(COVID-19): Campus Health Updates
6/18/2020 - Daily COVID-19 Graduate Division Update
Dear Graduate Students and Post-Docs,
Happy Thursday! Big thank you to those who responded to my last email with recommendations for books, shows, and movies. I now have enough content to last me through the summer… especially given that I tend to intersperse such content with a lot of YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft, thanks to two kids.
Tomorrow is a holiday known as Juneteenth, the day when remaining slaves in the United States were finally released from bondage. It is truly astonishing to imagine that it took 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed for this day to come. For those who did not grow up learning about Juneteenth in school, the explanation for this long unconscionable gap in action is that Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas were not actually a part of the Confederacy. Finally, a contingency of Buffalo Soldiers arrived in Texas on June 19, 1865 with a presidential order that all slaves were free. Although this is not an official UCI holiday, I encourage all of you to take a moment tomorrow to think about what it means to live in a country where slavery was legal just a short 155 years ago.
Also, for fun… when people tell you the “rebel flag” is about “heritage not hate,” here is a list of things that lasted longer than the Confederacy:
- Obama’s presidency
- Gossip Girl
- The Microsoft Zune
- Destiny’s Child & NSYNC
- Brad Pitt & Jennifer Aniston’s marriage
- The time it took the vast majority of people with a PhD to earn it
In a surprise turn, the Supreme Court ruled today 5-4 to allow DACA to stand. Here are some articles on the historic ruling:
And here is the official statement from the Office of the President and the official statement from UCI Chancellor Gillman.
This is a big win for our students and for our country.
For our international students, as well as for those of you in fully employed professional programs who may want to hire our international students, OPT and CPT are a big deal. For those who don’t know what this is, please enjoy this little primer. International students are allowed to work off-campus after completing two semesters or three quarters of specific programs through Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows international students with an F-1 visa in the United States to work up to 12 months in relation to their major of study and allows up to 12 months total. International students with an F-1 visa who have completed certain STEM certified degrees are eligible for a 24-month extension for post-graduation completion of OPT employment.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) allows international students with an F-1 visa to gain practical experience directly related to their major through employment, paid or unpaid internships, or cooperative (co-op) education. It must be part of an established curriculum and completed BEFORE you graduate.
There is some signaling from the federal government that these programs may be cancelled.
Both students and post-docs, as individuals, are encouraged to contact their federal elected officials in both the legislative and executive branches of our government with any concerns you have about these programs, and their potential cancellation. The contact information for the White House, our two U.S. Senators, and a link to find one's Member of the House of Representatives are listed below. Letters, calls, and emails are all effective tools to communicate concerns.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Senator Dianne Feinstein(D - CA)
331 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Senator Kamala Harris(D - CA)
112 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Find Your Representative (U.S. House of Representatives)
Return to Campus for Scholarly Activities
As a reminder, campus is slowly allowing the return to physical spaces for research and scholarly activities. This is a slow process, because we are still learning about the disease, what protocols are best, and so on while acknowledging the needs of our people to get access to what the campus has. Please work with your advisor/supervisor/Associate Dean for research to get access to what you need. Also, please take the required training that is here: https://uci.edu/coronavirus/
Return to Campus for Curricular Activities
On Friday, we released a report from the committee that I chaired on graduate education on campus for 2020-2021 to all of the faculty on campus. This report has implementation guidance on top of the principles you all saw a few weeks ago. Department chairs are now integrating this guidance into their plans for next year. We expect somewhere around 30-40% of graduate courses to be offered in person next year, with that number growing or shrinking depending on health context. To address the question I get asked most: any student who has concerns about attending class in person, or TAs who have concerns about teaching in person, will not be required to do so, as long as we are in a quarter when public health orders regarding COVID-19 are in effect. (e.g., physical distancing). Faculty and department chairs know you must be accommodated without health disclosure or documentation. We do prefer, but again will not require, that students with disability or health concerns register with the Disability Services Center. This is for your protection and consistency across programs. Please let us know if you have any trouble in this regard.
