Cal Culture

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.

International House, Cal’s Pillar of Diversity, Celebrates 90 Years

FOR INTERNATIONAL HOUSE ALUMNA BERNICE TAJIMA, the days after February 19, 1942, were a race against the clock. President Roosevelt had just signed an executive order forcibly relocating people of Japanese descent from their West Coast homes to internment camps across the country. In this climate of extreme suspicion, UC Berkeley’s I-House protected its residents. With the help of I-House staff, Tajima transferred to Chicago’s I-House just in time and escaped internment.

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

Meet the Critters of Cal’s Campus

Campus is teeming with more than just students; a wide variety of wildlife can also be found in Berkeley’s backyard. From the mountain lions that roam around the Lawrence Hall of Science to the three-spined sticklebacks in Strawberry Creek, here are a few of the critters who call Cal home:

Mountain lion

(Puma concolor)

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

The Art of Adulting: A Student-Led Class Draws Hundreds

This fall, two UC Berkeley juniors Jenny Zhou and Belle Lau, have taken on the challenge of educating their peers in a semester-long class in ‘Adulting’—i.e. the mundane but necessary duties of adulthood like filing taxes and managing a budget.

“We thought of things that we struggled with,” said Lau. “And then thought ‘well this is probably what other students need help with.’”

It Was the Best Day of His Life. Then Everything Changed.

The Big Game of 2010 didn’t start off well for Cal fullback Eric Stevens. The Bears lost to Stanford, 48–14.

But on his way back to his apartment he ran into Amanda Glass. They stopped and started talking. And talking. And they discovered they had a lot in common, including sports. She was a defender on the women’s soccer team, and, like Eric, she had a reputation as a tough competitor.

“He invited me to a party that night,” she remembers. “And the rest is history.”

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

‘Tisn’t the Season

Newcomers to the Golden State (of which Berkeley has many, the student body now representing 74 countries and all 50 states) are quickly disabused of the beachy, bikini-clad stereotype of California sold to them in song lyrics. Instead, they find themselves immersed in Berkeley’s funky, foggy, nonlinear climate. In fall, while much of the nation is snuggling into sweaters and snarfing down pumpkin spice what-have-you, Bay Area folks are pulling the popsicles from the freezer for the first time, September usually being the hottest month of the year.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Chancellor’s Letter

It was just over ten years ago that the State of California cut funding for higher education as part of a financial retrenchment in response to the Great Recession. Ensuing tuition increases helped to partially close the resulting budgetary gap, but the financial foundations of the campus were weakened and there were legitimate fears regarding our ability to sustain Berkeley’s excellence. In that context, I am delighted to announce to the Cal community that, as of June 30, 2019, our operating budget is balanced.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Editor’s Note: The Genetics Issue

Brave New World author Aldous Huxley came to Berkeley (his son’s alma mater) in 1962 and delivered a speech on campus entitled “The Ultimate Revolution.” It ended as follows: “Our business is to be aware of what is happening, and then to use our imagination to see what might happen, how this might be abused, and then, if possible, to see that the enormous powers which we now possess thanks to these scientific and technological advances be used for the benefit of human beings and not for their degradation.”

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

At Berkeley’s California Typewriter, the Selectrics Keep Humming

I didn’t need a typewriter. I’ve never had an editor request hard copy. These days a typewriter is just a decorative toy and using one an affectation, like Civil War reenactment or home-curing bacon. But when I found a 1940s era manual Remington Rand on Oxford Street in one of those free piles that spring up curbside at the end of the academic year, I couldn’t just leave it there.

The Chalk Market: Where Mathematicians Go to Get the Good Stuff

Filmmaker Kyung Lee never dreamed she’d become a dealer. But bringing her first feature-length documentary to fruition required money she simply didn’t have. What she did have, however, was an idea for getting high-quality product and access to exclusive clientele.

Hagoromo chalk is a bit thicker than standard American chalk. It has been called the Rolls Royce of chalk—even the Michael Jordan of chalk.

Greetings from Willow Creek, Bigfoot Capital of the World

Last year, Krissy Eliot attended the annual Bigfoot Daze Festival in Willow Creek, California, a town known as the “Bigfoot capital of the world.” As we gear up for the 59th annual Bigfoot Daze Festival this Labor Day weekend, we bring you this collection of letters, the first in a series exploring the untrodden, unappreciated, or just unusual corners of California.

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