‘The best senior year’: UC Berkeley Senior Class Council plans ‘big send-off’, organizes virtual senior week

Illustration of a woman in graduation cap and gown triumphantly holding up a diploma
Isabella Schreiber/File

The Senior Class Council at UC Berkeley had a lot planned for the class of 2020 this year: a bar crawl, a group trip to repaint the Big C, a formal dance and more.

Then, the campus closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and most activities planned for senior week, or the last week of instruction, became infeasible, forcing the council to replan all of its activities.

Luckily for seniors, this year’s team of more than 20 students on the Senior Class Council did just that.

“A lot of the events that we had originally planned did not translate well into becoming virtual. It was definitely a big wrench in our planning,” said Kylee Mebust, vice president of the Senior Class Council. “We just want to make … the best senior year for our class.”

Senior week allows seniors to come together and enjoy their undergraduate time at UC Berkeley just before it ends, according to Paulina Jeng, the Senior Class Council’s president.

For Jeng, senior week is a “big send-off” for those on the brink of graduation, when students can take in what they might not have been able to appreciate before because they were preoccupied with classes and other responsibilities. She added that the council felt that seniors would be more sentimental and therefore more likely to come to events at the end of the semester.

“When you’re younger, we don’t really stop and appreciate all the things the university offers and the experiences that we have,” Jeng said. “As a senior, I think you know when your time is short on campus. A lot of seniors really banked on that time.”

Namrata Subramanian, the Senior Class Council’s events chair, said the transition to online instruction has brought additional challenges to planning events, including the need to cater to students all over the world.

She added that the council has been intentional with the times it chooses for its virtual events and is trying to be as inclusive as possible.

The “last lecture,” a campus tradition during which seniors all attend one lecture on the last day of instruction, will continue this year through Zoom instead of in person. According to Mebust, the council prioritized finding a female speaker for the event in honor of the 150-year anniversary of women being admitted to UC Berkeley.

Economics professor Martha Olney will be speaking this year about the future potential and post-graduation life of the students, according to Subramanian.

“Senior week is one of the best times where people make memories together,” Subramanian said. “We do want to raise the morale.”

The council has also planned an online movie night and game night to take place during this year’s senior week. It will also be having a virtual fundraiser, during which students living in California can order food to be delivered to their homes, in addition to other activities.

According to Subramanian, the council partnered with restaurants across the state of California — including in Berkeley, San Francisco, the South Bay, the Central Valley, Los Angeles and San Diego — to allow students to order food with free delivery, and a portion of the proceeds will go back to the Senior Class Council. Subramanian added that the money raised will be used to buy small “swag kits” for those graduating when in-person commencement takes place.

After members of the senior class voted that an in-person commencement was their preference and the original date was postponed, Chancellor Carol Christ said campus hopes to hold an in-person commencement during the summer. While the exact date for the event remains undetermined, the Senior Class Council also plans to hold a “mini senior week” the weekend before whenever in-person commencement does occur.

“The past four years have not been what any of us thought it would be,” Jeng said. “In very Cal spirit, we’re still working to move forward and do what we can.”

Kate Finman is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.