In hopes of addressing the prevailing question, “What is the new normal?” the ASUC hosted a town hall with campus administrators Friday to address UC Berkeley’s COVID-19 social norms campaign.
To kick off the meeting, Diana Harvey, campus associate vice chancellor for communications and public affairs, introduced the campaign to town hall attendees, outlining the research that has been done to determine the most effective way to distribute COVID-19 safety information to students. Attendees then had the opportunity to discuss the campaign, COVID-19 policies and the semester ahead with campus administrators.
“Student thinking and student voices will be the powerful ones for helping us to help to manage the public health situation on the campus,” said campus Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos during the meeting. “Our students will be true leaders in helping think about this and will show the rest of university communities around the country how it’s really done well.”
The objective of the campaign, Harvey said, is to normalize COVID-19 prevention behaviors including mask-wearing, social distancing, frequent hand-washing, social bubbles and regular testing. To do so, campus formed a working group that surveyed students, campus employees and other universities about what policies have worked and those that have not.
What resulted was a plan to encourage preventative behaviors using campaign themes including “Together, we make Berkeley strong,” “Outsmart the virus!” and “Bears protect Bears.”
“What we heard in the discussion groups was really to take the approach of behaving responsibly rather than saying, ‘If you don’t behave this way, you will be punished,’ ” said Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, chair of the UC Berkeley Academic Senate, during the meeting.
Campus has also added Section 102.28 to the Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct to outline temporary provisions, including social distancing and face-covering requirements.
Alivisatos said, however, that campus prefers not to administer disciplinary consequences, adding that campus does not want students to feel hesitant about getting tested and that they will be supported regardless of their results.
Should an on-campus outbreak occur, Alivisatos said campus has the capacity to isolate a large number of infected students. Although infected students can choose to return home, they should coordinate with University Health Services to determine how to do so safely, Alivisatos added.
In terms of the faculty’s response to the pandemic, Johnson-Hanks said the Academic Senate is encouraging faculty to spread information about COVID-19 prevention and provide accommodations when necessary.
“There are still faculty who are, for example, not being accommodating about the fact that people are in different time zones,” Johnson-Hanks said during the meeting. “We’re trying to work with department chairs to help encourage people to recognize that this is a form of hardship.”
Campus administrators said they will continue to work with student leaders and ASUC leadership to promote new behavioral standards and get Berkeley “back to normal.”