July 22, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

I write this morning to notify you that effective immediately, mask-wearing is required indoors at CSUCI and affiliated locations (Santa Rosa Island Research Station, Channel Islands Boating Center, Goleta instructional site), except when in an office alone, or when eating or drinking while physically distanced from others. We will re-evaluate this requirement as new information emerges (i.e., public health updates; CSU Vaccination Policy taking effect, etc.). My thinking behind this decision follows.

As you are likely aware, a Ventura County Public Health statement issued on July 19 strongly advises the residents of our county to resume wearing masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. The question I had been grappling with since Monday is: What does this recent guidance mean for us?

When examining the briefing and the parameters defined in it (i.e., that “people are strongly recommended to wear masks indoors in settings like grocery or retail stores, theaters, and family entertainment centers” and that “workplaces must comply with Cal/OSHA requirements and fully vaccinated employees are encouraged to wear masks indoors if their employer has not confirmed the vaccination status of those around them”), I wanted more clarity as to whether the recommendation applied to settings such as CSUCI. These parameters suggest that indoor masking is strongly recommended for people in large, anonymous settings where no controls are in place, which is not the case for us on campus or at our other sites. We are in full alignment with Cal/OSHA standards regarding vaccination attestation and are taking the additional, necessary steps to work with our unions and move towards verification of vaccine status attestation and regular surveillance testing for those who are not vaccinated.

Earlier in the week, I admit that it was not immediately clear to me that the resumption of mask-wearing was simply the right thing for all of us to do – especially when considering the broad availability and effectiveness of the vaccine against COVID-19 and its variants, initial campus data suggesting a high rate of vaccination for faculty, staff and students, and the attestation and testing pieces noted above. However, close listening this week to faculty and staff during our town halls and through separate correspondence convinced me to further reflect and take a deeper dive.

While continuing to advocate vaccination as the obvious long-term answer in achieving herd immunity, it is in the short-term that we need to come together as a campus community to literally take care of each other. I have in mind our employees who cannot vaccinate because of medical conditions; I am thinking of those who have young children who are not vaccinated and those who have family members who are significantly immunocompromised. I understand that concerns for these loved ones are layered, logical, and deep. I’m grateful for the direct communication during the Town Hall Q&A sessions with faculty and staff; these are obviously sometimes very difficult conversations, but always helpful. It is through this communication, dialogue, and consultation – in addition to trends we are watching in L.A. County and in the same spirit of VCPH’s abundance-of-caution guidance – that we are requiring indoor masks at this time. We will continue to monitor current conditions and updated public health guidance to inform and revise our campus planning and safety protocols moving forward.

I will send another email next week with a broader range of updates related to the campus safety measures discussed during the Town Halls. This includes updates on the attestation process; labor relations updates regarding verification and testing; student communication; office space assessment updates and more. We will be ramping up our communication with the campus community at all levels as we continue to move closer to the start of the fall semester. At the same time, I encourage everyone to also directly communicate with your managers to address any questions or individual circumstances related to our work.

In closing and on a positive note, we’ve held two Student Town Halls this week with a good turnout of students and supporters, and their excitement about returning to campus is clear. While they asked poignant questions related to safety protocols and behavioral expectations, they asked even more questions involving the desired availability of co-curricular programming and welcome back events; the varied dining options across campus; the accessibility of our student support services; how to navigate parking costs and challenges; concerns about textbook costs and the utilization of open access online resources; availability of student spaces across campus; and faculty expectations in relation to all of the challenges they are navigating – all of which are vital aspects of their campus experience, development, and success.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions and/or concerns to csuci.news@csuci.edu and we will direct your questions to the appropriate individuals on campus.

Sincerely,

Richard Yao, Ph.D.
Interim President

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