COVID in Graduate Housing
As of this morning a new graduate student has tested positive for COVID-19. The student was tested off campus on Monday (June 15), and notified SHC of the positive result. The student lives in on-campus graduate housing and has been in self-quarantine since Monday (June 15). The student will continue to be isolated.
Governor Gavin Newsom Mandates all Californians to Wear Face Coverings
In a day full of news, Governor Gavin Newsom has made it mandatory for all Californians to wear face coverings while in public or high-risk settings, including when shopping, taking public transit or seeking medical care. Yes, this means you. Okay, well maybe not you if you aren’t in California right now, but honestly, wherever you are, wear a face covering. It’s good for you and everyone around you.
We had some declines to the DTEI fellowships, so new offers are going out today/tonight/early tomorrow. If you got/get one, please answer us quickly, as training begins Monday. We expect to make offers for the Contact Tracing fellowships tomorrow. Training for these does not begin until mid-July, but we would still appreciate a quick answer so we can plan.
Dean’s Office Hours
As always, come see us in Office Hours. I or someone from my Graduate Division staff will be here Monday through Friday to answer any specific questions you may have. See the upcoming schedule below.
Upcoming Dean’s Virtual Office Hours: https://uci.zoom.us/j/7277477057
- Friday, June 19 3:30pm – 4:00pm
- Monday, June 22 11:00am – 11:30am
- Tuesday, June 23 9:00am – 9:30am
- Wednesday, June 24 11:00am – 11:30am
- Thursday, June 25 9:00am – 9:30am
- Friday, June 26 8:30am – 9:00am
In the last 24 hours, we have seen three examples of our different experiences with this university and with this country: an incident with UCIPD, hateful graffiti in Palo Verde, and the DACA ruling that upheld DACA. Some of you have already heard about an incident on our campus yesterday afternoon. UCIPD questioned the partner of one of our students in response to a call they received. This was reported quickly through multiple channels late yesterday afternoon. I learned about it last night around 8PM and reached out to the student and their advisor. I never want any of our students to feel unsafe. The officer should have fully explained what was happening and why they were there and asking for ID. The police chief called the student and their partner last evening to apologize. Knowing how this happened and apologizing for it is a good first step, but it is not enough. Now, we must do the work to make sure we do better in the future. For my part, I am very sorry that any of our students, or their loved ones, should ever be made to feel this way.
I went to bed last night angry and sad about the evening and very very worried about what this morning would bring. Our Supreme Court watchers were sure the ruling would come this morning, and I was sure it would go against DACA. I am ecstatic to have been wrong in my predictions. The UC stands behind our undocumented students, and I am personally so grateful they are here making our campus better.
And so I am reminded of the brilliant theorist, poet, and author Audre Lorde’s words “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” We must not be blind to the experiences our diverse and incredible student and post-doc population have. We must see the differences, actively work to fix the inequities, and celebrate the ways we each bring something unique to our community.
You likely won’t get another message from me before Sunday, which is Father’s Day here in the US, and so I want to give a shout-out to all the fathers, would be fathers, people who act as fathers, people without fathers or still recovering from abusive fathers, and everyone else who will be celebrating and/or mourning this Sunday. In my household, I am incredibly grateful to have a partner who has carried the heavy load of pandemic parenting with me the last three months. I am also incredibly sad to be across the country from my own father, and my heart goes out to those of you missing fathers in other countries, other states, or who have already passed.
[Alt text: picture of Darth Vader talking to Leia that looks like a motivational poster and reads, “Fathers: Some dads are so great they’ll blow up your planet just to teach you a valuable life lesson.”]
Take some time and enjoy your weekend. Summer quarter officially starts soon.
On behalf of all of Graduate Division,
Kleist Professor of Informatics
Vice Provost for Graduate Education
Dean of the Graduate Division