Cal Culture

Plants for the People: The UC Botanical Garden Is Blooming and Ready for Visitors

ON JULY 14, 2020, THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BOTANICAL GARDEN at Berkeley welcomed visitors for the first time since its closure four months earlier due to the coronavirus pandemic. The garden’s executive director, plant biology professor Dr. Lewis Feldman, stood by the gates, greeting the first arrivals. “When people came in, [they] burst into tears,” says Feldman. “It was, for them, as if something normal had been returned to their lives. … I think the garden here represents a return to what life was like. … It’s very renewing.”

From the Spring 2021 issue of California.

Warm Hearts and Feet: Students To Distribute Sleeping Bags to Homeless

The December chill that proved frigidly fatal to several homeless people in the Bay Area also has spurred a team of students at UC Berkeley and San Jose State into action. They helped launched the Sleeping Bag Drive—which on Friday will begin distributing 300 pairs of wool socks, beanies, and zero-degree sleeping bags to the vulnerable communities.

“It’s a scary thing that people are dying,” says Taliah Mirmalek, a Cal senior majoring in political science and rhetoric. “We were just happy to be able to share the opportunity to do something about it.”

Online, Offline, On Life: A Berkeley Student In the Time of COVID

“If I avoid the online, I’m avoiding the things that are gonna be important to me in the future. But if I stay online, I’m avoiding the things that are important to me now. I don’t wanna give up on either, but it’s also like, there’s only so much time in the day that you can be on a laptop.”

In March 2020, UC Berkeley joined the ranks of other universities moving to entirely virtual learning. Undergrad Carly Tran takes us into the life of a student, reflecting on a year of endless Zoom calls and surprising joys.

How to Make Black Lives Matter at Berkeley

On Nov. 10, 2020, California magazine assembled a select panel of Black faculty, students, administrators, and alumni to discuss, via video conference, the question, “How do we make Black lives matter at Berkeley, and beyond?” 

From the Winter 2020 issue of California.

Black Cultural History at Cal: Sun Ra, James Baldwin, and More

UC Berkeley has historically been a magnet for African American activists, artists, and thinkers but never more so than during the tumultuous ’60s and ’70s. And with a little googling, many of these historical appearances can still be seen, heard, and savored online. In honor of the upcoming 45th annual Black History Month (February 2021), here’s a selection of Black speakers and cultural events that the Cal campus has played host to over the years.

From the Winter 2020 issue of California.

Chancellor’s Letter: Striving for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Berkeley is blessed with a unique set of aspirations and responsibilities. We are the product of Abraham Lincoln’s vision for “people’s colleges”—an accessible system of public higher education for all, without regard to inherited privilege. We are an engine of socioeconomic mobility, a center of resistance to the status quo, an institution animated by a determination to make the world a better place. We strive for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

From the Winter 2020 issue of California.

Forging Pathways On and Off the Court

Former Cal basketball star Shareef Abdur-Rahim was named president of the G League, the official minor league of the National Basketball Association, in 2018. Per its website, the G League operates as a research and development laboratory to prepare players, coaches, and staff for an NBA career. Under Abdur-Rahim’s leadership, it is also challenging basketball’s status quo with the implementation of a new “professional path program” for elite players who have not yet met the age requirement to be drafted into the pros.

From the Winter 2020 issue of California.

The Wall Stands Only a Few Feet Tall. But What It Stands for is Significant.

WALLS HOLD A MYTHICAL PLACE IN OUR SOCIAL ORDER. Pilgrims push slips of paper with wishes and prayers into the many cracks of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The Great Wall of China is a spectacle of ancient defensive architecture and a symbol of strength. The Berlin Wall evolved from a barbed wire and cinder block line of demarcation into a series of 15-foot-high concrete walls separating East and West Germany. It was a Cold War monument to their conflicting ideologies.

From the Winter 2020 issue of California.

Stiles Hall, Always in Style

For Arlinda Ruiz the road to higher education was not an easy one. A 45-year-old domestic violence survivor, she worried there wouldn’t be a place for her in the world of academia.

“I’m this short Mexican girl, dark, Indigenous, blasted up with tattoos,” Ruiz says. “I was homeless at 13, a teen mom, a high school dropout. … I didn’t really see much of a future for myself.”

From the Winter 2020 issue of California.

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.

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