We’re grateful to everyone who pre-submitted questions to the December 8, 2021 Graduate Student Town Hall and who spoke up during the event with specific questions and concerns. During the event, our panelists — Lisa García Bedolla, Dr. Amy Honigman, Dr. Peter Cornish, Dr. Kate Perry, and the five Peer Support Providers —  collectively weighed in with guidance and suggestions. Below, we’ve condensed and combined their contributions to most effectively answer your questions.

If you have additional questions, please reach out to your GSAO, the appropriate staff member at the Graduate Division, or the Peer Support Providers who have a wealth of resources to guide you.

Work/Life Culture

Make time for self care, eat healthy, practice mindfulness exercises, and schedule activities that provide enjoyment. CalLink and Berkeley student Facebook groups list many social events. Also, create an organized daily schedule that outlines boundaries and includes time for relaxation. Our brains integrate information much better when we have downtime to synthesize information so the key is giving yourself that permission. Berkeley’s Peer Support Providers have compiled many campus resources to help with balance and relieving stress.

While failure is often not considered an option, it’s important to put your wellness first. Taking pressure off oneself is critical; while grades are important, graduate school is about personal and professional growth and that sometimes means making mistakes. While we don’t want to encourage incompetence, try to accept that assignments won’t always be perfect.

Also, establishing good relationships with your professors early on can make it easier to discuss feelings of overwhelm, and easier for professors to suggest solutions and offer support. Cohort groups and trusted peers who share the same experiences can also amplify issues to faculty, so it’s useful to share feelings of stress and overwhelm with peers.

Graduate Division leadership has also been working with the Council of Deans and the Cabinet to adjust how success is defined for graduate students — appreciating that there are many different ways to engage effectively in your education without harming your physical and mental well being.Lastly, UCOP has recently released a guide for UC faculty and staff to support and promote student mental health.

It’s important to have perspective and remember that being in academia is still a job and not your life. Maintaining space and creating boundaries to be able to focus on what matters in your life are essential to counterbalance those things you don’t always have agency in.

Also, comparison is the thief of joy, so try to remind yourself why you’re doing this work, what kind of impact you’re having, rather than getting caught up in winning awards or focusing too much on others’ accomplishments.

Practicing self-compassion can help counter the criticism and harshness that is common in academic culture. Self-Compassion, a book by former Berkeley grad student, Kristin Neff was recommended by Dr. Amy Honigman as a good resource.

Lastly, recognize that external and environmental factors create conditions that are stressful and lead to depression and mental illness. Social action, activism, and giving back can provide a feeling of empowerment.

Health & Wellness

CAPS is looking at increased funding and is in the design phase of what mental health programs should look like, what services are best for the multiple identities that comprise our Berkeley community, and to what extent we need to invest in things like universal design, prevention, complex care, and ongoing support. With respect to the session limit, there is no session limit. However because of capacity restrictions — there is a huge challenge worldwide in recruiting mental health providers — it’s impossible to actually promise unlimited visits.

CAPS is looking to build a mix of services, set up providers that can make use of insurance, and find the best budget model that will minimize co-pays. Also, the GA has provided funding for an additional wellness counselor specifically for graduate students.

There are a number of counseling groups offered via CAPS including graduate women’s and men’s groups, as well as groups for meditation, stress, sleep and a number of groups for underserved populations.

University Health Services is currently having aggressive conversations with SHIP insurance providers as we’re working to transform the system. Coverage for gender affirming care has expanded significantly over the past few years, which is the direct result of ongoing student, faculty, and staff advocacy. SHIP does provide coverage for many gender affirming medical procedures, including fertility preservation.

The UHS gender affirming care webpage provides resources, and outlines services and procedures currently covered by SHIP. Students can reach out to Jaiza Jones or Allison Aiken, MD, co-chairs for the UHS Trans Leadership Team (TLT). Students should also know they can email [email protected] with feedback.

Basic Needs Support

The Basic Needs Center should be your first point of contact to help you navigate the different options available. While we are in a resource scarce situation on campus, we’re doing our best to target resources to the most vulnerable members of the campus community, so please start there. They have a dedicated graduate student specialist.

In terms of rental assistance, the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program that was part of the tier-three funding is still available. In addition, there are still additional funding and grants going out through state innovation funding in the Basic Needs Center. Also, the third round of CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief funding should be distributed this month in advance of the holiday break.

We’ve been working hard to implement a policy, starting in the fall 2022 entering class, that guarantees all admitted doctoral students 12 months funding at $34,000 for five years. About half our departments are already above that but we are trying to get all the other departments to that level. We appreciate people are very concerned this will create inequities within programs and so we’re working to address those.

The Graduate Division has committed some of our reserves to try to smooth this transition and will be working over the next few months to identify other funding sources within units in order to try to bring all doctoral students up to a higher baseline level.


We have been working with the new graduate student specialist to reaffirm and strengthen our relationship with DSP and think about how Berkeley can be a leader, not only in universal design, but to fundamentally rethink how to manage both disability and neurodiversity within our educational structures.

We have been working with the director of the Graduate Assembly Disability Advocacy Project and the Disabled Students Program to support their 7-point plan that includes this town hall; a “Gold Folder” style resource guide for advisors to support students with disabilities; seeking resources for support of students whose normative time is extended due to disability accommodations; and advocating for a Learning Disability specialist within CAPS/UHS. We are also hiring a new GSR/Teaching Consultant to start in January who is a specialist in Universal Design for Learning.

All first-time GSIs are introduced to trauma-informed pedagogy through our video on inclusive teaching that is part of the GSI Teaching Conference. We also include several selected resources posted along with the video. We are hiring a new GSR/Teaching Consultant as of January who is a specialist in Universal Design for Learning. GSIs should feel free to contact us if they have questions or would like additional information. They are free to join the conference bCourse site where the asynchronous videos are housed.

The Graduate Division is working currently with campus partners, including the Division of Equity & Inclusion and the Office for the Prevention of Harassment & Discrimination (OPHD) to develop a defined system of reporting acts of discrimination and harassment. Students should report incidents to OPHD.  The Office also provides resources, resolution processes, and other useful information. Students can also seek confidential support from the Student Ombuds to report and resolve these issues.

Spring Acommodations

Any plans we make are contingent upon public health conditions at the time, but for now we are planning for the spring default instruction to be in person, regardless of class size. The good news is that it appears very few of the cases on campus this past semester were from classroom interactions — most were from off campus social events.

Instructors or GSIs who have a medical reason to teach remotely can go through the academic accommodation process through the office of faculty welfare and the academic personnel office.

Instructors are encouraged to remain flexible with regards to absences. Research, Teaching, and Learning (RTL) has continued to increase the number of course-capture enabled general assignment classrooms over the fall semester, and will continue to do so over winter break. Classroom technology and support will continue to be available.

Labor Relations

UCOP and the UAW recently came to an agreement about the membership of this new bargaining unit. It will include existing GSR titles, GSRAs at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and two new titles: trainee and fellow. All will be part of the new bargaining unit. Once PERB recognizes the new unit, contract bargaining will begin.


The Student Services Fee is a registration fee that is assessed at the same level system-wide. Campus-Based Fees are specific to each campus and support various student services, programs, and facilities, and can be proposed and voted on by the student body. At Berkeley, they include fees that support the student government, sustainability initiatives, student recruitment and retention, basic needs grants, and campus recreation and wellness programs.
This page includes a full list of the fees that comprise the “Campus Fee – Grad/Law.”