UC Berkeley’s fall semester remains uncertain amid COVID-19 pandemic

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As UC Berkeley’s decision to sustain remote learning through summer 2020 continues to weigh on students, the status of the fall 2020 semester remains uncertain. 

Campus administrators have not yet made a decision regarding operations for the upcoming fall semester, though UC Berkeley has begun to consider “various scenarios,” including returning to standard operations, continuing remote learning, adapting to social distancing standards and maintaining face covering requirements, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

Some of the greatest unknowns stalling a decision include the public health guidelines that may be in place in the fall, as well as the uncertainty of fall enrollment, according to Gilmore.

“We are very much in the early stages of considering what various scenarios might entail operationally and financially,” Gilmore said in an email.

According to a press release issued Friday by Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos, the financial impact of COVID-19 on UC Berkeley is currently projected at $200 million. The press release adds that this projection takes into account the unknown fall enrollment and the amount of state funds that will be allocated to the UC system.

To mitigate these impacts, the press release states, the campus will receive $30 million from the congressional Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, which provides funds to state and local governments for COVID-19 relief. Half of these funds will be allocated toward emergency financial assistance for students, according to the press release.

“Uncertainty has become a key feature both in our personal and professional lives and for now, at least, it is a cloud that hangs over our budget process as well,” the press release reads. “The best way to address this uncertainty in the budget realm is to engage in planning for multiple scenarios.”

Housing looms high among student concerns over the uncertainty of the fall semester, as many students are struggling to secure housing remotely and are unsure whether to commit to a lease. Student workers are also contending with loss of income as businesses continue to close their doors temporarily or reduce staff throughout the East Bay.  

ASUC President-elect Victoria Vera said she is planning for the fall semester, whether or not it is remote, and hopes to create a task force that will address various impacts of the pandemic on students.

These plans include providing financial support and personal protective equipment to student and essential workers, extending career center services to the class of 2020 and securing funding for students who need technology to complete online courses and .

Vera added that she hopes to increase resources for the Counseling and Psychological Services program in the University Health Services Tang Center to help more students obtain access to counseling when dealing with the impacts of the pandemic.

“Supporting students isn’t a radical idea,” Vera said. “It’s something that should be maintained in our conversations and inherent to our community.”

Contact Amanda Bradford at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @amandabrad_uc.