Campus leaders optimistic for spring despite continued pandemic

Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Cathy Koshland provided insight into the past semester and a preview of the spring semester. (UC Berkeley video)

Despite the ongoing pandemic and the rise of a new variant, UC Berkeley has a lot to look forward to this spring semester, the school’s top leaders said Monday.

This optimism for the coming semester was discussed Monday by Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Cathy Koshland during the final Campus Conversation of the year.

“I’m so grateful for the resilience that faculty, staff and students have showed at Berkeley and the extraordinary work they have put into making this in-person semester a success,” Christ said. The campus has a lot of good news to be proud of, she said, including admitting the most diverse class of new students in more than 30 years.

The deep budgetary reductions of recent years may be a thing of the past, as state funding has grown, said Christ.

Finance reform will be a focus in the coming year as well, Christ said, with the goal of a streamlining the way funds are allocated to departments, schools and colleges.

Koshland said campus leaders spent the fall semester in consultation with deans and departments chairs on campus to make a plan. The work will continue this spring with a deep white-paper analysis.

“We are conscious of the fact that our services in certain areas have been less than optimum,” Koshland said. “So, we’re working closely with certain administrators to really improve service delivery where it really matters.”

In Fall of 2020, through the Semester in the Cloud program, UC Berkeley staff partnered with faculty and graduate students to create a semester unlike any other. (UC Berkeley video)

Philanthropy has also thrived at Berkeley. The campus has raised a total of $4.8 billion as part of the “Light the Way” fundraising campaign, which aims to raise $6 billion by the end of 2023.

Christ said those funds will contribute to the university’s push for new student housing, and academic innovations such as Berkeley’s new computational precision health program that bridges medicine, statistics, public health and computation to treat and prevent disease.

Other programs impacted include the Berkeley Discovery Initiative, which will enrich academic experiences for students by creating opportunities for research work inside and outside the classroom.

The campus is also working to improve faculty diversity by broadening applicant pools and increasing cluster hires in areas of research that have been previously underinvested, said Koshland.

University Health Services Assistant Vice Chancellor Guy Nicolette joined the end of the conversation to remind the campus community to stay vigilant during the winter break. Berkeley has not made any changes to its plans for the spring semester because of the Omicron variant, he said.

Nicolette said the campus will follow the latest COVID-19 developments and shift plans as needed. The pandemic, he said, has taken a toll on the University Health Services staff but they continue to persevere.

“I’m just so proud of the people that continue to show up, and know what we do is important,” said Nicolette.

Koshland said there is “joy and excitement” for what may be possible in the spring, and she thanked students, faculty and staff across campus for their resilience.

“I know a lot of people are feeling the effects of burnout, from such a long and stressful period,” Christ said. “So, I encourage you all, if you can, to really take a break to be with loved ones and family. To recharge, as this has been an enormously trying time.”