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A letter of thanks from President Janet Napolitano

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To the UC community:

The past few weeks have presented unprecedented challenges to the way our university functions and dramatic changes in our personal lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the ”stay at home” orders, schools closed for the foreseeable future, event cancelations and postponements, and economic upheaval across the nation, I know many of us are feeling stressed, anxious, sad, and uncertain about the future.

So I write today with two simple but important messages – an expression of profound gratitude, and a call for resilience and self-care.

First, I want to express my deep appreciation for the strength, adaptability, and kindness you have all shown through the confusion and disruption caused by this crisis. Students, faculty, and staff alike took swift action in response to guidance from public health officials and university leaders as the outbreak accelerated. From the very beginning, I have been impressed and heartened by your quick thinking, your innovative solutions to the myriad problems we encountered, and your generosity toward one another. Your flexibility and understanding allowed us to take coordinated action to protect the health and safety of the UC community and maintain our core operations.

I’m in awe of the doctors, nurses, researchers, and other frontline care providers at UC’s five academic medical centers who are working tirelessly to provide critical care to our patients and aggressively looking for solutions to this global pandemic. Our hospitals were some of the first in California to treat COVID-19 patients, and the commitment of our employees to their patients and to maintaining such a high standard of care is an inspiration to us all.

As our campuses made the difficult decision to transition to remote instruction, UC students and faculty reacted with understanding and urgency. Despite the evolving situation, faculty wasted no time in developing new instruction plans that will help students stay on track with their educational goals. They have demonstrated once again that UC faculty are not only leaders in their academic fields, but also tremendously innovative and committed educators.

Meanwhile, our students quickly adjusted to remote instruction and study groups, all while navigating the complexities of campus shutdowns. They never fail to impress me with their leadership, creativity, and ability to persevere in the face of adversity. I also share their disappointment and frustration that so many important UC events and celebrations – including commencement ceremonies – have been postponed, canceled, or moved online. Please know that UC leaders did not make these decisions lightly, but rather in recognition of the seriousness of the threat posed by the COVID-19 epidemic and our commitment to taking any actions necessary to protect your health and safety. We will still find ways to mark and celebrate your incredible academic achievements this spring.

Across the UC system, our staff have been working around the clock to keep the university operating as smoothly as possible, from transitioning tens of thousands of UC employees to remote work, to managing on-campus dining and cleaning services, to tracking the impact of these developments on our campus budgets. Our ongoing operations simply would not be possible without the commitment and efforts of our hardworking employees.

COVID-19 may prove to be one of the most disruptive and threatening developments of our lifetimes. I know this hasn’t been easy on anyone, and there are still many unanswered questions about what happens next. UC leadership is doing everything we can to resolve emerging issues, provide timely guidance, and support our students, faculty, and staff through this difficult time.

As you navigate the developments ahead, I encourage you to take care of yourself and each other. UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Center, whose purpose is to share scientific research that promotes a happier, more compassionate society, has created an excellent collection of tips, tools, and inspiring stories that can help us cope in uncertain times. UC San Diego and UCSF have also shared tips and resources for protecting your mental health during the pandemic. Today, the University marks Cesar Chavez Day and I hope all of you are able to observe the holiday, take a break from work, and reflect on the lessons Chavez taught us about perseverance and the importance of community.

As for me, I’m practicing self-care by making sure to get up and move throughout the work day, continuing to connect virtually with friends and family members, reading good books, and taking advantage of the entertainment available online. (My personal favorites: binge-watching Better Call Saul on Netflix and free nightly opera on the Metropolitan Opera website!). I encourage you to do the same – please take care of yourselves and your families, and do whatever helps you stay healthy and grounded in these turbulent times.

It is clear that this pandemic will continue to have a profound impact on our schedules and plans for some time. But the UC community has vast stores of ingenuity, fortitude, and generosity to carry us through this. These were the principles on which our institution was founded more than 150 years ago. I know that if we continue to work together and draw on our collective resources, we will emerge even stronger and more resilient than ever before.


Fiat Lux,

Janet Napolitano
University of California

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