UC Berkeley officials address COVID-19 challenges, campus response

Related Posts

During a YouTube livestream Wednesday, Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos discussed the ways UC Berkeley has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and how campus has responded to it.

Christ and Alivisatos addressed questions about the financial impact of the crisis and stressed the importance of public research institutions. They also responded to student concerns about the upcoming fall semester, graduation and financial insecurity.

“We have three goals,” Christ said during the event. “One, to protect the health of our community; two, to sustain continuity of instruction; three, to protect as many jobs as possible.”

According to Christ, the upcoming fall semester is likely to be a “hybrid kind of semester” to promote public health and maintain continuity of instruction, while also trying to return to “as close to normal operations” as possible with social distancing and mask requirements potentially still in place. Christ added that decisions made by public health departments and the federal government will have a major impact on what is possible for the fall semester.

Alivisatos explained that due to similar public health factors, planning for an in-person graduation ceremony has been difficult. Christ announced that campus will be sending out an official letter regarding the ceremony next week, although it will be unable to commit to a specific date for the ceremony.

Another uncertainty for campus is the budget, Christ explained, as UC Berkeley has taken a “huge revenue hit” from the loss in ticket sales for campus activities such as athletics and Cal Performances, as well as from the refunding of residence hall contracts. While fundraising efforts are still ongoing, Christ expects that enrollment in the fall will determine the long-term financial impact of COVID-19 for UC Berkeley.

As of press time, more than 3,000 people have signed a petition calling for a campus partial fee reimbursement to compensate for the difficulties and changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In the livestream, Christ addressed these demands, saying this type of tuition refund is unlikely to happen. She added that students are still able to get a UC Berkeley degree and that tuition pays for faculty salaries and student services, which can be accessed remotely.

Christ and Alivisatos also emphasized the ways campus researchers have worked to address the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, including investigating the use of CRISPR to create medical interventions, expanding testing capabilities and converting sleep apnea machines into ventilators to address equipment shortages.

“Nothing about the absolutely essential character of the public research university has been changed by this crisis,” Christ said during the livestream. “If anything, it’s even more obvious how absolutely essential it is to this society, from the research that’s helping mitigate this crisis to the opportunities we offer to young men and women to change their lives.”

Alexandra Feldman is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_p_feldman.