Welcome Back

October 01, 2020

We begin a new academic school year unlike any would have predicted a year ago. This September I began my term as your Academic Senate Chair and my 12th year as a UCR faculty member. I'm both daunted by the challenges we have ahead of us and emboldened by the resilience of our campus community to do our best to achieve our goals. These include continuing the positive advances we have made in the academic and research missions, but also the broader, collective vision to embrace social justice, equality, and equity for all members.

This is not likely to be a "normal" academic year by any stretch. Many familiar aspects of campus, our social connection to each other, staff, students, have been altered by constraints imposed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The adjustments we are all making to maintain our community through the limitations of online media will take additional skills and efforts. Many of us are struggling to work from home while being a caregiver and trying to find those moments to just be able to think clearly to prepare lectures and engage in our scholarship and research. I hope we will all continue to show compassion and patience for those meeting the challenges of parenting to remote-learning children and caregivers of other family members both locally and at a distance. Many are also struggling with the isolation and loss of routine interactions with our colleagues and friends. Nothing is easy about the current state we are in, but I encourage patience, compassion, and flexibility with each other.

I want to highlight and applaud the work that so many of you undertook in the Spring to ensure safety of our campus community while still delivering teaching and protecting what was possible of the research mission. These were not easy changes, but I believe it served our students well and has kept our campus members safe.

Despite adopting remote teaching and research, and a limited on-campus presence, the Senate still will undertake its duties from academic program reviews to fulfilling its role in the merits and promotion process supporting academic personnel. One of the Senate's projects has been an ongoing, multiyear full review of UCR's General Education curriculum. The committee is exploring a curriculum last reviewed 40 years ago and I expect their shared report and dialogue that will ensue will help UCR assess and adapt the curriculum to current needs. Committees are also exploring how teaching evaluations are gathered and used, continuing the work to support new or changes to graduate and undergraduate programs, providing input on campus research and infrastructure, and awarding internal research and travel grant funding to faculty and students.

I want to also take this time to thank all faculty for their service on the standing and ad hoc committees of the Senate. Our participation in shared governance is always critical, but especially now your attention and input are important. The Faculty Senate is providing input on decisions that range from how testing and admissions standards are applied to budget cuts which is seeking to balance the immediate needs with our collective vision for what is UCR excellence. Several executive searches including selection of an Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost and Dean of College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences are taking place this year. Your feedback and input can occur at many levels from direct membership on committees to communication with your college executive committees. I urge you to seek out these campus leaders as well as myself to communicate your input and participate in consultation necessary for robust shared governance.

To better hear from you about issues that impact your programs and department, I will make myself available to all departments if you wish to invite me to one of your regularly scheduled faculty meetings. (I do not bring an agenda for these visits, but wish to re/introduce myself to everyone, to listen and engage in conversation about topics you wish to discuss.) My email address is jason.stajich@ucr.edu. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to talk for any reason at all. I look forward to serving you and the campus.

I hope all of you will plan to attend the Fall Divisional Meeting of the Academic Senate on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 at 1:00 pm via Zoom videoconference.

Jason Stajich
Chair of the Riverside Division of the Academic Senate
Professor, Department of Microbiology & Plant Pathology