UC Berkeley officials plan to launch program for in-person instructional activities

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The program, which was was developed by the Joint Academic Senate and Administration Working Group on Outdoor Space for Instructional Activities alongside University Health Services, would only include outdoor classes in music, field biology and geology, engineering and business.

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Campus officials are planning to begin a program in late October as part of an effort to introduce more in-person instructional activities.

This program would occur outdoors and involve groups of 12 students or fewer, according to Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, chair of the campus Academic Senate. Participants would be required to wear masks, maintain social distancing guidelines and get tested.

“Both research and education are inherently creative and collaborative endeavors,” Johnson-Hanks said in an email. “As such, they benefit greatly from human interactions.”

The project is still waiting for approval from local public health officials, according to Johnson-Hanks. If authorized, the program would begin in late October and take place over a five-week period, ending before Thanksgiving.

Johnson-Hanks noted that international students whose educational visas require in-person instruction would be prioritized for the instructional advising sessions. She added that the program would only include outdoor classes in music, field biology and geology, engineering and business. The program is not mandatory.

“These are activities designed to complement remote instruction already underway,” Johnson-Hanks said in the email. “Students in the … approved courses and programs will have the option to participate in the outdoor activities.”

UC Berkeley already has an extensive testing program, according to Johnson-Hanks. Participants in the program would be added to the testing protocol and get tested the week prior to instruction as well as on a weekly basis during the program.

In addition to testing, students would be required to complete online training in COVID-19 safety and fill out a symptom survey each day before coming to campus. This system is intended to help ensure that participants do not have symptoms and have not been in contact with anyone that does, Johnson-Hanks added.

“All parts of the pilot share a core safety infrastructure that the campus has developed over the past six (6) months,” Johnson-Hanks said in the email. “This safety infrastructure rests on masking, physical distancing, testing and tracing, public health safety training, and symptom tracking.”

The plan was developed by the Joint Academic Senate and Administration Working Group on Outdoor Space for Instructional Activities alongside University Health Services. Johnson-Hanks said the working group’s priorities include improving education outcomes, complying with federal regulations for international students and piloting in-person instructional activities.

ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Nicole Anyanwu said in an email that although classes will continue to be primarily remote during the spring 2021 semester, campus officials are still considering the possibility of limited in-person instruction.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve been in conversations with campus administrators to begin preliminary discussions about what instruction might look like next semester,” Anyanwu said in the email. “My priority is to advocate for the most equitable academic environment for all students even in light of our difficult circumstances.”

Contact Leon Chen at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @leonwchen.