UC Berkeley announces new paid COVID-19 student positions

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Sunny Shen/Senior Staff
UC Berkeley created two new student positions to help implement limited in-person instruction during the spring: health ambassadors and area managers.

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UC Berkeley created two new student positions to help implement limited in-person instruction during the spring semester, with the possibility of extending these roles into future semesters.

Student health ambassadors will serve as building and safety monitors and as a source of information for the campus community with an hourly rate of $18, according to the job description. Area managers, paid $20 an hour, will oversee health ambassadors and provide more advanced support to the campus’s temporary COVID-19 compliance monitoring program.

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email that the health ambassador role is not intended to create confrontation, but instead encourage a “social norms campaign.”

“In recognizing that the most effective tools we have (until there is widespread vaccine availability) are non-pharmaceutical interventions, we wanted a system that would also encourage students, faculty and staff to abide by the public health guidelines like: wearing a mask, remain 6 feet apart,” Gilmore said in the email.

Campus expects students to respond positively to peer interaction and encouragement on COVID-19 guidelines, Gilmore added. Cal Performances and Classroom Management — who manage classroom assignments — are spearheading the student initiative.

According to Gilmore, these two campus organizations’ experience in managing crowds and classrooms will help health ambassadors and area managers in their responsibilities, which include checking COVID-19 safety compliances at building entrances and teaching protocols to the larger campus community.

University Health Services, or UHS, spokesperson Tami Cate said in an email that UHS will be involved in training health ambassadors to better support the campus community and to identify various color-coded badges, which show the status of people’s COVID-19 testing compliance.

Cate added that she expects these roles to be successful in creating a safe campus culture.

“These roles will be helping to reinforce and encourage what the social norms are and to promote continued practice of preventative measures which helps slow the spread COVID-19,” Cate said in an email. “We think this extra person-to-person encouragement will be effective as an additional public health reminder.”

Campus will be monitoring public health conditions and vaccine distribution to determine whether these roles will continue into the summer and fall semesters, according to Gilmore. The health ambassador and area manager positions are not intended to be permanent jobs and will be terminated once they are no longer needed.

While campus has staffed its first cohort, students are still encouraged to apply and be placed on a waitlist as more in-person activities may be planned this semester, according to Gilmore.

“In the fall we hope to be welcoming a new class of freshmen and transfer students along with a number of students who may not have had the opportunity to be physically on campus yet,” Gilmore said in the email. “We really see this as a way to provide education about health measures and not as a way to enforce compliance.”

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.