As we close out this tumultuous and exhausting year, I am profoundly grateful for your flexibility and resilience, and for the staff, faculty, and partners who are doing their best to support you in all aspects of your life, well-being, and academic success.
Looking forward to spring, I wanted to highlight some of the key concerns and questions raised at our recent Graduate Student Fireside Chat. The answers (provided below) may assist you in finding resources and basic needs support in the new year.
I, along with six campus leaders, hosted this intimate meeting for graduate students in order to answer questions and hear suggestions about basic needs support, including housing, technology access, mental health/health care, and financial support. I am including a high-level summary of what we discussed, as well as any changes we plan to make next semester or academic year. Our communications team will launch a publicity campaign in January to make certain graduate students always have the most accurate information on available basic needs support.
- Health Services: Peter Cornish, UC Berkeley’s new director of Counseling and Psychological Services, discussed a new service program called Protocol that will help out-of-state and international students access local mental health providers. To access support regardless of location, schedule a one-time “Let’s talk” drop-in consultation.
- Housing: Assistant Vice Chancellor Jo Mackness outlined efforts to communicate about graduate student housing priorities and how the university is balancing rent increases with individualized plans for students who cannot pay rent.
- Financial Assistance: I gave an overview of how graduate funding works at Berkeley, and how departments and the Graduate Division work together to fund students. If you need financial assistance, please reach out to your department’s Graduate Student Affairs Officer for departmental funds first, and if funds are not available, apply for relief through the Basic Needs Holistic Support Application, which will reopen in January.
- Technology Access: Students inquired about the STEP program and funding priorities. This program was funded through philanthropy and hardware is still available for students most in need. Submit an online application.
- Equity in Opportunity: I’m very aware that unwritten rules tend to not serve minoritized students, so I’m working on making Graduate Division policies and practices as transparent as possible. Among other efforts, we are working to create a centralized place where all open GSI positions on campus are advertised. As a reminder, UCOP has approved 128 hours of COVID leave (prorated based on the appointment percentage) for GSIs. Please review these FAQs and discuss any questions with your department’s Faculty Adviser for GSI Affairs.
- General Basic Needs Support: Assistant Vice Chancellors Fabrizio Mejia, Sunny Lee, and Samuel Santos discussed the various holistic ways the university is thinking about basic needs. We encourage you to contact the Basic Needs Center to discuss what options might work best for you, including options to access support at other UC campuses.
- International Students: Ivor Emmanuel, Director of Berkeley’s International Office, affirmed that BIO’s advice for the spring semester is very similar to that in the fall semester. For the most up-to-date advice for international students, please visit their COVID FAQ page or make an appointment for one-on-one advising.
We will be communicating more detailed information about basic needs at the start of the spring semester. I wish you and yours a joyful and peaceful holiday season and all the best in the coming year.
Lisa García Bedolla
Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division