the same process every time. I would take issue with the notion that there was no transparency. At the very beginning of the investigation, we said we were suspending operations in baseball because we had a credible allegation of hazing and it was going to be investigated. Everybody would have the results of the investigation. That’s exactly what happened. The report is online, and it was in the statement that we issued. There’s no more or less to it than that. I think that is very transparent, but we redact the names of various people for their privacy concerns. We would do the same thing if we had an allegation like that in a student club or any other activity.
Sweeney: I’ll just add that there’s a lot of investigations occuring on campus. Those are handled by our compliance office which is very talented. In all investigations, you want the investigators to learn the facts and don’t want anyone manipulating the facts. I’ll just comment on the issue of hazing and initiation. You don’t want people to conform their testimony. You can imagine how that might look if people have an opportunity to learn exactly what one is saying and then conform their testimony around that. Investigators want the opportunity to interview people without it being tainted about information being leaked to each other. A common feature of an investigation is witnesses are asked not to speak to other witnesses. That happens in all investigations. With respect to the lack of transparency, I understand the motive for your question. I’ll just say, it’s for the integrity of the investigation to try to get as close to the truth as we can. We did go out of our way to publish the maximum amount of that report as possible. There is a law called FERPA that compels us to make sure we redact personal information about students and we did, but that was it. I thought that was an unusually frank investigation that we shared with our campus community. Athletics, as you saw, corrected action and there’s now programmatic changes that will be instituted going forward.
DeLuca: I think on the transparency piece, the public information we were putting out was both internal to the team and their parents — there was no additional information being had behind the scenes so you got exactly what we put out to everyone. In regards to the follow-up piece, we have put out a couple pieces specifically to baseball like a sports administrator traveling next spring with the new coaching staff that’ll be hired hopefully this month. We will have a third-party survey tool that we’ve always done. Postseason surveys electronically, we do senior exit interviews. This surfaced because I was doing exit interviews virtually with some programs given the complexity of COVID. This was given due to the fact that most of our sport programs were either canceled, weren’t competing or had their competitions modified. So that’s why we did it that way, but our new way is going to allow us to do the season-ending survey plus provide an anonymous platform. In the future, if our student athletes feel compelled, good or bad, to share their experience in a manner that will feel comfortable and won’t jeopardize either their athletic participation or scholarship down the line. We worked closely with [Reguerín’s] office. Someone in my office, ironically, before all this surfaced, was co-chair for the anti-hazing task force, so we implemented healthy welcomes training within Athletics. We’re doing it for all of our sports programs and actively for all of our EVO programs and additionally, those trainings will be happening with other student organizations on campus. If you’re in a fraternity or sorority, you’re getting the same exact training that student athletes are.
On Thursday, May 13, a Davis high student died by suicide from the Hutchison parking garage. Why did the administration choose not to publicly address the incident after a suicide at a popular on-campus location?
May: First off, I’ll say that in any tragedy like this, our highest priority is showing sensitivity and compassion to the family in the tragedy. It’s really their prerogative to transmit and communicate any information they’d like about it. This was not our student, this was a student that attended Davis High School. The Davis Joint Unified School District was then responsible for communicating whatever needed to be communicated to whatever audience needed to hear it. I will say, there was an article in the Davis Enterprise the next day that described the incident. I don’t think that we could’ve added anything that wasn’t already in the public domain in that particular incident. We do have a process in place when a suicide occurs in our community, we do have a particular process that we use and people who are trained to handle it, but this was not our student or really our responsibility. I thought the right thing to do was just stay in our lane. We tried to take some of the measures to keep this from happening again in that location. We have taken some measures to keep some of the activities that we think are somewhat dangerous in the parking lot from happening. We try to curtail that activity when we have a suicide among our community. [Reguerín] can share what we do.
Reguerín: This applies to students more broadly but we have an interdisciplinary team, it’s called the Postvention Committee. This is a type of an intervention post crisis and post student death situation. It’s an interdisciplinary team so a student or family can have one single point of contact. We have our counseling team and we have folks across campus to assess the case and what took place. All students who are a part of different communities; How do we provide support across the different folks? Sometimes we have students that come from very low-income backgrounds, students who want to travel for funeral services. We try to take a holistic approach in looking at the impact for a student. The Postvention team and the policies are among the best I’ve seen in higher education. The case management provided to the families is done in a very compassionate manner, and again we do provide funding and support to make sure money is not a barrier to the healing process. I think we have a really good program in place. It’s a program we’re really proud of, we hope we don’t ever have to use it but the professionals engage in that process. It really is a way to try to kick start the healing process. There are so many little things you have to deal with and do to support closure and try to be compassionate as an institution. As large of an institution as we are, these situations call for a lot of humanity and compassion.
How has your adjustment to in-person work been going? What has been the best part of the transition back to in-person learning and work this fall?
May: I’ve enjoyed being back. Well, I live on campus, so I’ve been at my office for a year and a half. But I have enjoyed seeing people again. It’s not like the movie “I Am Legend” anymore. There’s people and not just some desolate area. I think everyone feels the same way about being back together. There’s only so much you could do on Zoom in terms of sharing ideas, bumping into each other in the break room and thinking about other thoughts you’d like to share. Zoom is pretty cut and dry then you’re done. Some people have been hesitant and a little bit anxious about being around people again. Personally, I have not felt that way, I have felt more of a euphoric feeling being around people.
Kelman: I don’t speak for the faculty, but I’ll say on behalf of those who I’ve spoken to, there was some anxiety about returning, but “euphoria” is a really good word to describe how people are feeling. Students set the tone around here. The university serves the students and the community at large. Having students back animates the place. There’s a sense of life and purpose. Teaching remotely was necessary in order to maintain the core operations and mission of the university to allow you all to make progress toward a degree, but it wasn’t the same. Being able to be in the same room with all of you, read the body language, being able to interact with you personally is an entirely different experience. It’s much more human, it’s much more satisfying, and it makes hard work feel [good]. I think most people have that sense that having our students back is really transformative.
Engelbach: The campus wasn’t alive without students. So we’re thrilled to have you back.
Reguerín: In Student Affairs, we’ve been having discussions, debates about what needs to stay remote, what needs to be in person now that students are back. When we were doing remote services, most of the students were remote so we’ve been trying to balance the staffing needs. We want to be there for students. They also have their own needs, so we’ve kept all of our offices open. There have been some innovations we’ve learned. Like in AATC and tutoring, there have been students that have really liked some of the online tutoring so we’ve tried to go through this process of what’s worked, what have we learned that change how we work post-pandemic or while we’re back on campus. It’s a little too early for “post-pandemic.” What are the things that truly require in-person services, there’s still some of the Zoom wait rooms, those seem to be popular offices. We’ll leave it to you all to give us some feedback. We’re always open to that kind of feedback. Sometimes we use survey data but we’re always open to having that conversation with students more broadly.
DeLuca: From the ICA side, it’s probably been the most fun fall based on having fans and students back in our stadiums. We’ve really had the best year so far in terms of total attendance with students, fans and revenue, and it’s been very positive. We did running of the first and second years which was fun to see. We did running of the seniors last week at the last game, we did Pint’s retirement so there’s a lot of stuff that we’ve done that would not have been possible without our fans. I think the information that I’m getting from my student-athletes is that this is the first time they’ve been at Davis where students introduce themselves. I don’t know if you get that too, maybe it’s because of [the masks] making it harder, but it is nice to see everyone be more engaging than in pre-pandemic.
Written by: The Editorial Board