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Academic Senate Newsletter - August 2021
September 01, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you all have managed to have a productive and enjoyable summer in these difficult times. Sadly, the euphoria of widespread availability of COVID vaccination has been tempered by the emergence of the Delta variant and an increase in breakthrough infections. I think our campus has handled the pandemic exceptionally well so far, but while the vaccine/mask mandates, widespread testing, wastewater monitoring, and contact tracing still support the idea of largely in-person teaching in the Fall, vaccination protects against disease, not infection, and it is unnerving to see the daily case numbers increasing again. At its March meeting this year, the Educational Policy Committee approved a blanket exception to the Policy on Distance Education Courses which allows both graduate and undergraduate courses to be taught remotely in the Fall as needs be. After talking with Senate leadership, my position is that it is the purview of individual faculty to make the decision on the modality of teaching, based on their own circumstances and perception of risk. However, these decisions should be deliberative, and do have practical consequences, and must be made in consultation with department chairs. I will, again, encourage instructors to be considerate with students who are struggling as a result of the pandemic situation, but I am reminded that faculty need compassion too. We have been through a lot, and I would encourage department chairs to be mindful of this.

After eight years as Director of the UCSD Division of the Academic Senate, Ray Rodriguez has announced his retirement. Senate Chairs come and go on a yearly basis, so it is the Senate Director and staff who keep the system running smoothly and who provide the institutional memory that is essential to operations. Ray has been exemplary in this regard – I cannot count the number of times I’ve suggested some action and Ray will politely say something like “well, you are the Chair and you can do that if you want, but ...” and then recount some precedent that demonstrated the folly of my suggestion. It is hard to imagine going forward without Ray’s commitment to and support of the Senate, but I am pleased to say that after a thorough search, which attracted several excellent applicants, Lori Hullings has agreed to accept the Division Director position effective September 1 this year. I am confident that Lori will be able to guide the Senate going forward as effectively as Ray has done in the past. Please join me in thanking Ray for his tireless support of the Senate, and welcoming Lori to her new position.

As I say, Chairs come and go, and I am about to go. I say with all sincerity that it has been an honor to serve the UCSD faculty in these unprecedented times. Senate Chair is certainly a big job, but with the excellent support of the Senate staff and the tireless work of all the Senate chairs and their committees it has not been a difficult or burdensome job, and I extend my thanks to all of them. I am certainly ready to step down, but I haven’t been counting the days. Indeed, it has been immensely satisfying to be in a position to support the UCSD community in a time of need, and I have done the best I can. I hope it was good enough. I wish Tara Javidi and Nancy Postero well as they step into the Chair and Vice-Chair position.

Steven Constable
Chair, Academic Senate, San Diego Division