Campus & community, Campus news

Fall semester update, student resources for remote instruction

The increase in cases in the local community is of particular concern. Given this development, as well as it being unlikely that there will be a dramatic reversal in the public health situation before the fall semester instruction begins on Aug. 26, we have made the difficult decision to begin the fall semester with fully remote instruction.

Sather Gate
UC Berkeley's Sather Gate (Photo by Peg Skorpinski)

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen C. Sutton, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division Lisa Garcia Bedolla, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Catherine P. Koshland, and Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Oscar Dubón sent the following message to UC Berkeley students on Tuesday:

As you are all aware, the trend lines regarding COVID-19 positive cases in Alameda county, the region, and the state, continue to increase.

The increase in cases in the local community is of particular concern. Given this development, as well as it being unlikely that there will be a dramatic reversal in the public health situation before the fall semester instruction begins on Aug. 26, we have made the difficult decision to begin the fall semester with fully remote instruction. However, we continue our preparations to implement hybrid and/or flexible modes of instruction as soon as public health conditions allow.

COVID-19 is showing us that we have to be not only agile, moving quickly between degrees of openness and sometimes pulling back, but also prepared to move forward as soon as conditions allow.

This means we will keep a fully remote option open for all students, but also be prepared to implement our plans for select in-person instruction activities for those students who can take advantage of them, as conditions allow, even if it is part way through a term.

We understand that this is more complex and difficult for students, staff, and instructors, and we commit to continuing to communicate regularly with you regarding these matters.

Regarding Thanksgiving, we will continue with plans to go fully remote after Thanksgiving, even if we are able to pivot to some in-person instruction during the semester.

Whether we are all remote, or mostly remote, you should know that we anticipate an improved remote learning experience for students. We have made significant progress in our technology since the spring. And, the Research, Teaching, and Learning (RTL) team has provided many resources to assist instructors with teaching remotely in the Keep Teaching website.

We realize that these changes may be frustrating and make it difficult for you to choose what you want to do for fall. This may also be confusing for incoming undergraduate students, including first generation college students (students from families in which neither parent has a four-year college degree). Please know that you belong here. You are an essential part of the UC Berkeley community and we will support you in having a rewarding college experience. We have numerous offices, groups and services at Berkeley and the Educational Opportunity Program is a great place to start. This incoming undergraduate class also marks our most ethnically diverse freshman admitted class in more than 30 years. We are committed to encouraging and supporting all underrepresented students through programs like The Office for Graduate Diversity and the Centers for Educational Justice & Community Engagement.

We’re hoping this email can provide more information to help you make your decision. In general, if you can reasonably live and learn where you are right now, staying there may be the preferred choice for you. However, you may decide to reside in the Berkeley area if you have on-campus housing, critical in-person classes (depending on public health conditions), in-person research or work, or other specific directive to come to campus; or accessibility, accommodation or other needs. Fortunately, the federal government has rescinded the rule that would have harmed our international students. They can now make the decisions that work best for them.

Learn More

We are hosting a series of “conversations,”live-streamed events where you can learn more.

  • Student housing (including on and off campus housing): Tuesday, July 21, 12-1 p.m.
  • Instruction: Wednesday, July 22, 12-1 p.m.
  • Newly admitted undergraduate students (for freshman and new transfer students): Wednesday, July 29, 5-6 p.m.
  • Student experience (including professional offices and student groups and events): Tuesday, August 11, 5-6 pm.

Help Us Support You

To help us better understand how to support you, we will asksurvey you about your plans for fall and your public health habits so that we can create a program to support COVID-19 prevention practices. Your feedback is important. Watch your email for more details.

International Students

The instructional model for Fall 2020 remains a hybrid model. Switching to remote instruction is a temporary measure. Over the next week, the Berkeley International Office (BIO) will be issuing all new international students outside the US a new I 20 visa document to facilitate your application for a visa and your arrival into the US with the appropriate notation confirming our hybrid instructional model. Should you have any questions, please contact the Berkeley International Office.

Instructional Support

For graduate student instructors, the Graduate Division has created FAQs about fall instruction.

We will begin by providing remote access to academic services such as academic advisingtutoring and peer advising and will assess other options as public health conditions allow. We are exploring how technology can enhance our services, creating toolkits for staff, and following guidance to support equitable access including adhering to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) best practices and ensuring students have the technology they need to succeed.

The Campus Experience

The campus experience will begin remotely. There will not be opportunities to gather with groups of other students on campus at the start but we hope to switch to a more flexible approach should public health conditions allow. The State of California is currently drafting guidance for universities and colleges, we expect to share that soon. We will provide more information at

Students who do come to campus, including living in the residence halls and apartments, will be required to adhere to public health and safety requirements.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

We are committed to offering financial aid to support students in covering the estimated total cost of attendance, including tuition, housing, books, food needs, and more, whether they are living on or near campus or outside of the Bay Area with their family.

Students not living in on-campus housing are encouraged to update their “Cost of Attendance” information in CalCentral as soon as possible. Click on “Update Housing” and select “Living Off Campus.” Please review Financial Aid & Housing Updates for Fall 2020 for more detailed information. Should the standard allocation not match your actual living expenses, you may request a cost of living adjustment in mid-August.

On-Campus Housing

On-campus housing for students in the residential halls will be single occupancy only; you’ll get your own room. We will be able to accommodate all students who have received housing offers. Occupancy levels in apartments for undergraduate and graduate student and student family housing (University Village Albany) remain the same. All housing complexes will continue to have residential life, housing, custodial, maintenance, and other critical staff on site. Additional information is available at

Off-Campus Housing

We remind students that off-campus housing (including private apartments and houses, fraternities, sororities, and the co-ops) is not owned or managed by the university. You are more likely to contract and/or spread the virus if you live in crowded, congregate living environments. We advise that if you are living off-campus in Berkeley you have your own bedroom and you not socialize in person with anyone outside your household (the people sharing your apartment). For group living environments with large numbers of residents, we encourage students to create smaller social bubbles like we will have in the residential halls.

Preparing for Positive Cases

While we are working diligently to mitigate the spread, we will reserve space in the on-campus Foothill housing complex for students who have tested positive and are in isolation; are waiting for the results of their test; or have had close contact with a known positive and need quarantine under public health orders. We will make sure students have meal service and other resources they may need during the isolation/quarantine period. Students living in on-campus housing will be given priority but University Health Services will also oversee a small number of spaces at Foothill that will be available to house high risk students who live off campus, as appropriate. Students who are experiencing symptoms or think they have come in contact with a positive case should call the 24/7 Nurse Advice line at (510) 643-7197.

Final Thoughts

Our plans will, by necessity, evolve as we receive direction from public health officials. This is the case all over the country with cities, counties and states easing and then reintroducing restrictions. We are grateful for your patience and flexibility. These are challenging times but we continue to invest in a robust remote experience – both instruction and student engagement – to ensure students can have a full and meaningful university experience no matter where they are learning. The campus remains as resourceful, determined and resilient as our students. We will get through this together, and our shared journey through these difficult times will make us stronger.

Stay well, Bears.