Here is the latest from UC Merced in a report published online to the campus community, also found at the following link: https://emergency.ucmerced.edu/coronavirus
A second student at UC Merced today (March 18) reported symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and is awaiting test results. The student resides off campus and is practicing self-quarantine. A student who reported symptoms earlier this week remains in self-quarantine and awaiting test results. Officials are not aware of any positive cases at UC Merced at this time.
COVID-19: Shutdown of All On-Campus Research
Through consultation with Deans, faculty, and leaders across campus, UC Merced emergency management has determined that:
“All Principal Investigators shall work with their local administrators to begin a campus-wide UC Merced Research Facilities Shutdown. Research must be drawn down as soon and as safely as possible, and a plan enacted for on-campus research to cease by noon Sunday, March 22, 2020 until further notice. People conducting this shutdown effort for each group should be kept at an absolute minimum between now and noon on Sunday.
“Under no conditions is laboratory equipment, chemicals, biologics, materisals, etc., be taken off-campus. Laptops and other mobile storage devices can be taken off-campus. All human subjects research requiring face-to-face, in person interaction shall cease immediately. Please use the UC Merced Ramp Down Checklist to assist in your shutdown planning.
“Expect the shutdown to last several weeks to months. Only remote research, defined as that which can be done remotely and does not require laboratory equipment and supplies, should be performed in this period without further permission.
“If a Principal Investigator requires ongoing research to take place at a campus site during a shutdown, they will be required to fill out an Essential Research Request form in the InfoReady system. Requests to allow COVID-19 studies or the continuation of ongoing essential experiments must be submitted via the request form linked below. These requests will be reviewed by the relevant Deans together with the Vice Chancellor for Research and faculty representatives. Expect very few exceptions to be granted. Please note that this permission is only required for those activities which must be conducted on campus (the campus proper or other UC Merced facilities).”
“Details on Essential Research: Essential research functions are any functions that are necessary to maintain baseline research or scholarly operations and projects (e.g. vivarium management, clean room management, etc.), that if not continued will result in irreparable damage to instruments, samples or research programs. Any disruption to an “essential research function” could jeopardize the completion of sponsored projects (even if delayed), the reputation of faculty and the institution with sponsors, the prospects of future funding, and even the research capability itself housed at the institution.
“Other important creative research programs on campus (music, dance, practice rooms, etc.) that will also need to be stopped on campus.
“No personnel should “rush” to campus or campus locations prior to March 22 to complete work. All efforts in the next days should be focused on shutting on-campus research down and transition to off-site research where possible.
“Mitigating Impact On Our Researchers: The shutdown of on-campus research will create unanticipated delays, which can be cause for significant anxiety for many, and especially junior researchers. While there is no way to escape the loss of time, every effort is being made to assure that these actions will not damage careers or lead to excessive financial hardship. The Office of “Research is working remote but fully operational and continuously updating its COVID-19 website with agency guidance regarding research funding.
“This is a difficult time for all of us and we do not take the cessation of research on campus lightly. “Your sacrifices will help save lives. This is one of the most challenging times in modern history. “Together, we can make a difference. We know the facts. We have a responsibility to take the lead.”
Samuel J. Traina
Vice Chancellor for Research
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
To all Graduate Students, Graduate Group Chairs, Faculty,
“As long as in-person student and faculty meetings are suspended on campus, qualifying exam committees and thesis defense committees are encouraged to work with candidates to arrange for oral portions of exams and defenses to be conducted remotely and synchronously if at all possible, and to consider asynchronous alternatives if necessary. Arrangements should be made with the understanding that real-time presentations and synchronous discussions are difficult to conduct remotely, and this difficulty may affect the examination process. Students and faculty should take measures to minimize the potentially detrimental effect of remote interactions. The Graduate Division offers the following suggestions to help:
- For examinations as well as regular committee meetings, students and faculty should use Zoom or other social media platforms like Skype and Microsoft Teams, depending on individual preferences. The campus has now acquired a site license for Zoom Pro and all faculty, staff and students will be proactively provisioned in the next few days. Watch your email for a confirmation from Zoom.
- Zoom has several functions that may be useful during examination, including screen sharing, chat messaging, virtual whiteboarding, and virtual hand raising. OIT/CETL offers 1-1 consultation on Digital Tools for Thesis Defense which includes using Zoom. Use this link to sign up.
- It may be helpful for the candidate and committee to do a test Zoom session beforehand to ensure that all the desired functions are working, and everyone knows how to use them. OIT also offers group Workshops on Using Zoom. Use this link to sign up.
- Committee members should ensure that functions are working while the candidate is presenting, and all members should be prepared to pause the candidate if they notice a malfunction (the chat and virtual hand functions may still work if the audio and video signals are not working).
- If only audio conferencing will be used, the candidate should distribute slides and any other visual materials beforehand, in an agreed-upon format.
- Committee members should have an agreed-upon protocol for managing questions during and after presentations. It may be helpful for the Chair to coordinate questions explicitly rather than “open the floor” to questions.
- After the presentation and questions are done, the candidate can leave the Zoom session while the committee deliberates and then invited back by e.g. email when deliberations are done.
- Thesis defenses may be announced to the community electronically as usual. It is common that a portion of thesis defenses are open to the campus community. The student and committee may consider sharing a recording of the public portion, and/or others may be invited to join the public portion of the Zoom session. Invitees should disable their video to conserve bandwidth.
- If presenting via Zoom or a similar platform is prohibitively difficult, committee members may consider whether it would be acceptable for the candidate to make a pre-recorded presentation available via Box, YouTube, or a similar platform. Then synchronous interactions could focus on questioning and be done by Zoom, possibly with audio only, or a platform for instant messaging if bandwidth is not enough for audio. OIT offers online workshops for creating videos. Use this link to sign up.
- Forms for reporting examination outcomes may be signed electronically. Multiple signatures may be gathered on one form, or if easier, the form may be filled in and then copied to each committee member for them to sign separately. Then the separate forms may be gathered and merged into a single PDF. Forms and other information may be found here:https://graduatedivision.ucmerced.edu/current-students/academic-information
“Finally, students and committees should make every effort to conduct examinations remotely rather than postpone them. If a qualifying exam or thesis defense must be postponed, the delay should not factor into assessment of the examination or the student’s progress towards degree. The Graduate
“Division will make every effort to process forms for advancements and degree clearances in time for the standard deadlines that still apply (see https://graduatedivision.ucmerced.edu/current-students/calendar-and-deadlines).
“Contact Associate Dean Chris Kello ([email protected]) if there are any questions about policy or possible modes of examination.
“On behalf of all of us in the Graduate Division, please do all you can to stay healthy and safe. My best to all,
Marjorie S. Zatz
Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education Professor of Sociology