Amid COVID-19 complications and uncertainty, UCR has released a comprehensive proposal for the incoming school year. On Wednesday, June 17, a mass email was sent out to all students announcing UCR’s decision to remain primarily remote, with a minimal amount of class instruction occurring in person. Over the course of the past couple months, UCR’s Instructional Continuity Working Group (ICWG) has worked to fashion a suitable plan for the 2020-2021 academic year. The committee comprised of faculty, staff and students worked in conjunction with the Academic Senate, department chairs, deans, vice chancellors, other UCs and other working groups, in order to make holistic, informed decisions in the best interest of the university and its community.
In an interview with The Highlander, Interim Provost Thomas Smith and co-chair of the ICWG, stated, “The news in past days of COVID-19 surges across the nation, with Riverside County as one of California’s hot spots for infection, has quieted any hopes for a quick return to ‘normal’ campus life.”
The ICWG stressed that they were particularly concerned with taking the necessary steps to ensure safety while still maintaining access to education and allowing for flexibility on every level. The final Instructional Continuity Plan (ICP) consists of six pages describing what to expect in the months ahead, and has been approved by the campus’ Public Health Working Group and leadership. The ICP includes four different phases based on necessary COVID-19 precautions. Phases one to three incorporate modifications in relation to the virus, while the final phase refers to normal functionality. Summer school sessions are currently operating at the second phase and it is expected that the autumn term will move into the third phase.
As of now, the general consensus is that no staff or students are required to teach or learn in a physical environment. Some classes that are more likely to be in person include graduate courses, as well as undergraduate laboratories and studios, due to the generally smaller student ratios or difficulty in administration without being physically present; according to Smith, the final percentage of in-person classes is likely to be around or less than 20%. However, such classes that are approved for in-person operation must follow strict guidelines in accordance with social distancing and make acceptable arrangements for those who cannot attend in person.
Despite the limitations, UCR has vowed to sustain whatever resources they can, encouraging students to look into Keep Learning for help with online learning. The university is also keeping Student Affairs open both remotely and in-person; such services include Student Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services and The Well. On campus housing is also being offered at a lower capacity in order to preserve safety, but all freshmen, transfers and returning students are encouraged to apply and await more information.
The specific status of fall courses will be revealed in UCR’s Banner Student Information System later this summer. Additionally, due to the unpredictability of the coronavirus pandemic, the official plans for winter and spring quarter remain to be seen and will be finalized approximately three months before the beginning of each term.
In the words of Interim Provost Smith, “This will pass, and when the time is right, we will be back together – joyously, and safely.”