UC Berkeley should remain open to provide larger Berkeley community benefits of open space

COMMUNITY AFFAIRS: Lack of communication surrounding potential campus closure is confusing, harmful to city, campus relationship

Illustration of Memorial Glade cut in half, with one half dreary and empty in blue, and the other rendered in full colour to show a full glade.
Genesis Cruz/Staff

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This week, campus announced that it may close temporarily, cutting off access for the general public. The consideration is being made to comply with a state mandate released in early August, to edge closer to restarting in-person instruction by limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Amid this closure, students, faculty and staff will still be able to walk through and spend time on campus. However, given that community members would be forced out of the largest open green space in the city of Berkeley, administration should decide not to follow through with the closure.

In addition to being a source of Wi-Fi and study spaces, the campus is where residents and their families stretch their legs, either on walks or on bike rides. The closure of schools, parks and other outdoor spaces has meant that the community more heavily relies on the open space that is the UC Berkeley campus. And besides the green space being valuable in an urban environment to de-stress, the UC Berkeley campus is a conduit for North, South and Downtown Berkeley, connecting the entire city. 

Moreover, enforcement of this protocol would be next to impossible. UCPD will not be enforcing the closure, and no fees will be allocated to beef up campus’s large, porous borders, indicating that UC Berkeley does not seem to be defending the closure in earnest. Therefore, the question becomes, why is the campus halfheartedly acting now on a mandate that was released two months prior? 

The answer is unclear, furthering general confusion. The potential loss of the campus’s benefits has not gone unnoticed by residents. Comments on social media regarding the closure are largely negative, with frustrations revolving around how the campus is a valued and safe bike route. The overall confusing nature of outdoor restrictions has also been noted, given that residents adhere to social distancing and public health guidelines and that the spread of COVID-19 is limited outside. 

Although UC Berkeley is not requesting input from the public on its decision, it submitted its policy proposal to city officials. After receiving their comments and criticisms, the policy requires confirmation by Chancellor Carol Christ before officially being implemented. But the widespread confusion and negative response surrounding this issue should indicate to administrators that the community would rather see the campus remain open.

The lack of communication between campus authorities and the Berkeley community is an unfortunate trend, one that is not sustainable. The city and the campus have a symbiotic relationship, and in the era of the pandemic, this relationship has become even more important. Not considering local voices in decisions while also leaving the reasoning behind choices unaddressed chips away at the town and gown’s relationship — one that should instead be open and transparent to improve living in Berkeley for all.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2020 opinion editor, Katherine Shok.