School of Public Health reopens undergraduate major for spring admission, next four years

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Update 03/4/16: This article has been updated to reflect new information from Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele and Vice Provost of Strategic Academic and Facilities Planning Andrew Szeri.

The undergraduate public health program will reopen the spring 2016 application process for prospective majors, with the program set to be available for students for the next four years.

The announcement, sent in an email by Shederick McClendon, assistant dean of student services at the School of Public Health, repeals the School of Public Health’s previous decision to suspend spring admissions to the public health major made less than a week ago.

“We are very pleased that the undergraduate major is so highly regarded and has generated such strong expressions of support,” McClendon said in the email.

Students who planned on enrolling this spring will now be able to apply starting in May, McClendon said, with the incoming freshman class also having access to the undergraduate program. McClendon noted, however, that this does not necessarily mean that the program will remain permanent.

“We know for sure for the next four (years) there will be a program students will be able to apply to,” McClendon said. “We’re not sure after 2020.”

McClendon said he is excited to announce the reinstatement of the public health undergraduate major, after receiving a mass of emails and calls from anxious students and parents.

The undergraduate program was originally suspended for the spring application period as a cost-cutting measure for the School of Public Health. With the major continuing for the next four years, McClendon said the school has some difficult decisions ahead.

“The budget cuts are real. … Now that we know we won’t end the program (to) close the gap, there have to be other decisions made,” McClendon said. “But I don’t know what that will be.”

The campus is in the early phases of the planning process regarding how to address its growing deficit, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof. He added that there is still ample time for students, faculty and staff to provide input in the planning process before final decisions are made.

In light of the School of Public Health’s announcements suspending and reinstating the undergraduate major, campus officials stated that UC Berkeley will not eliminate any current campus programs for enrolled students or this year’s incoming students.

“If you’re enrolled in an academic program, you can expect that that academic program is going to be there for the duration of your course of study,” said Vice Provost of Strategic Academic and Facilities Planning Andrew Szeri. “In the past when the university has made changes, we’ve always been extremely careful to maintain the degree programs that students were entering for.”

The School of Public Health announcement of suspending the undergraduate major was a “bombshell” for some campus administrators, Mogulof said. Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele said that after the announcement, campus administrators met with School of Public Health officials to review the decision and discuss the implications of suspending the program.

“We tracked down the misunderstanding (and) came to a very happy conclusion,” Steele said. “I think … they made this announcement without really a clear image of what the consequences would be.”

Steele said that the School of Public Health was well-meaning when they made their announcement and that both the school’s officials and campus administrators agreed to the decision to reinstate the program.

“Nobody (was) having to force anybody to make this situation right,” Steele said.

The student response to the decision was also an important factor in the campus’s decision to resume the public health undergraduate major, Steele said.

Mogulof said no decisions have been made regarding the potential dissolution of the campus College of Chemistry. He also emphasized that the campus does not intend to discontinue the research in the college or the way classes in the college are taught. Rather, discussions are focused on developing a stable and sustainable financial foundation for the campus.

“These aren’t the kind of decisions administration can or will make their own,” Mogulof said. “There is speculation that is way too premature.”

Staff writer Alok Narahari contributed to this report.

Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ayoonhendricks.

A previous version of this article misquoted campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof as saying “the decisions are immature.” In fact, he said they were “premature.”