Dear I-House Community -
Since the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Board of Directors, the senior management team, and the dedicated staff of the International House at UC Berkeley have worked tirelessly to keep I-House open and available for the housing and dining needs of our diverse community. Through the collective and exceptional efforts and determination of staff and residents alike we have been able to do so - with no resident or staff COVID-19 infections - through the 2019-20 academic year. We write to you today to provide an update on the status of I-House operations and the recent decision of the Board of Directors to suspend I-House operations temporarily for the fall academic semester and potentially for the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year.
As the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and our collective understanding of the virus have grown, particularly as they apply to the operations of the I-House building and the safety of our residents, the Board has made the unwelcomed, but necessary, decision to suspend operations temporarily for at least the fall academic semester. This decision to begin an orderly suspension of I-House operations for the fall was unanimously approved by the Board on Friday July 17, 2020, in order to protect and maintain the health and safety of the residents and staff and to avoid potentially and precipitously having to shut down the House in the event of an outbreak within the House during the academic term, an event which would significantly disrupt the studies and lives of our residents and which would be much harder for staff to manage effectively. This decision will not affect current residents of I-House who will continue to have access to the House and its services through the expiration of their Resident Agreement on August 15, 2020.
As you know, I-House was designed to foster cross-cultural exchange and learning through its numerous community activities and communal spaces such as the Library, Great Hall, study rooms, common area lounges, the Dining Commons, and living areas. The Board, working closely with staff, the University, and outside public health resources, examined a great many possible physical changes to the House and enhanced disinfection practices to better protect residents and staff. Ultimately, however, the Board concluded that at the anticipated resident levels, there was still an unacceptably high probability that one or more of our residents or staff would become Covid-19 positive and that protecting our residents and staff from infection would be difficult, particularly given the I-House’s communal bathrooms and other common areas and limited options for quarantine. While all of the wonderful features of our historic building have served our mission well in the past, today they represent a challenge to maintain public health safety guidelines to keep residents and staff healthy and safe.
All residents who sought to join our I-House community this fall have been notified of the Board’s decision and, with the strong support and assistance of the University’s Campus Housing Office, have been offered alternative housing options on campus. In support of our residents, I-House has waived all fees and deposits already made for the upcoming terms and is working to expedite reimbursements and to assist current and prospective residents in securing alternative housing arrangements. These uncertain times have been especially challenging for low-income and international students who are unable to return to their homes. We are mindful of these challenges and will work with these individuals to support their efforts to find safe and affordable alternative housing.
Although this decision (both the actual temporary closure of I-House and the eventual reopening of I-House) will put significant strains on I-House’s financial resources, our primary consideration is to ensure the health and well-being of our residents and staff. Please know that the Board’s decision was made with great reluctance, but with confidence that this decision aligned with our responsibilities to first and foremost protect the well-being of residents, staff, and the long-term mission of the International House. While the I-House building may be temporarily closed, our mission to create community and opportunities to foster international peace and understanding will continue, albeit in perhaps new and different ways. We will continue to provide updates to you on those efforts and on our plans for the reopening of I-House. As the situation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve rapidly, we encourage you to visit our website regularly at ihouse.berkeley.edu for current updates, information, and responses to Frequently Asked Questions.
Finally, on behalf of the Board and the staff of International House, we want to again express our immeasurable gratitude for the unwavering support and commitment to I-House and its mission that so many of you, our alumni and friends throughout the world, have shown and continue to show – especially in these trying times.
Jamy Faulhaber, Vice Chair
On behalf of the Board of Directors of International House