Message from Dean Gerardo Aldana
This message was sent to CCS Students, Faculty, and Staff on August 7, 2020
Dear CCS Students, Staff, and Faculty:
I write with an update after my first month as CCS dean. Since July 1st, I have enjoyed meeting students, faculty, staff, and community members despite having to do it via Zoom. I look forward to shifting to in-person conversations when it is safe, but it appears that that will have to wait.
As for an update, there is already plenty to share with you.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) Initiative
We have launched our college DEI initiative which aims to examine our practices, policies, and culture with an interest in revising or adjusting them in ways that make the educational and intellectual experience of CCS available to a more representative body of California’s communities. Our Staff DEI Committee is looking at educational policies in the College, and also has undertaken an activity to reflect on our own personal biases and perhaps unquestioned assumptions. I thank Savannah and Megan for leading an activity based on race-visibility research by a colleague of Dr. Emiko Saldivar (UCSB ANTH). Through it, we began collectively examining and discussing representations of race and ethnicity in social media and how they play out in our everyday lives.
The Faculty DEI Committee has agreed to take on multiple projects, some of which grow naturally from work that had been initiated over the last few years. We thank Kara Mae Brown and Kathy Foltz, for example, for their FOG project, and hope to build upon it with new collaborations across campus. We expect to invite participation from CCS students and faculty within the coming year. A new initiative is the expansion of our CCS General Education (GE) program to include an option that would promote learning and communication across disciplines. A faculty subcommittee is taking the lead on providing guidance for these courses which will focus on tackling global issues that are far too great in scope to be addressed within a single academic discipline. The disposal of nuclear waste, for example, definitely presents challenges in physics and chemistry, but it also presents sociological challenges as well as opportunities for visionary and imaginative input from the arts and other disciplines. COVID-19 is a similar challenge requiring a firm understanding of biology, but as we are all witnessing, it cannot be solved in the laboratory alone. These courses are not intended to distract from the excellence pursued within any single major, but to offer the opportunity for students to use the expertise they are developing within their major toward thinking and communicating generatively across disciplinary lines. This GE agenda of not simply engaging across ‘adjacent’ disciplines, for example chemistry and biology or art and creative writing, but fostering multidisciplinary conversations across epistemologies is an important element of our effort to create a college experience that brings students together across majors. We aim to have a selection of these courses available in the coming year.
The CCS Community Council, the College’s student council, reached out to me for informal conversation and introductions, partially in an effort to move me beyond an identity of “that guy who sends us emails but is not Bruce.” We discussed the development of a Student DEI Committee and its participation in a nascent CCS Reads project seeking to generate discussion around diversity, equity, and inclusivity issues. The need to work on connecting with incoming students under a remote learning environment also came up, as well as an interest in connecting continuing students with each other. I am grateful for the Community Council’s initiative and look forward to working with them as well as having it expand to include more of the student body.
As noted, the campus is still closed for general access. Faculty who need to pick up material from offices or labs are expected to notify the building control point (i.e. myself or Lynn) ahead of time, as well as observe all required precautions, including wearing masks, making use of hand sanitizer (dispensers are mounted on walls near most if not all entrances), and sanitizing door handles and any other surfaces touched upon leaving. There are, I will note, exceptional conditions under which some faculty have been granted permission to conduct limited research on campus. We’ve just completed a long process of developing a proposal to the campus oversight committee and scheduling a walk-through with UCSB Facilities Management. Our CCS building committee (Lynn, Linda, and Leslie) successfully negotiated this process (with critical initial guidance from Stu Feinstein) so that a very limited amount of activity will be undertaken in the CCS building in the coming weeks. I wish to thank them for their efforts in making this possible.
Discussions are currently under way toward the possibility of moving to Phase 4 of the re-opening of campus which would allow for (some) faculty access to offices as well as the possibility of undergraduate research. I will keep you updated on that process although we are still weeks away from that possibly transpiring.
We still, unfortunately, do not have a firm decision regarding in-person instruction for the Fall. Berkeley and Merced have announced that they will be going fully online this semester which isn’t surprising given that they are starting this month. Universities nationwide, however, have confronted new ambiguities based on the federal government’s decision to deny visas to incoming international students unless universities have some in-person instruction. Given that some instructors at UCSB have committed to offering in-person classes (for example, for lab instruction or one-on-one tutorials), we expect to be offering options for hybrid instruction as a campus. There will be constraints on the number of students who will be able to live on campus since the state and county governments have placed restrictions on the density of occupation in on-campus housing. Whatever the final decisions, there will be a lot less activity on campus than we had grown accustomed to.
Finally, there is increasing clarity that the budget shortfall this year is serious. As a campus, we are looking to the decisions we made during the 2008-2009 Financial Crisis for guidance. We may have our first real sense of what the impact will be on CCS in the coming month.
We are going forward with our plans for a CCS Town Hall for faculty and staff next week. This is scheduled for Monday, August 10 at 11 am via Zoom. Also, we are hoping to hold a forum in the vein of our All-College meeting in the Fall, but there are technical details still to be worked out.
Please keep an eye out for more in the works, including updates on “CCS Reads,” as well as a few modifications to our website and a new focus on CCS #StudentLife.
In the meantime, please stay safe and I look forward to seeing and hearing from you soon.
Warm regards, Gerardo
Dean, College of Creative Studies
Professor of Archaeology and the History of Science, Department of Chicana/o Studies, College of Letters & Science