UC Berkeley expects to include different methods of student engagement for fall

(FILE) Photo of student at a club table for UC Berkeley Calapalooza
Lorenzo Dela Cruz/File

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UC Berkeley student life and engagement will look different in the fall compared to previous semesters because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Various members of campus administration shared their plans for student life Thursday during the fourth installment in a series of “campus conversation” livestreams on fall planning. Many of the details for the plans are still being determined, but there was a general consensus: Health and safety guidelines will significantly alter the student experience, as in-person capacities will be limited.

“Safety first. We’re really focused on the health and safety of all members of our community, whether they’re students or staff or faculty,” said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton during the event. “We really put that at the center of the work that we did.”

A majority of classes will be offered remotely and campus cannot guarantee that each incoming freshman will have an in-person classroom opportunity, according to Catherine Koshland, vice chancellor for undergraduate education.

She said, however, that many professors are planning various in-person activities. UC Berkeley staff is currently working to categorize classes — so students will know if they are in-person, virtual, synchronous or asynchronous — and the updated course list will be made public around the first week of July.

According to Koshland, continuing students will have a chance to adjust their Phase 1 enrollment choices starting around July 8. She added that new students will then have a chance to enroll in classes around the third week of July before Phase 2 of enrollment begins for everyone.

“We made a big leap in the middle of the semester last spring, moving everything into an online, or I should say, a remote learning environment,” Koshland said during the event. “That wasn’t terrible, but it was not exactly the way we would design something if we were really planning to do this intentionally. So, we’ve made several investments this spring.”

For students who choose to return to campus, one of the most important principles is to adhere to community health and public safety guidelines, according to Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Oscar Dubón.

Lisa García Bedolla, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the graduate division, added that while it is not possible to completely negate the risk of COVID-19 transmission, UC Berkeley will be doing “everything possible” to limit the spread, including increasing access to hand sanitization, requiring masks, isolating and quarantining exposed and infected individuals, engaging in contact tracing and increasing cleaning regimens.

“We’re relying on all of you who are going to come to Berkeley — who plan to come to Berkeley — to work with us to make sure we are maintaining a community that is well by mutual support and working together,” Dubón said during the event.

According to Dubón, campus is still exploring the limits of its in-person capacity for instruction and will later turn to determining the details of extracurricular activities.

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