UC Berkeley Admissions Has Been Saved

Thousands of accepted students could have been denied from entering UC Berkeley after the state Supreme Court ordered the university earlier this month to freeze student enrollment at 42,347. The ruling came as an initial result of an ongoing legal fight between UC Berkeley and a local community organization over the environmental impact of a proposed expansion plan by the school. However, a bill was passed on Monday to give the school some time to comply with the law, allowing the students to enter the campus as planned.

Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, a group of Berkeley residents, has accused the university of failing to provide enough on-campus housing while admitting a large number of students, many of whom are from out of state or other countries. However, stopping enrollment at that level means the university—already one of the nation’s most selective—would have 3,050 fewer seats for incoming first-year and transfer students than originally planned for fall 2022. Typically, UC Berkeley said, it offers admission to about 21,000 first-year and transfer students and about 9,500 of them enroll.

Berkeley’s examination of the environmental implications of increased enrollment was determined to be incorrect in August. The court ordered the university to maintain enrollment at the same level as the 2020–21 school year, which was lower due to the Covid pandemic, according to the institution. The study was carried out as a part of the university’s Upper Hearst Project, which aimed to expand academic facilities and provide housing for faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers.

Assemblymember Phil Ting, a UC Berkeley alum who co-sponsored the bill with state Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, blamed the university in part for failing to properly plan for campus growth. “I don’t think the students should really pay the price for bad bureaucratic decisions and a very poor lawyer,” Ting said on Monday.

The bill’s authors hoped it would put an end to the debate. However, the president of the group Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, Phil Bokovoy, says that the newly approved legislation is badly designed, which would cause more litigation.

“UC Berkeley does not have the capacity to handle more students,” Bokovoy says as a UC Berkeley alumnus living near its campus, “we don’t want new students to have to live in their cars.”

Despite the fact that the law was written to address a specific issue at UC Berkeley, it applies to all state higher education institutions. It does not, however, incorporate larger reforms that both parties have advocated for.

Democratic Senator Scott Wiener from San Francisco said the environmental protection law has been “distorted beyond recognition.” He said that anyone with enough money to hire a lawyer can now delay or block even the environmentally sustainable projects, such as bike lanes, public transportation, and clean energy projects.

Although there is a growing interest in the reform from both political parties, the question of whether there is the political will to make the change remains.


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