March 23, 2021
Dear faculty and staff,
We write today to provide an update on our instructional planning for the fall 2021 quarter. With the acceleration in vaccinations, falling case rates, and optimism about the continued progress Santa Cruz County is making through the tiers, there is a widespread sense that public health conditions in the fall will support more in-person instruction than we foresaw on Feb. 25 when we provided guidance to divisions, departments, and faculty about fall instruction planning. The environment is changing rapidly, and the changes lead us to be more optimistic about our ability to offer in-person instruction in a way that continues to prioritize the health and wellbeing of our community.
Increased optimism in vaccinations and reduced spread have allowed us to plan for more in-person instruction in fall
Classes with enrollments below 150 can now be proposed for in-person scheduling (previously the threshold was 100)
Instructors should plan remote classes for Sept. 23 and 24, the first two days of classes, to facilitate COVID-19 testing, although this is subject to change
Remote enrollment opportunities, especially for first- and second-year students, will still be part of our planning
As we have in all of our planning messages, we must note that plans are contingent upon public health conditions at the time of their implementation and are subject to change. There are still many unknowns and we will continue to closely monitor the situation and update our plans as needed.
All of our plans assume that by the start of the fall quarter there will be widespread availability of vaccines and few-to-no new daily cases within our campus community. We encourage you to get vaccinated when you are eligible. Based on recent CDC guidance, it is anticipated that vaccinated individuals will be afforded more opportunities for returning to aspects of pre-pandemic life.
Fall quarter instruction will be primarily in-person
We expect most classes to be held in-person --- we are aiming for two-thirds to three-quarters of classes to be conducted in-person. The main area of exception is classes with enrollments of 150 or more students --- these courses will remain remote or online. For planning purposes, courses with enrollment below 150 students can now be scheduled in-person, with use of up to 100% room capacity, as space allows. The default mode of instruction for all courses with enrollment below 50 students will be in-person, with room capacities at 100%, though remote or online modality is possible by request of departments and colleges, and as needed to address requests for disability-related reasonable accommodation. A large class could be split into two offerings, one in-person offering of no more than 150 students and one remote offering.
Instructors and course sponsors may also consider hybrid courses within the 150-student constraint. For example, a 300-student class that meets two days a week could have pre-recorded lectures and have one in-person meeting each week for each half of the class to do in-person active learning exercises, and similarly a 450-student class meeting three days a week could be split into thirds. Faculty and course sponsors interested in this option should work closely with Online Education and the Office of the Registrar. Separate sections will need to be scheduled, one for each in-person cohort.
During this coming fall quarter we must be aware that not all students will begin or continue their education in person. While most medium-sized and smaller classes should be scheduled for in-person delivery, units should offer some courses online or remotely to enable remote students to make degree progress. In particular, departments and programs should provide pathways for fully remote first- and second-year students to make progress toward their major or major selection and qualification from afar. As noted above, departments, programs and instructors of record should be prepared to address requests for disability-related reasonable accommodation that may include remote instruction.
The opening of consulates and scheduling of visa appointments is also a dynamic situation at this time. While we remain cautiously optimistic, it is possible that some international students may not be able to attend in-person classes in the fall because of their inability to obtain a visa and/or enter the United States. International students are encouraged to consult with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) to evaluate their options and follow up with their department, college, or program.
With these changes in guidance, department and program chairs and college provosts should continue to work with instructors to determine the modalities of their courses. To the extent possible, chairs and provosts should accommodate instructor needs to teach remotely or online when these modalities are feasible for the achievement of course learning objectives and update the mode of instruction accordingly.
We anticipate that some public health measures will still be required in the fall, including some frequency of asymptomatic testing, the wearing of face coverings, and advice about frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers. We will continue to align our plans with all public health requirements.
Instructors should plan to deliver classes on Sept. 23 and Sept. 24 remotely so that students and instructors have time to get tested after returning for the fall quarter. This element of our planning is under development and review, and may change.
Widespread vaccination is the critical element in our optimism about the fall. We must remain vigilant now, because the vast majority of our community is not yet vaccinated. Please continue to do your part to protect each other. We encourage you to follow the lead of our many on-campus student residents, who have opted to remain here on campus during spring break, to continue to slow the spread by not traveling and not mixing with larger communities.
Based on progress made in vaccinations and the lowering of infection rates, we are optimistic about our return to primarily in-person instruction in the fall. At the same time, we must be prepared to pivot to remote delivery of instruction should conditions warrant. This past year has profoundly impacted all of us. As we face the new challenges that fall will bring, we thank you for your flexibility, resilience, and partnership and for your commitment to the continued success of our students.
Lori Kletzer, Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Herbie Lee, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs