Dear Campus Community,
As I reflect on the past year, I am reminded of our individual and collective resilience. We have faced the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, senseless police shootings of Black Americans and the subsequent civil unrest, and uncertainty in the face of a financial crisis. We have grown, adapted, and continued to rise through these turbulent times. Last week, as we headed into the new year, we hoped for a refreshing new start. Instead, we were met with continued political tension and a lawless, violent, and reprehensible attack on our nation's Capitol Building. I would like to reiterate the sentiments Chancellor Wilcox shared in his statement on the attacks. It is our role as an institution to advance democracy and social justice. We must uphold our community and values and actively work toward brighter days.
With this collective spirit in mind, I again want to urge our instructors to be mindful of how these challenges are impacting our students. We know of students listening to lectures while at work because they must support family members during these hard financial times. Many students also now live in family and multi-generational homes, unable to secure quiet learning environments during their scheduled classes. And everyone has experienced this pandemic while social and political crises compound these challenges without giving us adequate time to recover or unpack each event. These challenges undoubtedly have contributed to the significant decrease we are experiencing in our fall-to-winter retention rate.
As we move swiftly into the Winter Quarter, I want to again request that all instructors help to promote student success during these extraordinary times by recording and posting your lectures. We know that many but not all UCR instructors have adopted this practice, and we continue to receive compelling requests from students for broader adoption to help them better manage the competing demands on their time. Recording and posting lectures to our learning management system does not undermine the instructor’s intellectual property rights to their course materials (more information can be found here). Instead, this practice helps further our mission to extend equitable educational access to a diverse student body.
Below, I have several other important updates and reminders to share with you.
In November 2020, the Chancellor and I sent the campus a response to the Budget Advisory Committee’s Report on Current Financial Challenges. In December 2020, I communicated budget reduction targets to relevant unit heads. In the spirit of transparency, the targets for each unit can be found here. With this information, all campus units should have their FY21 budget plans clearly defined and ready to begin implementing this month. Up to half of each unit’s reduction will need to be undertaken this fiscal year, with the remaining budgetary actions implemented in FY22.
Last Friday, January 8th, the Governor’s FY22 Proposed Budget was released. The impact on our core budget is detailed in this morning’s Chancellor’s State Budget Update.
Regarding the UC President’s Job Protection Program, Human Resources has engaged in campus-wide consultation about this curtailment program, which is unrelated to the extended Winter Holiday Closure. An update will go to campus soon about what action, if any, UCR will take regarding this program.
We will continue to keep you informed about budget issues as more information becomes available.
- Spring 2021: Last week I announced that we would continue with remote instruction for the Spring Quarter. This means that the policies and procedures we have had in place for fall and winter will continue through spring. Importantly, we will continue to require exceptional approval for in-person instruction, and remote-options for all but a small number of clinical courses in the School of Medicine and 1:1 courses such as individual study (at the instructor’s discretion). More details are available in the Instructional Continuity Plan.
- Summer 2021: In November 2020, we announced that Summer 2021 courses will also be offered remotely. The policies and procedures in our Instructional Continuity Plan will apply, including the possibility of in-person instruction with a remote option by exceptional approval. However, remote-only instruction can be especially helpful in summer, when both faculty and students tend to face additional location-based constraints. If you plan to teach in summer 2021, please consider this when developing your class. For more information, please visit summer.ucr.edu.
- Fall 2021: As the UC Office of the President announced earlier this week, we are hopeful to return to mostly in-person instruction in fall 2021. We are constantly monitoring public health conditions and will closely watch the distribution and uptake of vaccines across our region over the coming months. Our Instructional Continuity committee will begin working on a plan to return in fall as early as next week, and we will keep the campus updated as this plan develops.
Remote Course Conversion
The Provost’s Office, Undergraduate Education, and XCITE are pleased to announce that twenty faculty members will each receive a $9,000 Remote Course Conversion grant. This new initiative is designed to help faculty transform their existing remote courses into more robust online courses. These course conversions will be based on nationally recognized and research-based best practices for online teaching and learning. Each of these faculty members will work with an instructional designer from XCITE as part of the course conversion process. Thanks to UCR’s Academy of Distinguished Teaching for participating in these award decisions.
We plan to announce additional rounds of funding for more remote course conversions in the coming weeks and months.
In December, we had a detailed discussion of the current draft strategic plan with the Steering Committee. We have since compiled and addressed the committee’s feedback, and will present the penultimate draft for the committee’s endorsement at our January 26th meeting.
We expect to distribute the penultimate draft to the UCR community on February 1st. The draft will also include links to the five working group reports which provide the foundational content for the plan. Throughout February, we will engage in broad consultation with the campus on the penultimate draft, including opportunities for written feedback, several small group discussions, and two campus forums:
- Forum #1: Tuesday, February 9th from 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.
- Forum #2: Wednesday, February 10th from 3:00 - 4:30 p.m.
Registration links for these events will be included in the email to campus on February 1st.
UCR Syllabus Repository
I am pleased to announce the launch of the UCR Syllabus Repository. This secure database (CAS login required) provides faculty, students, and staff with searchable access to syllabi that have been uploaded by instructors. It will greatly assist faculty who are reviewing and redesigning courses and programs, students who are selecting courses, planning their degrees, and applying for transfer credit, and staff who are responsible for assessment and accreditation. Use of the system is voluntary, but all instructors are strongly encouraged to upload their past and current syllabi, and to continue doing so in the future, to maximize the usefulness of the database. Please take some time during the winter quarter to upload your syllabi so that students can utilize the system prior to fall quarter registration in May. I’m grateful to James Lin and his team in CHASS IT for developing this system.
Also, as I did last quarter, I would like to again encourage all faculty to embed clear student outcomes in their syllabi and use them to build more integrated courses. This is considered a best practice in higher education and creates a roadmap for students to meet faculty expectations and for faculty to assess learning effectiveness. For guidance, faculty can use this How-To Document on the assessment website or reach out to XCITE for help.
Thomas M. Smith, Ph.D.
Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
4148 Hinderaker Hall
University of California, Riverside