"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," said UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ in a letter to students on Tuesday.
School is set to begin for the fall semester at UC Berkeley on August 26, and as of now it will be fully remote and online after an uptick in cases both on campus this summer, and in the local community. As Berkeleyside reported Tuesday, the pivot to online-only may not last the entire semester, however the school is planning to do only remote classes after the Thanksgiving break, in order to allow students to stay put where they are and not travel unnecessarily over the holidays.
"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,” the school said in an announcement. “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 partway through a term."
The change in plans comes after the school saw 47 COVID-19 cases linked to parties at fraternities and sororities in late June and early July, and as the city of Berkeley is seeing its first significant uptick in cases since the pandemic began. Also, the Cal campus saw 25 new COVID cases in just the last week which the Mercury News reported were mostly linked to frat parties earlier this month.
The City of Berkeley has its own public health department that operates separately from Alameda County's, and the city has seen 341 confirmed COVID-19 cases since March — compared to over 9,000 in the county at large. But as recently as June 30 the city had only 165 confirmed cases, meaning that the case total has more than doubled in just three weeks.
Stanford University began laying out plans in late June for a hybrid model in which about half of all undergraduate students would be allowed back on campus, but most classes would still be conducted online. Priority for housing will be given to students whose homes would hinder any remote learning, students experiencing homelessness, international students, and student-athletes approved to prepare for and compete in their intercollegiate seasons — though it's still not clear that any sports will be happening.
The university said it would be implementing "significant restrictions on in-person classroom use, dorm life, social life, guests and travel" when the fall semester begins.
Photo: Wally Gobetz