UC Santa Barbara Shifts to Remote Instruction in Response to COVID-19

Photo by Graeme Jackson

The Bottom Line Staff Report

On March 10, the Office of the Chancellor sent a university-wide email informing students that, in an effort to mitigate the potential impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the UC Santa Barbara campus, the campus would move to remote instruction for the remainder of winter quarter and beginning of spring quarter. Effective beginning March 11, this transition is expected to last until at least the end of April.

According to the university announcement, UC Santa Barbara’s campus will continue to remain open, and services including Housing and Dining Services will remain operational. As of yet, there are no UC system-wide restrictions on large events, though the COVID-19 Response Working Group recommends that campus groups remain cautious when deciding whether or not to host densely populated on-campus events. 

In an interview with The Bottom Line, Mario T. Garcia, a professor in the Chicano studies department, expressed his concern about how the announcement will affect his colleagues and students come spring quarter.

“It’s unfortunate, but that means we’re really entering an abnormal situation. We’ve never really been faced with this, especially on a long term [sic],” said Garcia. “I’m sure it’s going to impact everyone, like in the sciences, how do you do an online lab … I’m sure we’ll all adapt somehow and somehow we’ll be able to ride with it and I hope it just doesn’t go longer into the summer.”    

The chancellor’s email is the latest update in a series of announcements across the UC system. As of yesterday, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz — amongst many other campuses in California and the East Coast — have already cancelled classes. This afternoon, UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside, UC Los Angeles, and UC Davis were added to the growing list of at least 48 universities that are moving to online instruction. 

As of now, Santa Barbara Community College’s campus will continue to resume normal operations with no current intentions of following suit in cancelling classes.

In an interview with The Bottom Line, Shiloh Kluding, a fourth-year biology major, shared her concerns about how the campus’ closure will affect her job status as a Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS) tutor.

“I’m not sure if there are even going to be classes next quarter or if everything is going to be moved onto an online format,” said Kluding. “Since my job is kind of dependent on me being in lecture halls teaching in large groups I’m like, ‘Is my role obsolete now?’”

Eden Dorra, a third-year political science student who is studying abroad from the University of Sydney, further expressed her dismay about the situation.

“I have limited connections here and it really limits my social opportunities, especially now that everyone’s leaving and I’m stuck here. I’m also paying thousands of dollars to come here from overseas and now classes are all online, I could have just stayed in Sydney to take these online classes,” said Dorra. 

“As a foreign student, a lot of services are unavailable to me too,” continued Dorra. “It would take a lot of work for me to get a license here, so I can’t really drive or get around anywhere, can’t really travel — I’m a bit locked in, it’s this weird limbo.” 

On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in response to the continued growth of the coronavirus outbreak. This formally describes COVID-19 as “an extraordinary event [that] constitute[s] a public health risk to other states through the international spread of the disease and … potentially require[s] a coordinated international response.”

On March 3, the UC Office of the President (UCOP) issued a statement that they have activated its Emergency Operations Center to “vigilantly monitor” updates regarding COVID-19. As of March 8, the only guidance UCOP has issued systemwide is for UC campuses is in regards to limiting travel for university employees, providing flexibility for employees who show risk of symptoms, and the duty to quarantine and report any possible students who may have been exposed to, or contracted, the disease. 

The Bottom Line reached out to UCSB’s Student Health for a comment on the situation and was redirected to the Office of Public Affairs and Communications, who have yet to respond.   

Noe Padilla, Lauren Marnel Shores, Kyle Dent, and Jade Martinez-Pogue contributed reporting to this article.