We write to extend a warm welcome to all of our new and returning Golden Bears. Wherever you may be living during this challenging moment in our nation’s history, we hope you are excited to embark on a new year of learning, discovery and personal growth as students at the very best public university in the world.
Berkeley is a wonderfully diverse city, home to a rich history of political activism and an astounding array of intellectual, cultural, artistic and recreational activities, many of which you can still enjoy online. Whether you are settling into your residence hall or apartment, or are logging in from home, we encourage you to safely explore the many opportunities the community and campus have to offer and to do so in a way that is respectful to others who also call Berkeley home. To that end, we would like to share a few recommendations with you:
Keep your community healthy
Taking steps to safeguard your health and the health of others has never been more important. We encourage you to become familiar with the public health guidelines the city and campus have developed to keep everyone healthy in the midst of this unprecedented pandemic. The city of Berkeley’s COVID-19 mandatory public health orders require face coverings when outside and include strict social distancing guidelines.
By now, you should also have received information about the Keep Berkeley Healthy campaign and the pledge we are asking students to sign. These public health guidelines must be followed to protect the health of the entire UC Berkeley community, of which you are a vital part. You should also be aware that recent changes in the Student Code of Conduct prohibit student gatherings of two or more people who do not reside in the same household. Please remember that noncompliance can result in fines, citation, removal from campus, suspension or expulsion.
Be a good neighbor
Take the time to meet your neighbors, whether they are students down the hall or residents up the block. You might not be able to knock on their doors yet, but you can still get to know them through a masked and distanced meeting, a note or an email. Some of your Berkeley neighbors may be at higher risk during the pandemic: You can help keep them safe by understanding their needs and expectations. The Happy Neighbors program can help.
Support local businesses and community organizations
When you safely venture out in a mask, or when you decide to order in, please consider supporting Berkeley’s diverse small business community. In particular, the neighborhoods adjacent to campus are home to dozens of businesses that have carefully adapted to public health requirements and eagerly await your patronage. The Telegraph District social bubble dining specials and the Downtown Berkeley Welcome Guide are specifically designed with students in mind. You can also check out Visit Berkeley’s Visitors Guide and online event listings.
Be an engaged citizen
Ahead of the 2020 election cycle, register to vote here or in your home state. Also, it’s incredibly important that every UC Berkeley student, including international students, is counted in the 2020 census, which gives Berkeley the opportunity to receive federal funding, resources and representation in Congress. Be sure to provide information about your roommates, and don’t worry if your parents counted you already: The Census Bureau has a process to account for duplicates. To learn more, go to Cal Counts.
Also, don’t miss the chance to get involved in your local community — try attending virtual meetings of the City Council and other boards and commissions. During your time at UC Berkeley, you can also get involved in the community by volunteering through The Berkeley Project or the Public Service Center.
Learn about the area’s rich past and its connection to the present
You have probably learned that UC Berkeley sits on land that was originally inhabited by the Ohlone, the Native American people who remain indigenous to this area. Put on your mask and head north to visit Mortar Rock Park to see the acorn-grinding pits carved into solid rock by the ancestors of the local Ohlone people. For an at-home activity, download the Telegraph Berkeley Tour app to hear Berkeley residents talk about civil rights “shop-ins,” the disability rights movement, Japanese internment during World War II, the Free Speech Movement and other important episodes from our shared history. To show their intolerance toward racism and to inspire empathy for our communities of color, staff members across the UC Berkeley Library created this informal publication compiling photos, essays, lyrics, videos and more.
Go green — when you can.
While the health of our community is a priority right now, both UC Berkeley and the city have ambitious zero waste goals. Your help in diverting, recycling, reusing and reducing during the pandemic is critical. Even now, you can contribute to these goals by making sustainable choices. Talk to members of your social bubble about reducing waste: The Ecology Center has tips for low-waste living, and the Student Environmental Resource Center has resources to help students achieve sustainability goals while seeking a more equitable, just and resilient future.
Being a part of the Berkeley community, even if you are studying remotely this semester, gives you the chance to interact with and learn from many kinds of people and cultures. The UC Berkeley campus and the city of Berkeley are closely intertwined, and we hope you will develop strong ties to this exciting urban area and those who call it home.
Let’s embrace all that the city of Berkeley has to offer and do our part to keep the Berkeley community healthy. Here’s to a safe semester, and go Bears!
Carol Christ is the UC Berkeley chancellor, and Jesse Arreguín is the Berkeley mayor.