Campus Reform | Judge freezes enrollment at UC-Berkeley citing 'physical environment' concerns

Judge freezes enrollment at UC-Berkeley citing 'physical environment' concerns

A judge has ordered UC-Berkeley to freeze its enrollment beginning in the academic year 2022-2023, citing environmental concerns.

UC-Berkeley hopes to have the order lifted within the year so the school can proceed with enrollment increases.

A local California judge issued an order which freezes enrollment at the University of California, Berkeley, because future enrollment increases could have an "adverse" impact on the "physical environment."

According to Berkeleyside.org, an Alameda County Superior Court judge made the ruling on August 23 which suspends "any further increases in student enrollment" at the university beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year. Under the order, UC-Berkeley will be barred from increasing enrollment beyond their 2020-2021 numbers.

"Further increases in student enrollment above the current enrollment level at UC Berkeley could result in an adverse change or alteration to the physical environment," the order states. "[UC-Berkeley is] ordered to suspend any further increases in student enrollment at UC Berkeley, in academic years 2022-2023 and later, above the level of student enrollment in academic year 2020-2021."

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The judge stated in the order that once UC-Berkeley redoes their supplemental environmental impact report for a new building on campus and demonstrates "full compliance" with the order, the decision may be reversed. 

Under the California Environmental Quality Act, state and local government entities are required to submit a report studying the environmental impact of their project.

A separate July 9 order by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman states that UC-Berkeley's current supplemental environmental impact report is "legally insufficient in several respects."

The judge ordered the university to complete a more in-depth review and address issues such as how increases in student enrollment impact noise as well as its impact on housing in Berkeley, Berkeleyside.org reports. 

The original lawsuit was filed by Save Berkeley's Neighborhoods, who describe themselves as a group aimed at protecting "Berkeley’s unique quality of life." 

A page on Save Berkeley's Neighborhoods' website states that one of their "active campaigns" is informing Berkeley residents about the "failure" of UC-Berkeley to study the environmental impacts of student enrollment increases.

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"We are reaching out to Berkeley neighborhoods to inform residents about the U.C. Berkeley’s failure to study the environmental impacts of the huge increase in student enrollment and its failure to mitigate the impacts on our community," the page states.

Dan Mogulof, the assistant vice chancellor for public affairs at UC-Berkeley told Campus Reform that the university is optimistic the order will be overturned once they re-submit the environmental report.

"We are optimistic that we can file documents with the court very soon that will satisfy the judgment with regard to future increases in enrollment," Mogulof said. "It will probably take the university between six and eight months to address the requirements of the judgment with regard to the Upper Hearst project.  We are confident that the court will ultimately permit us to proceed with the Upper Heart project."

Mogulof added that "Berkeley has not been designated by the UC system as a growth campus and, as stated in our recently approved Long Range Development Plan, we are not, in any event, anticipating that enrollment growth will exceed 1% on an annual basis."