Most UC Berkeley employees will be expected to return to on-site operations beginning July 12.
Additionally, starting June 16, employees currently working remotely will have the option to return to in-person work earlier on a voluntary basis, according to an email sent Thursday by campus administrators.
Specific guidelines for returning to campus will be announced in May and will depend on the availability of vaccines and low community transmission of COVID-19, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.
Campus electrical engineering and computer science lecturer Nick Weaver said in an email he is excited to return to campus and intends to do so during the voluntary period as a way of getting out of a “Zoom Cave.”
“A lot of learning takes place in the labs and office hours, and especially waiting around for office hours, project parties, and other such activities,” Weaver said in the email. “Losing those this year has been awful.”
Kim Freeman, a campus writing lecturer, expressed concern about the ventilation of classrooms. She added that it would be helpful if campus administration provided faculty with an explanation of how the transfer of molecules in the air in different classrooms would be tested.
Freeman said she anticipates additional difficulties for international students, many of whom have already struggled with time zone differences during the pandemic. According to Freeman, some international students may still not be able to attend in-person classes this fall.
“It’s going to be tricky, mandating who needs to wear a mask, who is vaccinated, making sure that everybody is vaccinated,” Freeman said. “There are a lot of pieces that still have to come together for us to do that.”
The UC system has also proposed a policy mandating vaccines before a return to campus.
Vaccines are the single best risk mitigation strategy for COVID-19, according to Guy Nicollet, University Health Services assistant vice chancellor. He added it is likely that most public health restrictions will end June 15.
“The vaccines are so amazingly good,” Weaver said in the email. “It isn’t just the >90% effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna and J&J vaccines against stopping infection, it is the close to 100% effectiveness at ensuring that even if you do get infected it is no worse than a common cold.”
Weaver noted there are also effectively no safety concerns for any of the vaccines.
Despite her concerns, Freeman said she is looking forward to returning to campus in the fall. She added that she misses the in-person experience, especially the interactions with students, the conversations with teachers and people on campus, as well as the ability to work in her now dusty office in Wheeler Hall or in Doe Library.
Likewise, campus political science associate professor Terri Bimes said she misses being in the classroom with students. She added that some of the best insights frequently come from casual chats with classmates that occur before and after class.
“I look forward to walking through campus at night and seeing the dance groups practicing again,” Bimes said. “I always get a kick out of that.”