UC Berkeley announced its decision to begin the fall semester fully virtually Tuesday, due to a rise in local COVID-19 cases.
According to UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore, campus currently is not anticipating classes to resume in person during the fall but will consider reevaluating resumption of in-person instruction based on public health conditions.
Even if conditions do allow for in-person instruction, remote learning will continue beyond Thanksgiving break, according to a campuswide email. Campus officials also said in the email that there have been increased improvements in technology and resources for students and staff to engage in remote learning.
On-campus housing options will still be available, and campus will continue accepting applications through July 26. Residence halls will be kept to single occupancy, Gilmore added.
“This will allow us to reduce density, ensure more physical distancing,” Gilmore said in an email.
For students who are pursuing off-campus housing, Gilmore recommends contacting UC Berkeley’s Student Legal Services in order to get assistance regarding rent and lease disputes.
According to ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Nicole Anyanwu, guidance from the Alameda County Public Health Department was heavily considered in the decision to move toward completely remote learning.
Anyanwu added that according to student opinions gathered regarding the fall semester, campus’s initial plan for a hybrid model would have helped accommodate international students’ circumstances. The final decision, however, came with the increase in cases nearby campus.
Anyanwu said her office is advocating for grade-change policies similar to the spring semester’s and supporting the creation of academic and financial accommodations. She added that it will be conducting town halls to relay students’ perspectives to campus administration.
ASUC President Victoria Vera said the semester’s shift to online learning came as a “shock.” She added that remote learning will have an impact on students who are dependent on campus resources.
“I think it shows folks are being rocked right now because we don’t know when we’ll get back to a sense of normalcy,” Vera said. “We don’t know when things will be safe again to open up.”
She said having her last year at UC Berkeley online instead of in person is disappointing, as it means less opportunities to interact with her friends.
According to Vera, the rise in cases linked to UC Berkeley’s fraternities indicates that combating the disease is often mistaken as an individual effort, as opposed to a collective effort.
“When I see folks being very ignorant to the severity of this pandemic, it’s very hurtful,” Vera said. “It’s very selfish.”
According to UC Berkeley senior Ana Shaughnessy, the move toward an online semester is beneficial for immunocompromised students and members of the campus community disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Certain campus resources, such as the Student Technology Equity Program, will be available to help students adjust to remote learning. The Basic Needs Center’s food pantry and campus Counseling and Psychological Services will also remain open for students who choose to return to Berkeley, Vera said.
“I really want to urge our community to remember that it is on all of us to make sure that we can slow this right now,” Vera said. “Us returning back to campus is also dependent on our actions.”