‘Very concerned’: Campus professors react to April 21 lockdown

Photo of class on Zoom
Nick Quinlan/Staff
Campus professors had varied responses to the shelter-in-place order imposed April 21, with some students expressing concerns over safety and alleged lack of empathy.

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Amid the April 21 lockdown following a UC Berkeley student’s alleged threats of violence against campus staff, professors responded in varying ways.

Overall, there was no uniform response from professors in reaction to the order. Some professors completely abided by the campuswide UCPD alert that canceled classes for the rest of the day, while others searched for alternatives to outright canceling.

“My class is taught in a hybrid manner with lectures via Zoom,” said associate professor of agriculture, society and environment Kathryn De Master. “I still canceled our lecture because I didn’t want students to be unsafe going to campus to use Wi-Fi, for example.”

Others, such as assistant adjunct public policy professor Larry Rosenthal, opted for other alternatives. For example, moving lectures to Zoom and holding virtual classes instead to bypass the cancellation of in-person classes.

Many students, such as ASUC Senator-elect Manny Cisneros, took to platforms such as Twitter and Reddit to voice their concerns about these allegedly “tone deaf” responses and professors’ alleged lack of empathy.

Those who were on campus during the lockdown itself also had varying experiences.

Campus freshman Jessie Fisher, who works as a copy editor at The Daily Californian, was in class with civil and environmental engineering professor Robert Kayen at the Valley Life Sciences Building. She recounted that students were tasked to keep him updated on the emergency situation, and Kayen paused to secure the classroom before continuing on.

“He did take a pause to make sure we all felt safe, but he was quick to get back on the flow of things,” Fisher said. “It wasn’t easy for us to switch off our brains.”

From Fisher’s observations, many students in her class were more concerned with keeping up with the news and texting rather than taking notes or listening.

Fisher found “more of an issue” with Kayen lecturing 1 1/2 hours past his allotted class time in light of the longer shelter in place order, even while some students had other responsibilities or classes on Zoom during that time.

From his perspective, Kayen said in an email that the lecture and movie they watched were “calming.” However, he added he now brings cam straps and “several specific rock-climbing devices” in order to secure any doors he may need to in the event of an emergency.

“I’m very concerned that an instructor is not able to lock the door of a classroom from the interior,” Kayen said in an email. “Every classroom should have a means by which the instructor can prevent people from entering the room.”

According to campus junior James Freeman, his professor Mario Muzzi, an adjunct political economy professor, also decided to continue with lecture. Freeman said he believed this action was “tolerable” considering their building was “on the opposite side of campus from the incident,” and felt they might as well do “something productive with the time.”

De Master noted that there was still no official campus guidance sent out to professors other than the initial shelter-in-place order. Kayen added that faculty should not “rely on their wits to get out of a bad situation.”

“This was a very different experience coming from a high school with a more structured protocol for these types of events,” Fisher said. “If anything, this taught me the importance of being more assertive with professors and speaking up.”

Contact Denise Cruz at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @dxnisecruz.