No doubt fall 2020’s back-to-school plans will be remarkably different from previous years. UC Santa Cruz’s twenty page COVID-19 Resumption Plan, last updated Aug. 7, details university procedures in the fall, spanning classes and research to COVID-19 testing and tracing. Here’s what you need to know.

Academic Courses

UCSC will offer most academic courses remotely or online, with a small number of in-person laboratory, studio, and field study courses. The plan states that academic departments need to be flexible, should “operations need to be modified at any point.” This includes the possibility of the few remaining in-person sessions concluding before the Thanksgiving break, with the remainder of the class, including finals, to be held remotely. 


How in-person, on-site research is conducted will depend on the spread of COVID-19. On Mar. 17, the university issued a temporary cessation of non-essential research, limiting operations to extremely time-sensitive or maintenance-heavy operations, or operations where ceasing would cause damage to equipment. Following Phase 2 of California’s reopening plan, the university issued a guide on May 11 to ramp up university research operations. The university plans on keeping its researcher density low at first, but may increase this threshold as the campus becomes more able to accommodate human traffic. 

UCSC’s main research priorities continue to include critical maintenance of facilities, animals, and equipment, or research that can only be done at UCSC facilities. These categories, indicated as Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the university’s research resumption plan, align with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Phase 1 and early Phase 2 of the Resilience Roadmap


UCSC’s libraries will remain closed but continue to offer resources for remote learning, such as support for class instructors and online databases.

Residence Halls

Dormitory halls will be limited to 53 percent capacity, using only singles and doubles and limiting bathrooms to six students each. Converted residential lounges will be used as doubles, and apartments will be capped at five occupants. Graduate students will live in single occupancy rooms with a maximum of four people to each restroom. 

Move-in processes will be conducted in line with recommendations from the UC Testing and Contact Tracing Task Force report, with trained

Illustration by Joss Borys.

housing staff wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). On its fall 2020 housing information webpage, UCSC recommends a negative COVID-19 test result as well as a ten-day sequester before coming to campus. 

After coming to campus, a mandatory two week sequester will have students avoid in-person interaction except for essential activities, such as picking up food, participating in low-risk exercise, or obtaining healthcare. 

The Village and select Kresge and Cowell apartments will be repurposed as quarantine and isolation facilities at a baseline occupancy rate. 


The resumption plan suspends all self-service within UCSC dining halls, such as deli or salad bars. Frequently-touched machines like soda dispensers will be operated by a staff member. All you care to eat sections will accommodate takeaway orders through the GET app

Dining halls will offer dine-in services with distancing requirements, limited dining time and caps at 73 percent occupancy.


UCSC intends to follow state guidelines to prohibit professional or social gatherings, whether it be in an indoor conference room or outside arena. On May 25, however, the state of California granted an exception for gatherings for faith-based services, cultural ceremonies, and protests. These events may be held indoors, but with no more than 100 attendees or no more than 25 percent of the building’s occupancy, whichever is fewer. Distancing remains essential during these gatherings. 

COVID-19 Training and Testing

All on-site university employees will be required to complete COVID-19 safety training and must complete daily symptom checks. A student training module still in development will be embedded into Canvas. 

In addition to the Health Center’s services offered to students with COVID-19 symptoms or who have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, the university has launched a voluntary testing program for high-risk employees. This service doesn’t require an individual to be symptomatic and will be available to student Health Center staff, approved field researchers, dining and custodial staff, transit drivers, Information Technology Services workers, and other on-site staff. For more information about COVID-19 testing in Santa Cruz, check out CHP’s guide here.

The university intends to use its own testing site in tandem with its own contact tracing program, implementing “highly strategic intervention and structure to mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks,” according to the resumption plan. The university is currently testing the feasibility of all on-campus students and employees receiving weekly tests.