‘Cautiously optimistic’: UC Berkeley community’s concerns for fall 2021

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Anthony Angel Pérez/Staff
Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore addresses the UC Berkeley community's concerns about returning to in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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As the fall semester rapidly approaches, the UC Berkeley community is vocalizing concerns about campus’s transition into in-person learning as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

UC Berkeley has announced its official vaccine mandate and mask policy, requiring masks indoors on campus. Yet students are still asking questions about expectations for in-person classes while managing the pandemic.

Students ask questions about testing positive and self-isolation

UC Berkeley rising junior Tatiana Nikolaeva said it is unclear how students who test positive for COVID-19 will be able to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 10-day self-isolation guidelines while taking classes in person.

“Would the teachers teaching virtual classes provide more leniency like in the previous semesters?” Nikolaeva said in an email. “Last semester, it was so much catching up if I were to miss just one lecture. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to miss two weeks.”

In response to such concerns, campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore noted that there is no requirement for classes listed as “in-person” to offer asynchronous options to students because lectures are recorded at the instructor’s discretion.

Gilmore added that campus will offer quarantine spaces and monitor self-isolation protocol for all students who test positive.

Available accommodations if you cannot return to campus

Among others, international and immunocompromised students may face obstacles in returning to campus. However, students unable to physically return are eligible for accommodations where they may substitute their otherwise in-person courses for remote alternatives, according to Gilmore.

“Additional discussion sections may be added or times may be modified to support students in different time zones,” Gilmore said in an email. “Students should consult with their academic advisor if they need remote options and are unable to find suitable alternatives.”

Gilmore noted that such adjustments to courses would be made on “a class by class basis.”

For accommodation information, international students are encouraged to contact the Berkeley International Office, Gilmore added. Students who remain unable to return to campus due to medical needs can contact the Disabled Students’ Program.

Student concerns about in-person classes

Maria Whittle, a UC Berkeley doctoral candidate and former graduate student instructor, or GSI, expressed concerns about precautions against COVID-19 at large campus gatherings.

“The university needs to be serious about disinfecting classrooms,” Whittle said in an email. “My biggest concern is for GSIs who are teaching sections of larger lectures. That’s a lot of people in one room.”

UC Berkeley will implement numerous mitigation measures on campus, including daily cleanings of public areas, wastewater testing, daily symptom screening and improved ventilation and filtration, according to Gilmore.

Gilmore added that classes with more than 200 students will be conducted remotely.

“I’m feeling cautiously optimistic,” Whittle said in the email. “The vaccine offers a lot of protection from serious infection. Berkeley’s vaccine and mask mandate should hopefully keep us all protected from a serious outbreak and allow us some sense of normalcy.”

Contact Rachel Raps at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @rachelraps_dc.