Congratulations on making it through a challenging year! On behalf of the Graduate Division, I want to congratulate you on your achievements and thank you for patience and resilience as we have all co-navigated this wildly unpredictable time. I also wanted to take this opportunity to summarize the most common questions posed during our Graduate Student Town Hall on April 29th and direct you to our event recording and evolving return-to-campus webpage for additional information.
At our town hall, I was joined by Dr. Anna Harte, Medical Director of University Health Services, who addressed students’ questions and concerns about the proposed vaccine mandate, exemptions, preventative campus measures, surveillance testing, and travel restrictions. Additionally, Allison Henry, Berkeley’s Chief Information Security Officer, spoke on the topic of the UC data breach and the steps students (and all affected) should take to protect their identities and credit.
I have broken down our town hall by categories, but also encourage you to watch the recording because this list is not exhaustive!
Testing, PPE, Vaccines, Exemptions, and COVID Precautions
To summarize, the university expects UCOP to pass a policy requiring all students, faculty, and staff to receive a COVID vaccine, with exceptions for religious or medical conditions reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Pending UCOP guidance, we expect to accept international vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, and UHS plans to provide vaccines through University Health Services if students were unable to obtain a vaccine prior to their arrival at Berkeley. The university expects to continue regular (likely weekly) surveillance testing of unvaccinated individuals, supplemented by wastewater testing; vaccinated individuals may be asked to participate in surveillance testing on a random or targeted basis if epidemiology warrants. While this is what we expect to happen in the fall, know that we will be following state and county guidelines, which could change at any time.
We expect the state will lift density restrictions in June, and our current plan is to continue to require mask wearing indoors, including in classrooms, buildings, and workspaces, excepting in private offices.
Instruction and Orientation
Given that classes will be primarily in-person, students should plan to be present on campus. Exceptions for international student employees with visa-related or travel restrictions, or student employees with medically-documented accommodations, will be considered on an individual basis. Please reach out to your department/hiring unit and/or the Berkeley International Office to evaluate your options.
You may search the “mode of instruction” filter in the Academic Guide’s Class Schedule or the Cal Central Schedule of Classes to see which classes are remote, in-person, hybrid, or pending. Please consult with your academic advisor if you need remote options and are unable to find suitable alternatives.
We are not expecting graduate student instructors to teach in a synchronous hybrid mode (meaning, teaching students in-person on campus and simultaneously streaming to students by video). Instead of synchronous hybrid instruction, we are asking instructors to consider providing an option for asynchronous access to their lectures by recording and uploading content to bCourses.
The Graduate Division will be offering virtual New Graduate Student Orientation August 17-24 for new graduate and professional students starting in fall 2021. We will also be planning a different virtual orientation for graduate students who started in fall 2020. In addition to these virtual orientations, we will be providing opportunities for small group meetups.
Departmental Activities and Research
Pending the lifting of density restrictions by the state in June, the university plans to permit departmental and research activities, travel to conferences, and in-person lectures and seminars.
The UC Residency Policy and Guidelines have been temporarily amended to allow for continuing students who attended Berkeley remotely during the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters to count that attendance toward their physical presence requirement. However, these students will still have to assure us by way of a signed statement that they intend to arrive in California prior to the Fall 2021 start of instruction. These students must also acquire California legal intent (i.e. driver’s license, voter’s registration, and/or vehicle registration) as soon as is practicable upon their arrival. Visit the Office of Registrar’s Service Adjustment webpage for more information.
Incoming students should plan to arrive in Berkeley by August 23, 2021 to establish residency for Fall 2022.
Students who are unable to obtain a visa and/or are unable to enter the U.S. due to travel bans should consult their departmental advisor regarding the availability of online classes or the option to defer enrollment until the next semester.
Guidance for international students is rapidly changing. Please visit the Berkeley International Office (BIO) website for current information.
At the time of the town hall, BIO plans to review cases with documented visa delays on an individual basis and most likely allow those individuals to continue to work remotely from abroad until they can get their visa and arrive in the United States. This will likely be the only reason the university will allow someone to work remotely from abroad.
UC Data Breach
Our Information Security Office (ISO) encourages you to sign up for free Experian identity monitoring service (use enrollment code JCZGTC333), freeze your credit, and create a “mySocial Security” account with the Social Security Administration if you have not done so already. Our office also recommends monitoring your financial activity to ensure no unusual charges show up in your accounts, and potentially reach out to your banks to let them know that your bank numbers may have been exposed. Read ISO’s complete recommendations.
We don’t know if UCOP will be extending the free Experian credit monitoring service beyond a year. Because yearly credit reports, credit freezes, and fraud alerts are free, we encourage you to continue to take these precautions. If you find that someone has misused your identity, file a police report, report it to the IRS (if it involved your SSN or tax information) and the Social Security Administration. For more information, visit UC’s webpage for up-to-date details and recommendations regarding the Accellion data breach.
I hope you are able to take time this summer to recharge for fall and spend time with loved ones. We in the Graduate Division are greatly looking forward to welcoming you back to campus in the fall!
Fiat Lux and Go Bears!