May 12, 2021 

Dear Colleagues:

I write today to provide another update about our Fall 2021 semester planning. With continuing positive progress on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ventura County and Governor Newsom’s decision to reopen our economy by June 15, I am excited about our plan to return next semester to primarily in-person instruction, co-curricular programming, and student support services.

I also want to thank everyone who attended our recent Town Halls for faculty/staff, as well as our separate sessions for students. I very much appreciate the direct communication, feedback, and dialogue with the campus community. Based in large part on these discussions, please see below updates on the most relevant and timely aspects of our Fall 2021 semester planning.

CSU Vaccination Policy
As was previously announced, the CSU will be mandating that all employees and students be vaccinated as part of our Fall 2021 campus repopulation plan. The Chancellor’s Office is in the process of finalizing a systemwide policy, subject to bargaining with the various unions, to address medical or religious exemptions, vaccination verification, and enforcement issues. We are continuing to work through the specific details on what this will look like for our campus and will share additional information and details as things are finalized. For those who receive an approved exemption, we will require routine testing to ensure the safety of our campus community.

Infrastructural Needs: We are anticipating centralized support through the Chancellor’s Office with regards to vaccination documentation and an associated app for members of the campus community for verification purposes. For those who require routine testing, testing will be available on campus and at no cost to individuals. We will provide more details as these infrastructural components are finalized.

Baseline Vaccination Survey: We will be implementing a survey to get a current baseline on vaccination status, plans to get vaccinated, or plans to apply for an exemption. This baseline will help in our planning efforts to repopulate our campus for the Fall 2021 semester. We’ve already conducted a survey of students who have completed their housing application for the 2021-22 academic year, which indicated that 35.7% were already vaccinated and 58.6% were planning to get vaccinated.

If you are concerned, as I am, about the recent slowdown in numbers of people choosing to be vaccinated in California and across the country – to say nothing of the inconsistencies of vaccine availability for many around the world – I invite you to consider helping the vaccine-reluctant people in your sphere to become as fully educated as possible about benefits of the vaccine as well as the layers of equity issues that COVID-19 has laid bare. Encourage people to learn about vaccination benefits by visiting the updated guidelines published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention; consult your own healthcare provider about options as they pertain to your health, and encourage others to do the same. Investigate and share information about vaccine availability, whether through, healthcare providers, or local pharmacies such as Ralphs, CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Albertsons or Vons. And read about the intersection of vaccine equity with race, and the disparate impacts of the coronavirus experienced by minoritized populations. Be part of the solution in coming back from the pandemic by sharing information with others.

Repopulation and Telework (Telecommuting)
As I have stated in recent Town Hall Meetings, I want our campus to be effectively positioned to take hard-won learnings from the pandemic and carry them forward, responsibly and equitably, into our future. That said, I need to be explicit and clear that teleworking/telecommuting will be explored separately from our Fall repopulation planning. We will be thinking about revising our telecommuting policy in parallel to our thinking about Fall repopulation needs, of course, but any telecommuting policy we currently have or will update is not about creating alternatives in relation to the safe repopulation of campus. Repopulation is about carefully stabilizing our student-centered, brick-and-mortar campus. Revising our policy on telecommuting is about taking the best of what we’ve learned from the past year’s forced experiment in virtual productivity and applying it to policy development moving forward.

What does this mean in practical terms? The baseline expectation is that all employees except those with accommodations approved through the HR managed ADA process will return to in-person service. Each of our respective Vice Presidents and Provost will continue to communicate their expectation and timeframe for a phased return to work on campus for all staff within their division.

Simultaneously but separately, HR will take the lead in revising our telecommuting policy. It is likely that it could take several months to conduct the processes of researching effective telecommuting policies, revising our policy, and gaining final approval by the President’s Planning & Policy Council before implementation can occur. Some guiding questions for this policy work will include: (1) How does a request to telework benefit the University? (2) Will it benefit students? If so, in what ways and how will we know of its impact? (3) How can we ensure that supervisors are supported in prioritizing equity across divisions and units in the consideration and granting of teleworking requests? (4) With University work happening outside the scope of direct supervision, how will performance standards be defined and evaluated?

By reconfirming our plans for the campus’s repopulation now, more than two months prior to our collective need to return for in-person fulfillment of our mission, my intention is for employees to have the necessary time and clarity to plan appropriately and make necessary arrangements for child/elder care and other personal obligations.

I encourage everyone to discuss individual situations and/or concerns with your supervisor or manager directly to achieve a mutually effective solution.

Common Spaces and Co-Curricular Programming
While the CDC has published updated recommendations for fully vaccinated individuals, we are still awaiting updated guidelines from the California Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA. We expect these updated guidelines to be released by the end of this month and anticipate more clarity as it relates to capacity and spacing recommendations in commonly used public spaces such as the Library, Student Union Building, student housing and dining.

With regards to our workspaces, we are currently underway with our workspace evaluations in each division. We will adjust our workspace planning accordingly based on the updated guidelines and will keep the campus community updated once they are released. We will also add this information to our Fall 2021 Semester webpage along with updated FAQs.

Communication Moving Forward
Feedback received throughout the various Town Hall sessions focused on developing a more robust communication plan for the campus community with regards to Fall 2021 updates. As such, we will continue to provide monthly updates via email and on our Fall 2021 Semester planning webpage, as well as continue to leverage our social media platforms. In addition, we will host another series of Town Hall sessions in July for employees and students. By then, we anticipate having good clarity and finalized plans, and we will provide as much logistical information as possible to adequately prepare us for our return to campus.

In closing, thank you for your ongoing feedback and direct communication regarding our Fall 2021 planning. I know this process has been extremely fluid and many have expressed various concerns. All that being said, I am extremely proud of how our campus community has come together to discuss and address concerns, prioritize our students’ learning experiences, and have stayed tenaciously hopeful for our future.

If you have any questions not addressed here or by your supervisor or division leadership, please email so your questions may be directed to the appropriate area for a response.

With sincere thanks,
Richard Yao, Ph.D.
Interim President

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