UC campuses will not fully reopen by fall, UC President Janet Napolitano says

Janet Napolitano
Rachel Garner/File

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UC President Janet Napolitano said during a webinar Thursday that it is unlikely UC campuses will be fully reopened by fall due to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to UC Office of the President, or UCOP, spokesperson Sarah McBride, the UC campuses are preparing for many possibilities in the near future while prioritizing the health of the UC community.

“There will be systemwide standards they each should satisfy before reopening, and those are geared towards how to safely reopen,” Napolitano said at the webinar. “I think it’s fair to say that none of our campuses will be fully reopened, like we turned a light switch and all of a sudden, COVID-19 was gone.”

Any institution planning to reopen needs a plan for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and it must be able to isolate any infected employees, according to Napolitano.

McBride added that the UCOP will be exploring a mixed approach to learning, with some classes continuing in person and others online.

According to ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Aastha Jha, a hybrid model will ensure that students and faculty who cannot return or do not feel safe returning to campus can continue to take and teach classes.

“Even if California is fine, there will be other restrictions,” Jha said. “For international students, they may not be able to travel or get visas.”

Jha added that because this semester’s instruction was switched to remote learning with virtually no time to prepare, there is no accurate model for online learning yet. Summer courses will provide a “trial run” for the fall, she said.

According to Jha, whether a class is held online or in person should depend on how accommodating the class is to the online format. She added that in-person classes and libraries should strictly enforce social distancing measures.

Echoing Jha, UC Irvine spokesperson Tom Vasich said in an email that any activities on campus will need to follow social distancing practices. Vasich added that incoming UC Irvine students have been told that on-campus housing is not guaranteed. UC Berkeley administration also said in a campuswide email that while residential halls will remain open, housing priority is not guaranteed for fall.

Spokespeople from several UC campuses said their campuses have yet to make final decisions about fall but will follow public health guidelines.

“The health, well-being and safety of our community is of the utmost importance,” McBride said in an email. “Our campuses will reopen for on-site instruction when it is safe to do so – in coordination with federal, state and local health departments and authorities.”

Maya Akkaraju is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maya_akkaraju.