UC Berkeley’s fall semester to begin completely online

Photo of UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza and Sather Gate, nearly empty due to coronavirus.
Sunny Shen/Senior Staff
According to a campuswide email sent Tuesday, UC Berkeley's fall semester will begin completely online due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in both Alameda County and Berkeley.

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Update 7/21/2020: This article has been updated to include additional information from various campus sources.

UC Berkeley’s fall semester will begin with entirely remote instruction, contrary to earlier plans for a hybrid semester. 

According to campuswide emails sent to students and staff Tuesday, the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in both Alameda County and the city of Berkeley, as well as the unlikeliness of a radical change in the public health situation, led to the decision to cancel all in-person plans for at least the beginning of the academic year. 

The number of UC Berkeley COVID-19 cases has also been increasing. A campus announcement from July 8 attributed a significant rise in cases — the number of recorded cases in the campus community rose from 23 to 70 in a single week — to a number of parties associated with the CalGreeks system. 

In the announcement, campus officials warned the community that an increase in cases could make it more difficult to operate using a hybrid system of instruction. 

Before Tuesday, UC Berkeley was planning on a hybrid semester with some in-person classes and activities, as was first announced June 16.  

Despite the move completely online, campus will continue preparing hybrid or flexible teaching methods for specific instructional activities, which will be implemented as soon as health conditions permit. 

Even if hybrid or flexible learning is eventually allowed for select classes, students will not be required to attend classes in person.

“COVID-19 is showing us that we have to be not only agile, moving quickly between degrees of openness and sometimes pulling back, but also prepared to move forward as soon as conditions allow,” campus officials said in the email to students. “Our plans will, by necessity, evolve as we receive direction from public health officials.”

Classes that may be able to conduct in-person instruction include classes defined as Tier 1, as well as some Tier 2 courses. 

Tier 1 courses include activities that are “significantly preferable” to be conducted in person or partially in person, such as labs, studios and fieldwork. Tier 2 classes are defined as those that contribute to cohort-building for entering students, academic engagement or capstone experiences when held in person. 

Courses with these categorizations will be provisionally approved for classroom assignments when public health conditions permit in-person classes.

While classes will be remote, on-campus housing will still be offered for the fall. Previously, UC Berkeley said there would be no more than two people per room, but students living in on-campus housing will now be placed in singles. 

To further promote safety, on-campus housing residents will be grouped into “bubble groups” and will be required to follow public health guidelines, according to the email to students.

“These are challenging times but we continue to invest in a robust remote experience – both instruction and student engagement – to ensure students can have a full and meaningful university experience no matter where they are learning,” campus officials said in the email to students. “We will get through this together, and our shared journey through these difficult times will make us stronger.”

Contact Sebastian Cahill and Kate Finman at [email protected].