A campus-wide email advising students to attend social gatherings only with fully-vaccinated individuals in celebration of UC Berkeley’s first football game of the season was sent Sept. 2. Two days later, the campus hosted the University of Nevada for a game that drew more than 35,000 spectators from both in and out of state. UC Berkeley’s messaging is inconsistent — begging the question as to what campus’s priorities are.
UC Berkeley mandates that courses with more than 200 students be held over Zoom, yet campus is holding volleyball tournaments indoors with a maximum of 1,000 attendees and Cal Performance events without capacity restrictions. Why aren’t these spaces being used for larger courses or in-person academic purposes?
While all of UC Berkeley’s sporting events are being held in accordance with local and state guidelines, our return to some sense of normalcy is precarious. UC Berkeley can’t control what its students do off campus, but its attitude toward and management of on-campus events sets a precedent.
It’s hypocritical for campus to encourage students to socialize only within restricted circles while promoting attendance of large sporting events and other indoor gatherings such as Caltopia.
UC Berkeley boasts impressive vaccination rates for students and staff — 97% and 90% respectively. But apathy toward the pandemic could change our current progresseive trajectory. While COVID-19 cases have steadied after the initial spike at the beginning of the semester, testing rates have gone down.
Most students and faculty are excited to be back in person and participate in the traditions, such as sporting events, that constitute an important part of the “college experience.” However, these opportunities should be safe for all students, and the larger Berkeley community.
While nearly all of the UC Berkeley community is vaccinated, without required vaccine verification, there is no way to ensure visiting spectators aren’t putting students, staff and Berkeley residents at risk. The state of Nevada has a vaccination rate of only 49%. The University of Southern California will play UC Berkeley in November. Fans will travel from Los Angeles County, which has a vaccination rate of 67%, compared to Berkeley’s 72%. Community members who aren’t able to get vaccinated for medical reasons deserve to feel safe not only participating in school events, but returning to classrooms in the following days.
Games and Cal Performance events held indoors have mandated vaccination verification and mask mandates, as state and local guidelines require — a necessary and reassuring step. These requirements should be maintained at outdoor events, especially when food and drinks are being sold. These are the extra steps UC Berkeley must take to ensure the semester continues in-person and the community is safe.
Every event and COVID-19 safety measure UC Berkeley either implicitly or explicitly sends a message to its students and the community. At the moment, it’s unclear whether this message prioritizes safe education for all students.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2021 opinion editor, Emily Hom.