The virtual ASUC Senate weekly meeting Wednesday was dominated by a discussion of campus administration’s and UCPD’s responses to the outbreak of COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus.
Starting off the meeting, UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Administration Marc Fisher gave a comprehensive rundown of the administration’s recent work, including oversight of the conversion of all classes to online, as well as the consolidation of residence halls for the limited number of remaining students.
Fisher called COVID-19 the “most disruptive” interference to education he has seen in his career so far and said he is “extremely proud” of campus staff and administration for rising to this challenge, particularly commending Chancellor Carol Christ’s leadership.
To address the rescheduling of the spring 2020 commencement ceremony, Christ’s team is considering potential dates to propose to the graduating class, including July this year, according to Fisher.
Fisher said campus will be “quiet” over the summer due to continued remote instruction, with the future of fall 2020 being uncertain, depending on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Administration is bracing for all possible scenarios, such as on one end, having to suspend on-campus activity again, and on the other end, having campus life return to near normalcy,” Fisher said at the meeting. “This would still likely require precautions such as face masks and providing online content as an option for students who may not be able to come back to campus.”
ASUC Senator Romario, who does not use a last name, asked about student concerns over entering and paying for housing contracts during the fall if the semester is also converted to remote instruction.
Following that, ASUC Senator Media Sina asked whether students will be partially reimbursed for the online teaching period during the spring semester and whether out-of-state and in-state students will pay a flat rate of tuition if remote instruction continues. To both senators’ questions, Fisher said there is no definitive answer at the moment due to a lack of understanding of what the disease will do.
Due to the financial losses the campus is shouldering during the pandemic, Fisher said, the amount of capital projects will decrease. The People’s Park housing project and the construction of the “Data Hub” are top priorities for campus to maintain, however, according to Fisher.
Campus administration is also considering asking the federal government for economic stimulus, including funding for safety-related seismic projects and to build part of a replacement for Evans Hall.
The next speaker, UCPD Chief Margo Bennett, spoke about the campus police’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Bennett said “virtually every employee that is not in a uniform has been sent home,” while 17 student workers who are dependent on UCPD’s financial support have stayed employed.
Bennett and Fisher emphasized the continued importance of police presence, even if minimal, on campus, explaining their role in maintaining safety.
“We’ve become an easy target of vandalism and theft during this time, so it’s important to protect these populations,” Fisher said at the meeting. “There’s research on campus that cannot stop. Now that there aren’t as many eyes on the space, now more than ever, we need to keep these resources and people safe.”
The ASUC Senate passed one bill during the meeting in support of a cost-of-living adjustment for graduate students.