Cal Culture

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.

From Prison to Ph.D.: Berkeley’s Formerly Incarcerated Students

JAMES CARLIN WATCHED A SMALL AIRPLANE snake over the field beyond the barbed wire fence at Deuel Vocational Institution, a state prison in Tracy, about 60 miles east of Berkeley. He’d seen the plane before. It came at daybreak, flying low and trailing behind it a plume of chemicals. As his years in prison passed, Carlin began to notice a pattern. Each time the plane came, red bumps blistered the skin of the men lifting weights on the yard. Carlin had read environmentalist Rachel Carson; he thought the chemicals and the rashes must be related. Then it got worse.

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

Editor’s Note: Show Student-Athletes the Money

There’s money in college sports. Lots of it. 

March Madness, the national basketball tournament, alone brings in more than $900 million annually for the NCAA, the nonprofit that oversees college athletics in America. And big-time college football generates even more revenue than basketball. The athletes who play these sports, however, reap none of that windfall and are, in fact, forbidden by the time-honored rules of amateurism, from profiting off their sport. 

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

Chancellor’s Letter: Lighting the Way

Last month, we formally launched a comprehensive fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $6 billion for Berkeley—a historic target for any public university and one of the most ambitious in all of higher education. 

The goals and aspirations for the campaign connect directly to the challenges and opportunities our University faces at a decisive moment in its life, at a time when our societal and academic role has never been more important.

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

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