The University of California (UC) announced on January 11 that it is planning for all 10 UC campuses to return to mostly in-person instruction by Fall 2021.
In a statement released by the UC Office of the President (UCOP), the University said it expects it will be safe for UC students to return to their campuses based on current forecasts about the pandemic. It also anticipates that COVID-19 vaccines will soon become available to students, faculty, and staff systemwide.
While plans to return to in-person learning may be subject to change, UC president Michael Drake stated that the UC will continue to monitor public health conditions and the progress of the pandemic to ensure students can safely return to campus.
“Current forecasts give us hope that in the fall our students can enjoy a more normal on-campus experience,” said Drake. According to the UCOP’s statement, Drake also consulted the 10 UC chancellors about the UC’s decision.
At a UCSD Return to Learn Town Hall meeting held the same day, Chancellor Pradeep Khosla talked about the UCOP’s announcement, mentioning that the anticipated distribution of vaccines influenced the UC’s decision to return to in-person learning.
“We feel reasonably confident that by mid-summer or so, just about everybody who needs to be vaccinated to start or cause schools will be vaccinated. And that’s why we were able to make this announcement,” Khosla said.
According to Dr. Robert T. “Chip” Schooley, a professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health, vaccinations at UCSD Health began around mid-December for healthcare workers, in line with tier-based CDC recommendations about which groups should be vaccinated first.
Schooley said that UCSD is working through each tier and will eventually make vaccines more widely available to the campus community. So far, there are no specifics about when vaccine distribution for UCSD students will take place.
“We will start [vaccinations] with people who receive their healthcare [at UCSD],” Schooley said at the town hall. “There are efforts to open up vaccine stations on campus, including perhaps the Student Health Services.”
Currently, less than 10 percent of Winter 2021 classes are offered in-person. Any in-person instruction can only be conducted in outdoor classrooms and are mainly lower division courses, graduate seminars, or studio classes.
If UCSD fully shifts to in-person learning in the fall, accommodations for online learning will remain available for the 2021-22 school year, according to Associate Vice Chancellor of Educational Innovation Dr. Carlos Jensen and Academic Senate Chair Dr. Steven Constable. Faculty can still offer students options to take classes remotely as long as they conduct 50% or more of their classes in-person, or make a proposal to the UCSD Academic Senate.
According to recent plans for the Return to Learn program, UCSD will remain flexible and adapt plans for winter instruction as the public health situation develops.
“As has been the case since the beginning of this unprecedented challenge, the University’s plans may change as the pandemic evolves and government and public health authorities respond,” UCSD said in its Return to Learn plan.
Julianna Domingo is the Assistant News Editor for The Triton. You can follow her @coolyannaa.