ASUC bill criticizes decision to hold classes after UC Berkeley explosion, power outage

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Kore Chan/File

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An ASUC Senate bill introduced Wednesday criticizes the UC Berkeley administration’s decision to hold the majority of classes on Oct. 1 after an explosion left most of campus without power the previous evening.

The bill, authored by Independent Campaign for Common Sense Senator Solomon Nwoche, calls on administrators to promptly inform students of class cancellations after emergencies. The bill will be discussed at an ASUC Senate committee meeting Monday night.

After an explosion near California Hall on the evening of Sept. 30, electrical crews worked through the night to bring power back to campus buildings.

At 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 1, campus officials notified students, faculty and staff that power had been restored to all but 11 buildings, including Dwinelle Hall.

Classes took place as normal in all buildings except those 11, to the dismay of many students who felt they had been inconvenienced by power outages in several campus residence halls the night before.

“Even best-case scenario, let’s say your assignment didn’t have any technology component — you were stuck reading in the dark,” Nwoche said regarding students living in the residence halls.

The bill, SB 27, lambastes the campus’s choice to hold most classes as usual, calling it an “irrational decision,” but also lauds Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ acknowledgement that there was a lack of communication from campus administrators after the incident.

The bill’s text suggests implementing a campus policy whereby administrators inform students of class cancellations before 1 a.m. after an emergency. Nwoche said he would like the bill’s language to be amended to request that the announcement come within a seven- to eight-hour window after an emergency, with classes being automatically canceled after that time.

Claire Holmes, associate vice chancellor for public affairs, explained the challenges of pinning down parameters for campus emergency response.

“It is hard to dictate emergency situations because they are unpredictable and constantly evolving,” she said. Holmes does, however, agree that students and staff ought to be given as much notice as possible of class cancellations.

Both Student Action Senator Sahil Pandya and SQUELCH! Senator Grant Fineman support having a discussion about the campus’s response after the incident, but said they remain uncertain about the text of the bill itself.

“The bill comes from a very good place,” Fineman said. “It’s important in a big disaster to get information out to students quickly and efficiently, but I do understand that the administration was dealing with a lot of moving parts.”

CalSERVE Senator Briana Mullen said she would not vote for the current iteration of the bill.

“We need to be smart about when we use bills,” Mullen said. “If we don’t make policy in tandem with administrators, they are not going to respect it.”

ASUC President DeeJay Pepito said she plans to work with students and administrators to review campus outreach during emergency situations.

“The process is ongoing and continuously improving,” Pepito said in a text message forwarded from her chief of staff, Austin Pritzkat.

Contact Kimberly Veklerov at [email protected].