ASUC discusses faculty concerns on fall 2021, mental health survey

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The ASUC general meeting consisted of conversation surrounding what instruction will look like when returning to an in-person setting come fall 2021.

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Amid the return to mostly in-person instruction in the fall, the ASUC’s general meeting Wednesday featured presentations on faculty concerns regarding instruction, student mental health and updates to the DeCal program.

Eugene Whitlock, UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor of human resources, presented on the concerns faculty have around returning to campus. Whitlock said many instructors want to adopt a hybrid structure where they are able to still work remotely some days of the week.

“In order to serve our mission of teaching and learning and research, how do we then combine that with having a hybrid workforce?” Whitlock said during the meeting. “Really that comes down to: ‘Do I need to be here on campus everyday, or does anybody need to be here on campus everyday? Or how many days does somebody need to be here, in order to make sure that we don’t stop serving the mission to the best of our ability.’”

Whitlock added that many students said they would appreciate some appointments being online, as that would make them easier to attend.

An additional problem UC Berkeley is facing is retention of employees, Whitlock said. As the pay and benefits in the private sector are often better, campus is trying to do what it can to accommodate faculty.

Whitlock also noted one of the challenges with a hybrid model is that it might detract from a sense of community if faculty are not able to see one another as often.

“If I come in to an empty office and I don’t have that chat by the water cooler or I’m not engaging with people, am I going to feel like I belong, am I going to feel like I’m part of an organization?” Whitlock said during the meeting.

Several members of the DeCal Board attended the meeting to discuss changes made to the DeCal website and program to increase transparency and make navigating the site easier.

Kathy Wu, co-president of the DeCal program, said the board has been contacted by the University of Pennsylvania, UC Davis and California State University, Monterey Bay about adopting the DeCal program at their respective universities.

Additionally, Annie Pan, ASUC chief communications officer, presented the findings from a mental health survey completed by students which showed that 68% are unsatisfied with their current social experiences, and 62.5% find that a virtual environment has significantly increased their stress and anxiety.

Many students also found that COVID-19 has impacted their family structures, financial status, academics and physical health.

“Ultimately our goal through this project is to really open up conversations about mental health,” Pan said at the meeting. “Hopefully we’re able to get this project going by the end of this term, and then in the next few terms create some kind of sustainable movement or project that can happen even once campus starts reopening again.”

Mela Seyoum is a student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @melaseyoum.