Celebrating the start of a new academic year

To: UCSC Community

From: Chancellor Cynthia Larive and Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer

We begin this 2021-22 academic year with high hopes. We’re excited to have returned to primarily in-person instruction for the first time since March 2020, when campus shifted to remote learning and work at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We collectively adapted during the ensuing 18 months, but having a full cohort of students living on campus again, faculty and students back in classrooms, and staff keeping the whole operation humming is a reminder of the power of a community united in purpose.

Campus operations might look a bit different now than years past, but our teaching, research and public service mission continues. We have launched an array of new programs to support the success of our students and to prepare them for rewarding careers once they graduate. Campus scientists have been chosen to lead a new state public-health program that will galvanize pandemic-related genomic data analysis while showcasing our research excellence. And our effort to launch a campus diagnostic lab in the early days of the pandemic, in part to help the most vulnerable residents of our county, resulted just this past weekend in the campus receiving the 2021 Phil Rather Award for Leadership in Healthcare from the Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley. We could not be more proud.

If you’re new to UC Santa Cruz or spent the past year learning or working remotely, take the time to get reacquainted with our spectacular campus and all it has to offer. Visit the state parks and city open spaces that abut our campus, and be sure to take a trip to the coast. And definitely get to know Santa Cruz and its fantastic restaurants and shops. A good way to do that would be to check out the first-ever Downtown Day set for Friday. We’ve partnered with the Downtown Association on the event to give those new to our campus community a look at the vibrant city scene.

This is also a good time to learn about or reacquaint yourself with our Principles of Community. We are committed to promoting and protecting an environment that values and supports every person in an atmosphere of respect, honesty, cooperation, professionalism and fairness. It’s at the heart of who we are at UC Santa Cruz.

The University of California policy mandating COVID vaccination for all students and employees is the foundation of our return. As of today, 99 percent of students living on campus this fall have complied, while 91 percent of our total student population has done so. Our faculty and staff compliance rate is equally strong, also at 91 percent. Having a fully vaccinated campus is vital to the well-being of our community, and we are grateful for your attentiveness, unity of purpose, and for your consideration for your fellow Slugs.

What we saw during move-in was heartening. We did not have a single student moving into campus housing test positive for COVID-19. Our county and state COVID numbers are also trending in the right direction. COVID cases and hospitalizations are on the decline in Santa Cruz County, and California has the lowest coronavirus case rate in the nation. But If we have learned anything over the course of this pandemic, it is that this virus is unpredictable. We will likely have some breakthrough cases, but our goal is to minimize those. We will not hesitate to modify our plans and operations if that is what the science and/or public health guidance requires. We will continue to prioritize your health and well-being.

It’s important that we keep the positive momentum we have built. Please visit our Slug Strong website for requirements and recommendations on keeping our community safe. In short, always wear a face covering when accessing shared indoor spaces on campus, regardless of vaccination status; perform a daily symptom check when heading to any campus locations; stay home if you are sick; and follow our asymptomatic testing protocol.

This academic year holds great promise. We have an opportunity to take the best of what we have learned over the past year and a half of remote learning and to apply it to in-person instruction. We essentially have two new classes — half of our entire undergraduate student body — who are new to our campus, with fresh eyes and their own unique perspectives. We are leaders at the intersection of innovation and justice, actively addressing the challenges of our time. We are where real change starts. Let’s all come together to make this year our best yet.