UC Berkeley student leaders discuss student housing amid COVID-19 pandemic

Photo of UC Berkeley dorms during sequester
Ryan Kendrick/Staff
A “COVID Conversations: Congregate Student Living” panel Tuesday kept its focus on public health accountability amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel started by addressing what is being done to minimize cases, including what is being done in campus living situations such as residence halls, Greek life and the Berkeley Student Cooperative.

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Following a surge in UC Berkeley COVID-19 cases, student leaders called for increased adherence to public health guidelines and accountability at Tuesday’s “COVID Conversations: Congregate Student Living” webinar.

The event, moderated by Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Engagement Samuel Santos, focused on COVID-19 within student housing, including residence halls, Greek life and the Berkeley Student Cooperative, or BSC. Panelists specifically discussed ways to limit violations to public health requirements and stressed community values as the pandemic continues.

“COVID-19 is not stagnant. Our approach should not be stagnant either,” said ASUC President and resident assistant Victoria Vera during the panel. “All of our situations call for different needs. We need to rise to the occasion and support folks.”

The panel began by discussing previous successes and current efforts to minimize cases.

According to Interfraternity Council President Dil Sen, each house within the Greek system has its own quarantine spaces, and each resident lives in a single room. He added that most students have respected public health guidelines but that their online recruitment season was “bound to bring out some spirit and fun.”

The BSC, which has also taken steps to ensure students live in a single room, did not experience any new cases in the two weeks following winter break, according to BSC President Tommy Chung.

She added that the BSC has continued to stress cooperative values, while also creating internal procedures to help support students through the pandemic.

“I’m really hopeful,” Chung said during the panel. “We’re working on it, and I’m really glad with the progress we made so far.”

Panelists also discussed ways to bolster accountability on campus while also prioritizing values associated with restorative justice.

Several housing programs, including the Greek system and the BSC, have started to implement fines for students who violate public health guidelines.

“The sad truth is it’s effective,” Sen said during the panel. “If that’s how we’re going to get through the next (several months), so be it.”

The BSC currently maintains a tiered system, where students first receive a verbal warning but could eventually be fined. They are also working to incorporate principles of restorative justice in an effort to support students from marginalized backgrounds and people with disabilities, according to Chung, who added that “it’s important to not recreate harm as we address harm.”

Panhellenic Vice President of Membership Alexandria Marx also called out campus for guidance and stressed the importance of promoting student mental health as most events remain online.

While the discussion focused on group efforts, many panelists, including ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Nicole Anyanwu, advocated for individual accountability in adhering to public health guidelines, wearing masks and social distancing.

“When you take accountability for yourself, you’re also helping everyone else around you,” Anyanwu said during the panel.

Contact Mallika Seshadri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SeshadriMallika.