On February 20, the University of California (UC), Berkeley updated their Long Range Development Plan for expanding the Goldman School of Public Policy. This update includes an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). In this document, a table was included; it appears to show that the “headcount” or students regularly on campus will increase from 40,955 to 44,735. This is almost a 4,000 student increase.
The significance of this table was pushed by news sites such as Berkeleyside, who ran headlines such as: “UC Berkeley’s student enrollment projected to reach 44,735 in next 3 years.” There are divisions in the Berkeley community between members of the City Council and representatives of UC Berkeley as to what this document really means.
Assistant Vice Chancellor for the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at UC Berkeley, Dan Mogulof, claimed that putting down a 4,000 student increase stems from the school being mindful about the number of students they enroll in the future.
This is to ensure that they are prepared for environmental impacts if more students are admitted. “We do not anticipate further growth in the student population,” Mogulof said. “But given that the Berkeley campus does not, on its own, decide how many students to enroll — that’s left to the Regents of the University of California — we decided, for the purposes of the D-SEIR to estimate conservatively in order to analyze the greatest possible impacts of the student population in the future,” said Mogulof. The UC Regents are the governing board of the entire UC system and they decide the enrollment levels of UC Berkeley, not the administration.
The Berkeley City Council Representative for District 4, Kate Harrison, believes the new document indicates that in the past, there was an unprecedented growth in the UC Berkeley student population. UC Berkeley “tried to include the increase of student numbers in an Environmental Impact Report,” said Councilmember Harrison. Harrison explained how she and other council members were shocked by the report, and said “they had this Environmental Impact Report for this project and then they go, ‘Oh by the way we’re adding 11,000 people.’” Harrison cited the wrong figure, the supposed increase would be 4,000, not 11,000 students.
Another section of the table in the EIR was updating their Long Range Development Plan to reflect the current enrollment in UC Berkeley. There are currently 33 percent more students in the school than was originally anticipated.
According to Councilmember Harrison, the large increase in students has placed a great strain on public resources. “A large percentage of ambulance trips are UC students. There is impact on our sewers, impact on our parks, [and] on our ability to provide enough open space,” she said. Increased enrollment “has a general strain on our public services,” she added.
A comment session was held on March 12 between the UC Regents. At this meeting, no developments were made regarding the general plan. The UC Regents are planning to hold a meeting soon to decide whether to approve the amendment.