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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Students, staff need to be flexible during an uncertain winter quarter

Instructors should be prepared to record lectures and teach remotely

Temporarily returning to online instruction isn’t ideal for some students, but caution and flexibility are important for reducing the COVID-19 transmission rate  in the UC Davis community as we return from break. This first week is an opportunity for UC Davis to catch any post-holiday cases before everyone interacts on campus. 

Many of us were excited to continue in-person learning and want things to be as normal as possible, so the return to virtual learning can feel confusing and discouraging. It’s almost been two years since UC Davis first went online in March 2020, and even though we’ve made so much progress since then, there’s still a large amount of uncertainty and risk surrounding the pandemic. 

The Editorial Board appreciates UC Davis’ communication about this first week of distance learning and its commitment to collecting data before making any final decisions. We support the continuation of the biweekly testing policy as well as the recent mandate of the booster COVID-19 vaccine. 

Despite these precautions, many more students and staff may contract COVID-19 once we return to in-person learning. Both students and instructors may need to quarantine at home throughout the quarter, so it’s important for departments to help instructors plan for recording in-person lectures, offering online exams and teaching remotely. 

In particular, large lectures should have virtual options since many students and staff might not be comfortable in tightly-packed lecture halls with hundreds of people. Students shouldn’t need to decide between their grade and their health, so it’s important to offer flexible options. We understand it’s extra work for instructors and not all lecture halls are equipped with video recording technology, but instructors can offer an audio recording of their lectures as a virtual option. Not only is this helpful during a pandemic, but it is also a necessary step to increase accessibility.

Everyone’s COVID-19 risk level is different, and the university should encourage instructors to be as accommodating as possible. Scientists have found that the omicron variant causes less severe disease on average in the U.S., but it still causes hospitalizations and deaths. Members of the UC Davis community, especially those who are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19, should be able to access accommodations if they’re concerned about their health.  

UC Davis staff are doing what they can to provide students with a quality education under the safest conditions possible. We need to do our part to decrease community spread as well by getting our booster shots, masking up and exercising caution in social settings. Even though 98% of the UC Davis campus is vaccinated, our vaccines might not be as effective against omicron as they were against previous strains, so consider skipping out on large gatherings and indoor parties. 

Although the temporary return to virtual learning may feel discouraging, it’s important to respect public health decisions and continue to follow COVID-19 guidelines. We’re all in this together, and we need to be flexible as we start an uncertain winter quarter. 

Written by: The Editorial Board

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