Welcome Back

September 21, 2021

Dear colleagues,

Welcome to the 2021 academic year. This month I began the second year of a term as your Academic Senate Chair and my 13th year as a UCR faculty member. We start this year both daunted by the challenges we have ahead of us and emboldened by the resilience and excellence 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.

As with 2020/21, this will not be a ‘normal’ year, but I am hopeful we will see recovery from the pandemic, the return to routines, and remember the fun of in-person teaching and interaction. I want to first emphasize that the decisions for returning to in-person classes, performances, and laboratories are made with the principles to prioritize safety of the members of our immediate and extended community. The guidance developed for the campus instructors on the What to Expect for Instructors page on the Return to Campus site includes FAQs about how to navigate teaching in-person in the classroom.

Some short guidance now that will be revisited as we see how our return to campus unfolds.

  • Remind your students that events may occur during the quarter that require a switch to a temporary return to remote teaching. Indicate this in your syllabus. Remind your students that the principles of safety and wellbeing guide our return.
  • Communicate with students about the expectations for in-person meetings including masks.
  • Use Canvas or Blackboard to communicate any changes in class meetings.
  • Remind students about the copyright protection of materials at the outset of lectures that are recorded and shared. You can include a copyright notice on all your lecture slides as well.

The pandemic has been difficult in visible ways that emptied the parking lots and kept The Barn closed. It also impacted many of us in unseen ways. I encourage you to consider the whole person sitting in your classroom or departmental office that may need some extra time to find the balance in their shifted world. We have lost members of our UCR community, and their loss may be even more felt as we try to return to familiar spaces. Though this is an often frantic time of year, I hope we all find satisfaction and some joy in those interactions with colleagues and students we have missed or took for granted before the semi-isolation the pandemic imposed.

I want to highlight and applaud the work that so many of you undertook this past year for the 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 Academic 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 general education ad hoc committee explored a curriculum last reviewed nearly 40 years ago and I expect their shared report and consultative dialogue will help UCR assess and adapt the curriculum to current needs. Senate Committees are also exploring how teaching evaluations are gathered and used, continuing the work to support new or changes to current 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 thank all members of the Riverside Division for their service on the more than 30 standing, executive, and ad hoc committees of the Senate. Our participation in shared governance is always critical, but especially now your attention and input are important. Looking ahead, the Faculty Senate will be providing input on decisions that range from how testing and admissions standards are applied, to budget decisions aimed at balancing UCR’s immediate needs with our collective vision for UCR excellence. Recent changes in the cohort-based tuition model and funding from the state stands to boost some resources and increase availability of need based financial aid to our students. The landscape of UC funding continues to evolve, and the Senate will do its part to help educate our community on what we can expect for our future.

Several executive searches including selection of a Vice Chancellor for University Advancement, Vice Chancellor for International Education, and Associate Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Services are taking place this year. Your feedback and engagement 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.

Finally, I hope all of you will plan to attend the Fall Divisional Meeting of the Academic Senate on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, at 1:00 pm via Zoom videoconference.
Sincerely, Jason Stajich
Chair of the Riverside Division of the Academic Senate
Professor, Department of Microbiology & Plant Pathology