UC Berkeley administration discusses responses to COVID-19 pandemic

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Campus officials met on a public Zoom teleconference Wednesday to discuss UC Berkeley’s responses to the COVID-19, or the new coronavirus, pandemic.

Those present on the call were Chancellor Carol Christ, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Stephen Sutton, Vice Chancellor of Administration Marc Fisher, Assistant Vice Chancellor of University Health Services Guy Nicolette, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Eugene Whitlock and campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

“What’s giving me hope is the incredible response and creativity of our community,” Christ said on the call. “It’s just astonishing, at this point of social isolation, how people are coming together to make anew this university that we all love.”

Christ said, however, one of her biggest worries about the COVID-19 pandemic is campus finances.

She added that UC Berkeley is conducting a financial analysis that will give administration a clearer financial picture by next week. Campus is prioritizing existing employment and is trying to find financial solutions that will preserve as many jobs as possible, according to Christ.

Campus is currently refunding residence hall contracts and meal plans for students who move off-campus. Campus administration is not considering a tuition discount or refund, however, according to Christ.

“We are delivering instruction, although in a remote way,” Christ said on the call. “Students are earning credits towards a Berkeley degree.”

Sutton said while calls for no final exams by students is understandable, campus has moved to a pass/no pass grading system as a way to address this.

Sutton said the Residential and Student Service Programs have been working to make sure that students are able to stay focused on school regardless of personal circumstances at home, including the expansion of campus’s laptop and hot spot rental programs.

Fisher said he is concerned about the amount of personal protective equipment, or PPE, that campus currently has, such masks. He added that PPE is needed not only for the response to COVID-19 but also for emergencies such as fires.

The Innovative Genomics Institute and UC Berkeley are currently working on making COVID-19 tests that are more accurate and more widely accessible, according to Nicolette.

Mogulof said at the end of the webcast that campus administration plans on holding more teleconferences to further discuss campus responses to COVID-19.

What I have as foremost in mind is protecting the health of the community; that’s what’s most important for us all. We all have to maintain social distancing to protect not only ourselves but all those around us,” Christ said on the call. “When we come out the other end of this, we want to be the strong, resilient university that we’ve always been.”

Contact Eric Rogers at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @eric_rogers_dc.