Photo: Louis Freedberg/EdSource
Bronze statue of UC Irvine's "anteater" mascot, with a laptop.
This story was updated on June 11 at 6:30 p.m.

As the nine University of California campuses serving undergraduates grapple with how to conduct classes this fall, at least one has decided that virtually all its undergraduate instruction will be offered remotely rather than in person.

“At the undergraduate level, essentially all instruction will be remote,” wrote Michael Dennin, the dean of the division of undergraduate education, and Gillian Hayes, the dean of the graduate division, in an email sent to faculty this week.

UC Irvine’s plans are being watched closely by students, parents and faculty associated with other UC campuses as to what life could look like on their campuses in the fall.

But remote instruction does not mean that students will be kept off campus. In fact, in a letter sent to students and their families on Thursday, administrators said that the campus “will continue to provide a wide range of student life, academic support, intercollegiate athletics and campus spirit activities, as well as extracurricular programming.” It indicated that the university is “committed to providing as many students as possible with a meaningful campus residential experience.” Dorms will be open for students in single and double rooms — with modifications such as room dividers and more regular cleaning and sanitation.

Administrators also indicated that there will be a few exceptions to remote undergraduate instruction, such as specialized upper-division labs, clinical and experiential courses, and some design courses in engineering.

UC Irvine, situated in Southern California between Anaheim and Newport Beach, serves about 30,000 undergraduates and 6,000 graduate students, in addition to about 1400 students at its medical school.

To read entire letter, go here

Last month, UC president Janet Napolitano said she anticipated that “most if not all of our campuses will operate in some kind of hybrid mode.” A hybrid model is what UC Irvine appears to be offering — mostly online instruction for undergraduates, but still having at least some students on campus, living in dorms, and participating in a range of campus activities, while adhering to detailed set of health guidelines.

The issue of instruction for UC Irvine graduate students has not yet been decided. Various campus administrators have submitted lists of graduate courses they think must be conducted in person, and those that would preferably be held in person. “Those courses will be prioritized for in-person teaching should public health guidance allow,” the deans explained to the faculty.

In total, UC’s ten campuses serve about 225,000 undergraduates and nearly 60,000 graduate students. The other campuses have not yet indicated, at least publicly, what they plan to do, although announcements from those campus administrations are expected very soon, possibly within days.

The UC Irvine decision comes weeks after the administration of the 23 campus California State University system shocked the academic world when it announced that all its campuses would be closed for almost all in-person instruction, except for some essential lab courses and clinical classes for nursing students.

Late last month the University of California board of regents raised hopes that it might not take as drastic an action as its counterparts at CSU, and that its campuses might open for at least some undergraduate education.

The regents adopted a health roadmap that could allow some campuses to partly reopen, dependent on widespread testing and tracing for the coronavirus, all students and faculty wearing face coverings and physical distancing being kept.

Last month UC San Diego rolled out one of the most ambitious plans in the nation to test all students, staff at faculty still at the university for the coronavirus on a recurring basis. The “Return to Learn” initiative that could potentially be extended to all 65,000 members of the university community.

However, other than Irvine, neither UC San Diego nor any other UC campus has informed its students about its plans for fall instruction.

This story was updated on June 11 at 6:30 p.m. to reflect further information provided to students during the day.

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