UC Berkeley institutes Instructional Resilience Week in response to continued disruption

Maya Valluru/Staff

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UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Vice Chancellor Marc Fisher, along with the Berkeley Academic Senate, declared the remainder of the week “Instructional Resilience Week” after class cancellations Monday.

Beginning Saturday night and persisting through Monday, PG&E disconnected UC Berkeley’s power because of unsafe weather conditions, resulting in Monday classes being canceled. A campuswide email explained this week’s aim to make missed course content available in alternative methods, in an effort to become more resilient to power outages and other disruptive events.

“This is a major, unprecedented endeavor for instructors, students, and staff and will require everyone’s contribution,” the email stated. “In making this effort, we are attempting to move from the day-to-day guesswork of basing our decisions on conditions outside of our control to instead taking control of what we can to uphold our educational mission.”

Campus has received a positive response from instructors regarding the week’s new developments, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore. Many faculty and instructors have signed up for consultations by reaching out to the Academic Innovation Studio and inquiring about remote office hours, online quizzes and podcasts for missed course content.

Instructors have also expressed empathy for their students because of the resulting stress from class cancellations, according to Gilmore.

“We hope that by working with GSI’s and instructors we can help them create alternative delivery options to support students who may be under additional stress during these times of power outages and other crises,” Gilmore said in an email.

With four days of school cancellations this month, the Academic Senate’s Committee on Courses of Instruction has recommended instructors exercise “flexibility and good judgement” in assessing Reading, Review and Recitation, or RRR, week, according to Academic Senate chair Oliver O’Reilly.

Furthermore, the committee allowed instructors to compensate for the lost school days by enabling them to introduce new material on four of the five days of RRR week, if “deemed necessary.”

Another result of the power outage and poor air quality was the closure of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, according to UC Berkeley spokesperson Adam Ratliff. This created inconveniences for retail customers who ordered respiratory masks — the University Health Services, however, provided a limited quantity of N95 respirators for those in most need.

The student union resumed its normal operations Tuesday morning.

“It’s unfortunately becoming pretty apparent that some of the issues that have affected our academic calendar are the new normal,said ASUC President Amma Sarkodee-Adoo. “I think finding a way to be resilient through these changes is an admirable aim, and I hope the campus continues looking for ways to maintain a standard of education is mindful of accessibility.”

As a result of the lessons learned from the previous power outage this month, campus has not heard about significant negative impacts on research, Gilmore said.

Using the cogeneration power plant, campus was able to sustain basic power to all buildings, thus maintaining the research enterprise, according to Gilmore. She added that the main impact was on research that can only be conducted on campus, causing researchers to find other work.

Nevertheless, the scope of the power outage’s impacts on the science community is felt nationwide.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab, has user facilities on-site that serve 11,000 users annually across the nation, according to Berkeley Lab spokesperson Laurel Kellner. The power outage limited access to these facilities for many hundreds of scientists.

To mitigate power shutdowns’ impacts on scientific research, Berkeley Lab has been working with PG&E for several months to create presently established shutdown plans. The Berkeley Lab is working to fully restore operations in the hopes of reopening Wednesday.

“Events like these point to the need for infrastructure, technologies, and strategies that make our grid more resilient and minimize the impacts of disruptions,” Kellner said in an email.

There are a myriad of ways to achieve instructional resilience, and some faculty and instructors may prefer alternative approaches to those offered by Instructional Resilience Week, according to Gilmore. Those who choose to participate in alternative instruction, however, must ensure equitable access for students, Gilmore added.

Therefore, the campus is working with the Disabled Students’ Program to ensure all alternative modes of content meet student accommodations.

“While this is in direct response to our immediate need to support interrupted instruction during the power outages, it is also the foundation of a long-term approach to maintain continuity of instruction during other possible disruptions,” Gilmore said. “ We are considering longer term strategies and tools that have been suggested to us by faculty, instructors, support staff, and students.”

Contact Maxine Mouly at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @moulymaxine.