Barely two weeks after PG&E’s exquisitely poor power outage execution, UC Berkeley found itself quickly having to prepare for yet another potential campus outage, once again with little concrete information from the power company.
Rather than just implementing temporary measures, however, the campus took it a step further and instituted “Instructional Resilience Week,” an initiative aimed at encouraging educators to make their course content available remotely in the event of a campus shutdown. As part of Instructional Resilience Week, instructors are asked to provide additional materials to support students who may have been adversely impacted by unexpected power shut-offs and, more recently, raging fires.
Just one day without power affects hundreds, if not thousands, of activities on campus and stretches far past the limits of instruction alone. The athletics department has to reconfigure game schedules for many sports. The Disabled Students’ Program needs to ensure that students with disabilities have adequate support while out of power. Residential halls have to manage resources for hundreds of students, potentially for days at a time. Lab research has to be properly preserved — and in some cases, physically transported to other locations, otherwise risking losing years of dissertation research.
In an interview with The Daily Californian’s editorial board, Cal Athletics Director Jim Knowlton confirmed that on occasion, games — not only football but also sports such as volleyball and basketball — are moved to other locations to accommodate athletics schedules without exposing athletes to harmful conditions, such as heightened air quality index levels. Compared to last year’s extreme hesitance in moving the Big Game or closing down campus because of the poor air quality, it’s great to see that the campus is instituting tangible procedures in preparation for possible natural disasters.
As a member of the Chancellor’s Cabinet, Knowlton also acknowledged that administrators constantly monitored the status of the most recent power outage, erring on the side of caution by canceling classes even though PG&E didn’t shut down power until 5 p.m. That’s a huge window of time for things to be up in the air, and imaginably a tough balancing act for administrators at different levels to juggle. Despite the circumstances, it’s heartening to know that administrators are prioritizing contingency plans in the face of complete uncertainty.
Climate change and the lack of governmental action thereof seem to indicate that we’ll be seeing this kind of weather again (and subsequent unforeseen campus closures as a precaution), probably annually, at the very least. And since PG&E doesn’t seem to be committing to disaster-proofing power lines anytime soon, it’s commendable that the campus has taken a more serious and forward-thinking approach to ensuring that natural disasters don’t completely derail normal, day-to-day operations.
Although it’s easy to get frustrated amid hazy situations, know that, at the very least, the campus community is putting its best foot forward.