Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton speaks about strategic goals, answers questions about air quality

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Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton spoke to the ASUC Senate at its regular Wednesday meeting about developing four strategies to improve student life on campus and fielded questions about the campus’s response to the smoke from the wildfires.

During the meeting, Sutton outlined his goals to promote student wellness, invest in professional development, help students navigate the campus and build community on campus.

Senator William Wang asked whether or not the UC Berkeley Division of Student Affairs will assist campus organizations, such as the Berkeley Disaster Team, that have proposed stocking thousands of masks to distribute to students. Additionally, he questioned the effectiveness of the surgical masks given out by the Tang Center, which he said do not effectively protect wearers from smoke particles.

On Thursday afternoon, Senator Wang and the Office of the External Affairs Vice President distributed free masks for students on Sproul Plaza.

Sutton said he “will see what we can do” about providing masks. He also said doctors at the Tang Center are aware that surgical masks are unhelpful but added that he “could see the Tang Center giving a mask to someone” if a student asks for one.

Kyle Chong, chief of staff in President Alexander Wilfert’s office, said his office was drafting a letter to the Office of the Chancellor about air quality concerns. The letter was published Thursday morning.

“We’re urging the Academic Senate to address the immediate emergency and urging them to have a clear action plan,” Chong said during the meeting.

Senator Imran Khan asked Sutton about new housing developments and whether there were any opportunities for students to be involved in the planning process.

Sutton said in the meeting that Student Affairs is speaking with five different developers and hopes to select someone by December.

“Housing and basic needs issues are a primary issue for the chancellor. We want all students to have an equal experience, regardless of where they come from,” Sutton said during the meeting.

Also at the meeting, Sutton said he and Student Affairs are working to develop a “learning organization” for professional development opportunities among faculty.

The department set aside $100,000 for this goal in hopes that faculty will be able to attend conferences and partake in other development opportunities with their peers.

Sutton’s department is also currently working on issues related to Cal Student Central. The department is trying to determine how many personal requests, such as financial aid requests, have been filed and how long they have been in place. Sutton said he wants the department to get better at processing those requests.

“When you look at something that is futuristic and strategic, you have to be able to balance the things that are most important now,” Sutton said.

Contact Ronit Sholkoff at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @RonitSholkoff.