This year brought a whirlwind of changes for people from every walk of life, and if you’re anything like me, you might have forgotten some things that have happened throughout the months. Here are some of the biggest stories that hit the UC Berkeley campus this year.
One year of COVID-19
Excitement for the spring 2021 semester ran high, but the start of this semester also meant that we were approaching the anniversary of closures brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a notable increase in COVID-19 cases after winter break that provoked questions regarding campus’s ability to implement mandates, how to live during a pandemic and more. Along with COVID-19 came much needed academic leniency in the form of pass/no pass policies. The different colleges across campus granted students the ability to take major and other requirements pass/no pass, instead of the previously mandated letter grade. This policy continued through spring 2021 and into summer 2021, though each college offered different variations of it. As the semester progressed, the pandemic seemed endless, and restless students began engaging in more high-risk activities. One example of such behavior is the highly controversial 4/20 celebration on Memorial Glade. The annual tradition was not stopped by fear surrounding COVID-19 like it had been in 2020. Photographs from attendees revealed large crowds filled with many maskless individuals.
Commencements during COVID-19
Despite graduating more than a year after the beginning of COVID-19, the spring 2021 class followed suit of the three classes before it and missed out on having an in-person commencement ceremony, though it was given the chance to walk the stage. Additionally, this graduating class had the second annual Minecraft commencement on the Blockeley University campus. The class of 2020 was granted the opportunity to walk the stage this past August, a year and a half after the pandemic inhibited it from being able to do so at the end of the 2019-20 academic year.
Students return to campus
News that the fall 2021 semester was set to be held largely in person kicked off the year. With that came many questions as to what an in-person semester would look like amid a raging pandemic. These questions have been answered over the past few months: First-time students participated in a virtual Golden Bear Orientation before classes began. At the beginning of the semester, campus leadership implemented a monthly testing mandate and a mask mandate for students living in residence halls. For the broader campus community, libraries reopened at the end of August with unlimited access to most buildings. Most notably, the return to campus brought issues with connecting to Wi-Fi for students and professors alike.
UC Berkeley rankings
It wouldn’t be a year at UC Berkeley without the excitement surrounding university rankings. Starting off, QS World Rankings placed our campus fourth behind Harvard University, Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. September brought rankings by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report and Times Higher Education, or THE. Forbes ranked UC Berkeley first among all public and private schools in the nation. U.S. News & World Report ranked our campus fourth in the world, only preceded by Harvard, MIT and Stanford. THE placed us as the eighth-best university in the world. Following these came U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of U.S. public universities, where UC Berkeley ranked second behind UCLA. Go Bears!
University lecturers almost went on strike
Last month, the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, a union representing university lecturers, announced there would be a UC-wide strike Nov. 17 and 18 because of alleged unfair labor practices. The call to strike followed months of demonstrations by UC-AFT lecturers in pursuit of demands such as increased employment security. The UC Office of the President and UC-AFT reached a tentative agreement the morning of the scheduled strike. Some key features of this agreement include improved compensation and a fair assessment of workload. As a result of this momentous victory, lecturers across the UC system held celebratory rallies the afternoon of Nov. 18.
Cal Football defeats Stanford 41-11
In what can only be described as a complete knockout, the Bears claimed victory over the Cardinal. Things were not looking good for the Bears in the week prior to the Big Game when they had more than 40 players and staff test positive for COVID-19. Despite having to reschedule its game against USC the week before the Big Game and key players missing practices, Cal played a dominant game that had most Stanford fans leaving the stadium by the third quarter. This year’s 124th Big Game echoed the 122nd as Cal fans ecstatically rushed the field after the game and the Axe returned to Berkeley. To top it all off, this year’s Big Game was historic as quarterback Chase Garbers and wide receiver Trevon Clark connected to create the longest pass play in Big Game history.
As we reflect on the many stories that surrounded our campus this past year, one can’t help but to wonder what 2022 will bring to UC Berkeley. We already know that instruction will be delivered fully in person and the greatly-beloved Moffitt Library will be closed, so we can safely speculate that the year will be interesting — to say the least.