UC Berkeley sequester mandate prompts student concern over health, UCPD presence

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Katie Lee/Staff
Students living in UC Berkeley residence halls were mandated to self-sequester beginning Feb. 1 for at least one week to combat the recent surge in COVID-19 cases among students. The mandate, which was later extended through at least Feb. 15, has led to some concerns regarding health and the increased UCPD presence.

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Update 2/12/21: This article has been updated to include information from an anonymous student living in a UC Berkeley residence hall.

Amid a self-sequester mandate in UC Berkeley residence halls to limit the spread of COVID-19, students have raised concerns over health and UCPD presence.

On Feb. 1, campus instituted the mandate requiring all students living in residence halls to self-sequester for at least one week to combat the recent surge in COVID-19 cases among students. The mandate was later extended to at least Feb. 15.

“It is essential that we are able to support our community, including ensuring that we have proper isolation and quarantine spaces,” a UC Berkeley student affairs email sent Feb. 1 stated. “It is also vital that we ‘flatten the curve’ and reduce the spread within our community.”

When self-sequestering, residents are required to stay in their rooms as much as possible. Under the initial mandate, students were only permitted to leave their room for food, mandatory testing, medical care, solo outdoor exercise and in case of an emergency. When the mandate was extended, solo outdoor exercise was disallowed until Feb. 12.

According to a student affairs email sent Feb. 8, the self-sequester period was accompanied by an increased security presence in and around the residence halls.

“Be aware that students are subject to serious residential conduct sanctions for not complying with campus directives including being disqualified from housing and suspended from the University,” the email added.

On Twitter and other social media platforms, some students have raised concerns over the difficulty of accessing food and the increased UCPD presence.

A residential hall student who would like to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns stated that the threat of removal from housing and increased UCPD presence are damaging to students’ mental health.

“I understand there are steps necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but there are boundaries that should be set, and forcing students to stay inside, not even allowing solo exercising is too far,” the anonymous student said in an email.

The student also expressed concern over campus potentially violating students’ “rights as tenants.”

According to UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore, campus has “authority to make rules regarding the operation of its housing facilities,” and when signing housing contracts, students agree to allow campus to set these rules.

Gilmore added that UC Berkeley self-sequester guidelines have changed over time as campus has “learned from its experience” in responding to the pandemic.

“This is all new to the campus, we are learning and changing the procedures as we go,” Gilmore said in an email.

The metrics that University Health Services will use to determine when to lift self-sequester guidelines include whether students are complying with testing requirements and the number of positive test results, Gilmore added.

Gilmore declined to comment on UC Berkeley’s plans for after the self-sequester mandate is lifted.

“We understand that the self-sequestration is frustrating, but these measures are in place to help us mitigate further spread,” Gilmore said in the email. “Please continue to follow all self-sequester instructions.”

Contact Alexandra Feldman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_p_feldman.