University of California, Berkeley will hold all classes remotely when the fall semester begins next month, Chancellor Carol Christ announced, saying that it wouldn’t be safe to have in-person classes.
Christ, who made the announcement during a virtual event Monday hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, cited the “worsening” coronavirus pandemic in California and noted that there was recently an outbreak of Covid-19 cases in the Berkeley community linked to fraternity parties.
“After weeks of developing a very elaborate plan for a hybrid model in the fall, we decided after we had a serious fraternity outbreak, that it was just too risky to teach face to face.”
Classes at UC Berkeley are scheduled to begin Aug. 26. In a letter to faculty and staff on Tuesday, Berkeley administrators said they plan to return to some in-person classes “as soon as public health conditions allow.”
The decision by UC Berkeley illustrates that holding even a limited number of in-person classes this fall will be a difficult task for colleges and universities across California, with Covid-19 cases increasing in many parts of the state.
Berkeley is the first campus in the UC system to announce it will hold all classes virtually at the beginning of the upcoming academic year. Berkeley is also one of only two campuses in the system that are scheduled to reopen next month, with the other being UC Merced.
As of Monday, UC Merced was still planning to offer limited in-person classes this fall.
Chief Resiliency Officer Andy Boyd, Director of Medical Education Thelma Hurd and Michelle Brinkop, a UC Merced physician, wrote in a letter to the UC Merced community:
“Although we are planning for your return to campus, the timing will be dictated by state and county public health restrictions which are directly related to the severity of Covid-19 in our region and state.”
The other seven UC undergraduate campuses are on the quarter schedule and won’t resume instruction until Sept. 30 or Oct. 1, giving them more time to finalize their fall plans.
In June, Berkeley administrators said they were planning to “conduct limited in-person classes” but also emphasized that, given the uncertainty of the virus, they were prepared to “move to fully remote teaching should pandemic conditions worsen at any point.”
The other eight UC undergraduate campuses have similarly planned to hold some in-person classes but have made clear that those plans are subject to change.
If the public health situation improves, UC Berkeley administrators said Tuesday that they will prioritize offering in-person instruction for a group of “Tier 1” classes that are “significantly preferable to offer in-person,” such as labs and courses with fieldwork.
The next priority would be “Tier 2” classes, which UC Berkeley defines as “instructional activities that, if offered in-person, would substantially contribute to cohort-building for entering students, to academic engagement for students who are underrepresented on campus and/or part of a capstone experience.”
If UC Berkeley does return to some face-to-face instruction at any point during the fall semester, students will still have the option to take all of their classes remotely.
Administrators wrote in Tuesday’s letter:
“We understand that this is more complex and difficult for students, staff and instructors, and we commit to providing guidance and support.”
This story was originally published by EdSource.