The last literary essay I wrote was about dystopian fiction. At the time, in 2016, I had been struck by the publication, within the space of a few months, of a large number of novels offering visions of the future in which some catastrophe—climate change, natural disaster, financial collapse, a pandemic—destroys society as we know it, plunging humankind back into a nightmarish anti-Eden. I was curious about what such novels—written by authors who did not characteristically write science fiction—said about our current state of mind, our anxieties and fears.
As you read this, a new academic year is getting underway on the Berkeley campus. It’s a wonderful time of renewal and excitement; an excellent opportunity to reflect on the road we have recently traveled as well as the one that lies ahead.
In the fall of 2017, the #MeToo movement drew national headlines that focused the country’s attention on the issue of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. The poignant narratives courageously shared as part of #MeToo make sexual harassment feel viscerally real, even to people who may think they have largely been spared from its effects. Such stories powerfully illustrate the depth and lasting nature of sexual harassment’s impact in our society.
Picture this: It’s past 2 a.m. on October 1, and Berkeley is finally asleep. The night owls have started to nod off at their desks, and the early risers won’t be up for a few more hours. At first glance, not a creature seems to be stirring—not even a Kiwibot.
Posted on October 2, 2018 - 11:22am
Even though college students and faculty rarely wear the long, black medieval gowns symbolic of their status, the term “town and gown” still denotes the relationship between a college or university and its local community. The quality of that relationship can vary over time, as it has here, when interests converge and diverge. Yet, our campus and neighboring communities all benefit when we are able to collaborate for the greater good. And that is exactly what we are now doing to address the paired, pressing challenges of housing and homelessness, on our campus and in our city.
It is a time of great change both at Berkeley and across all of higher education. Many of the parameters that shape colleges and universities are undergoing rapid transformation—funding models, student expectations, demographics, the ways in which we receive and communicate information. In order to thrive in this environment and era of change, I believe that we must collectively establish a cohesive, well-reasoned, and ambitious vision of what our university should be in order to properly set institutional priorities and determine campus investments.
In September, the university went to extraordinary lengths to support our commitments to free speech and the safety of our campus community. On September 14, at the invitation of the Berkeley College Republicans, the conservative speaker Ben Shapiro addressed an audience at Zellerbach Hall. His speech was not interrupted, and protests outside the hall were peaceful.
On a late morning in July, 17 days after formally beginning work as Berkeley’s 11th chancellor, Carol Tecla Christ sat in her sunlit office in California Hall, reflecting on the meaning of her new job title. “It’s essentially a representational role,” she said. “As the chancellor, you’re the storyteller-in-chief.”
In my first months as chancellor, I’ve been thinking a lot about journeys. I remember vividly the first one I made to California to take up my faculty position here. I was a young, freshly minted Ph.D.; I drove across the country with a friend, and it was the first time I had been west of the Mississippi. Indeed, it was the first time I had been west of Philadelphia.