UC Berkeley executives reflect on COVID-19 pandemic, look to fall semester

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Chancellor Carol Christ, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos and Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Catherine Koshland met for the 2021 Year End Campus Conversation to discuss lessons from the past year and what to look forward in fall 2021.

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As spring turns to summer and the light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic-imposed tunnel shines brighter, three prominent UC Berkeley administrators met virtually to reflect on the past year and discuss what the future holds.

Moderated by spokesperson Dan Mogulof, Monday’s event saw Chancellor Carol Christ, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos and Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Catherine Koshland come together for the 2021 Year End Campus Conversation. The three shared what the past year had taught them and also discussed what students, faculty and staff should expect in fall 2021.

Though Christ recognized the challenge of rebuilding the campus community, given that half of the undergraduate students have never been on campus, she feels both excitement and anticipation for the fall 2021 semester.

“We’ve been in this almost mandated agoraphobia for 14 months,” Christ said during the event. “We’re all going to have to learn how to be with people again and to let down the inhibitions that were so much a part of how we guarded our own health and public health for the past year.”

With that in mind, Christ said she anticipates a “face-to-face fall” as staff and faculty can come back to work June 15. Everyone is expected to return after July 12, excluding those who have negotiated a hybrid work schedule.

Christ noted that classes with more than 200 students will remain remote given the uncertainty surrounding future social distancing guidelines. Koshland added that classes should offer a few remote discussion sections and upload recorded lectures so that students can access them from anywhere if capabilities allow.

For all students, faculty and staff returning in fall 2021, Christ noted that campus will enforce a vaccine mandate, with the only exception being those who applied for an exemption for medical or religious reasons. While campus will accept any COVID-19 vaccine, internationally approved or otherwise, Christ urged unvaccinated students to get to campus early and receive the vaccine upon arrival.

“(The vaccines are) a kind of triumph of biological discovery that Berkeley has been involved in from the get-go in so many deep ways, and the efficacy of them, the power of those vaccines to bring us back and to allow us to become a community again,” Alivisatos said during the event. “I just want to remind everybody that if they haven’t gotten that vaccine, please go and get it. It works, and it really will benefit all of us.”

From facilitating a post-pandemic budget recovery and adapting to a hybrid campus environment to expanding UC system accessibility and advancing an anti-racist campus, Koshland emphasized that the fall 2021 semester will be a transition period in search of a new normal.

In the present, Christ said the campus community must stay attentive to the challenges that lie ahead but also celebrate all that has been accomplished.

Veronica Roseborough is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @v_roseborough.