Newswise — Irvine, Calif., April 20, 2021 — Taking what it has learned from remote work and learning practices over the past 15 months, the University of California, Irvine will begin instituting back-to-campus plans for employees and students that will include hybrid workplaces and flexible coursework.
The transition back to campus will be managed in phases starting July 1, with the university being fully operational in person by Sept. 1. This strategy is premised on the assumption that a large majority of the UCI family will be vaccinated by then.
“Our next chapter will focus on the needs of our community, utilizing innovative solutions to create a UCI experience that is more satisfying, productive and supportive,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “During the coming days and months, continuing through the summer in preparation for fall, we will be releasing more information about our next steps. Some of the plans build on our pandemic experiences, such as a hybrid workplace and flexible coursework, while others may be completely new. The common thread is that our new day will be designed collectively for our campus community and our stakeholders.”
Facial coverings and physical distancing will continue to be required in all UCI public spaces, in accordance with both California Department of Public Health guidance and California Division of Occupational Safety and Health regulations. The campus will be notified when the facial covering and distancing protocols are amended or no longer required.
“As employees and students begin transitioning back to the campus, the well-being and success of the UCI community is the top priority, and we intend to offer our students, faculty and staff a healthy and supportive environment that encourages their best work,” said Hal S. Stern, provost and executive vice chancellor. “The intent is to be flexible and in compliance with public health guidance and Centers for Disease Control protocols.”
Vaccination rate is key
Stern added that the percentage of the UCI population that’s vaccinated will play a key role in determining the ability to transition to more in-person activities. All students, faculty and staff are encouraged to get vaccinated through any available channel – whether through a healthcare provider, a community-based site or a pharmacy. Information on how to find a vaccine can be found on the UCI Forward site.
Students, faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated will be exempted from asymptomatic testing in the fall. Asymptomatic testing for nonvaccinated students, those in athletics and other groups required by regulations is expected to continue. The daily symptom check and symptomatic testing for all students, faculty and staff are also expected to continue, in accordance with guidance and regulations.
Creating an on-campus learning environment
Michael Dennin, vice provost for teaching & learning and dean of undergraduate education, has been working with academic units to prepare for the fall quarter, which begins Sept. 20. Teaching will primarily be in person in campus classrooms, although some instructors will offer hybrid and remote options as appropriate.
While students are expected to be on campus for in-person learning, UCI’s Division of Teaching Excellence & Innovation will assist faculty members when accommodations are needed for students unable to be on campus for a variety of reasons. All general classrooms will be outfitted with the necessary technology to support all planned instructional methods.
“We look forward to welcoming back residential students at nearly full capacity for the fall quarter,” Stern said. “Bringing the campus back to full in-person engagement will involve many details, and students will receive additional communications on housing options and other elements of the plan.”
Hybrid work environments
While some 3,000 employees remained on campus during the pandemic, following myriad health and safety guidelines, most have worked at home since mid-March 2020. Their return to campus will be managed in phases over the summer so that faculty and staff can make arrangements, such as for child care and other personal obligations, to prepare for this transition.
Flexible, hybrid work environments will be explored during this time. Unit managers will be provided guidelines for potential long-term remote or hybrid work agreements subject to supervisor approval – keeping in mind that fulfilling the campus’s mission will be the key factor in determining appropriate work agreements.
“Many of us have enjoyed the benefits of remote work and collaboration, while others long for greater in-person interaction,” Gillman said. “We plan to provide the opportunities for freedom to have both – virtual and physical, remote and local, digital and analog – blended in a way that advances excellence.”
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.
Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit news.uci.edu. Additional resources for journalists may be found at communications.uci.edu/for-journalists.