Cal Culture

150 Years of Women at UC Berkeley

What a journey it has been. This year marks 150 years since women were first admitted to Berkeley. To see just how far we’ve come, the California editorial team designed a timeline of women’s contributions to the university and the world. Today’s students stand on the shoulders of the late 19th century trailblazers studying engineering and agriculture in rooms dominated by men, and every pioneering scientist, artist, and politician who followed.

From the Fall 2020 issue of California.

Chancellor’s Letter: Navigating A Triple Crisis

I have always said that I like hard problems, but the current set of crises we are facing is challenging even my taste for the difficult. As a nation, we are facing three complexly inter-related series of events—the pandemic, the economic disruption resulting from it, and urgent self-questioning about social justice and systemic racism.

From the Fall 2020 issue of California.

Editor’s Note: Rewriting History

History has been written by the victors—and also by the men, it seems. It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed firsthand in the annals of this very magazine, which started in 1897 as the University of California Magazine and operated for many decades as the California Monthly before becoming simply California, in 2006.

From the Fall 2020 issue of California.

Together, Apart: A Musical Reunion Rings in the Solstice

Almost two decades after graduating, a group of 2002 UC Berkeley alums received an email from their old music professor. Would they like to get together again—at least, virtually—to create a video that might give people comfort during the pandemic? Nineteen of them responded with an enthusiastic “yes!”

It was April, and Marika Kuzma, professor of music emerita and director of the University Chorus and Chamber Chorus from 1990 until 2016, knew that the coronavirus would continue to prevent choirs from congregating—perhaps indefinitely.

The Legend of Indian Rock, Berkeley’s Bouldering Haven

THEY COME AT DAY’S END TO SCAMPER up the steps carved in the south face of the rock and sit and watch the sun set. Or they come earlier in the day, often bearing crash pads, to climb on the slightly overhanging face in the grotto-like area on the back side, called “The Pit.” Sometimes they come as a class, to geologize, or to learn about the mortar rocks where, for thousands of years, the Ohlone ground acorns into mash.

From the Summer 2020 issue of California.

Thousands Gather to March for Black Lives in Berkeley

On Saturday, a crowd of about three thousand met at Grove Park in South Berkeley to march down Martin Luther King Jr. Way to Berkeley Police headquarters and City Hall. The march, organized by UC Berkeley’s Black Student Union (BSU), was one of several concurrent demonstrations in Berkeley protesting police brutality and systemic racism, following weeks of nationwide protests inspired by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police.

A (Virtual) Day in the Life of A Berkeley Student

Under shelter-in-place our lives have gone digital: distance learning, virtual conferences, online cocktail hours, and more. As Internet usage is up, bandwidth has been strained. According to BroadbandNow, which provides comparison data about Internet service providers, average download speeds in Berkeley dropped 15 percent between February and March. At least we have ways of staying connected while remaining physically distant—even if it means some buffering. Here we imagine a day in the life of a Berkeley student.

From the Summer 2020 issue of California.

Chancellor’s Letter: How Berkeley Is Responding to COVID-19

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.

From the Summer 2020 issue of California.

Editor’s Note: Adjust Your Eyes.

Let me begin with heartfelt congratulations to the 2020 graduates of Berkeley who, like their peers across the country, were deprived of their commencement ceremonies by the coronavirus and the need for social distancing.

From the Summer 2020 issue of California.

Coronavirus Has Changed the Game for Alumni Travelers

In January of 2014, a woman in her 80s, who sometimes used a cane to walk, stood on a platform hundreds of feet up in the canopy of a Costa Rican forest, getting ready to leap into the sky.

“Nobody thought it was a good idea,” says Darek DeFreece, who was president of the Cal Alumni Association at the time. CAA was leading the trip through its Cal Discoveries Travel program. “I went and talked to her, and she said, ‘Look, I’ve got one more chance to do this in my life, and I want to go.’”

Housing Insecure Students Face an Uncertain Future

Rebecca Alturk would have graduated from UC Berkeley in May. As she crossed the stage to retrieve her diploma, cheered on by her mother and 6-year-old son, she might have reflected on her childhood living in motel rooms between evictions, or her rocky start at Cal, trying to balance raising an infant with a full course-load.

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