Campus news

Update on student engagement and services for fall 2020

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen C. Sutton, Vice Chancellor of Equity & Inclusion Oscar Dubón, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division Lisa García Bedolla, Special Faculty Advisor to the Chancellor on Sexual Violence/Sexual Harassment Sharon Inkelas and Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Catherine P. Koshland sent the following message to the campus community on Thursday:

As you know, we will start the fall 2020 semester with remote instruction and by offering student services remotely. As leaders of the Student Engagement and Services Recovery Management Team, we want to share updates about how we plan to support you and about our readiness plans under the evolving circumstances.

You also are invited to learn more during our upcoming Student Experience Conversation: Student Engagement and Services : Tuesday, August 11, 5 to 6 p.m. Submit questions during the event on Facebook .

First, although we will start fall with remote instruction and services, please know that we continue preparations to implement hybrid and/or flexible modes of instruction as soon as public health conditions and testing capacity allow.

Also, even if we offer some instruction or services via a hybrid model at some point during the semester, please be aware that students will be able to attend all of their classes and receive all of their services remotely.

The Student Engagement and Services Recovery Management Team has been working this summer to explore how we can improve our remote services, prepare for a hybrid approach, and better support students and student advising staff. Below are several key tools we are developing to improve remote services, guided by our core principles: student-centered; equity-focused; flexible and adaptable; collective mindset and community spirit; and grounded in student and community wellness.

Toolkits for advisors for building community and belonging

The pandemic has exacerbated existing injustices and inequities. We are committed to making sure our remote offerings create equity and access to services, engagement opportunities, and community-building activities. Advising staff will serve students in many time zones to ensure students living away from California can still receive services.

We are closing campus computer labs, including in the libraries, due to health and safety risks, but we are using the Student Technology Equity Program to address the digital divide. Students in need of computing support, such as laptops and WiFi hotspots, should contact STEP via the website.

We are developing accessibility guidelines and best practices for advising appointments, presentations and workshops, and large outreach events so that we can ensure our services are accessible to students of all abilities. Advising offices will have opportunities to vet their tools and processes with the Disabled Students Program and the Office of Disability Access and Compliance, as well as to evaluate the impact of their own programs and services on specific communities of s tudents (i.e., low income, LGBTQ+, students of color, student parents, etc.).

Open study spaces for students

We will start the semester remotely, and we will not have any large gatherings on campus this fall. As public health conditions and testing capacity allow us to resume more activities on campus, the top priorities will be instructional and research spaces. We will then prioritize study spaces for students.

We plan to create structured outdoor spaces using, for example, chalk circles for physical distancing and enhanced wireless internet signals. As public health conditions permit, we plan to have a student-centered space, such as the MLK Student Union or the library, open to students for limited amounts of time. Access would be controlled to limit the number of people in at one time; facial coverings and physical distancing would be required. If study spaces become possible, the amount of time spent there by any single s tudent will be limited — these have been identified as typical spaces to spend no more than several hours in.

Please note: we are still awaiting state guidelines for colleges and universities which may provide further restrictions and limitations.

Social norms campaign and escalation protocol

Work is already under way for a public-health education campaign focused on setting social norms for how students engage and interact. We are also developing an escalation protocol with equity and safety in mind. The campus will clearly communicate what is required and will provide students with the support that they need to comply.

All students using campus facilities will be required to sign a Keep Berkeley Healthy Pledge before being able to access physical spaces. Our approach focuses on accountability with developmental and educational principles, reserving punitive sanctions for repeat and/or egregious offences (such as deliberately wiping your face on someone). While we hope that it is rare, refusing to comply with requirements such as physical distancing and facial coverings will result in consequences that could include being excluded from campus altogether. Be aware that off campus, the City of Berkeley (and possibly Oakland and other surrounding communities) can impose fines and even cite people criminally for failing to comply with public health orders.

Community Ambassador work-study positions

While the university offers many programs and resources, students also need the opportunity to cocreate or build communities of belonging themselves. As an added benefit, peer-to-peer support structures may be uniquely able to identify emerging needs of students, promote belonging within departments, and provide services during hours when the department does not. We are exploring creating work-study positions so different departments can have a student worker who can assist with building community.

Training and conversation opportunities for staff, instructors, students

We will offer a variety of toolkits for advising staff and campus departments to improve their remote services. To help them learn how to use these toolkits, we will continue to offer training and create spaces where they can learn from their peers.

We will also offer workshops for students on adapting to remote learning and creating virtual communities. Training will also be offered for registered student organizations so they can create virtual communities as well.

Next steps

We will roll out the toolkits and training soon and post them to the Advising Matters website . They are the culm ination of an entire summer’s worth of planning and preparing.

As we near the start of classes, we are excited about gathering together virtually and making this journey with you.