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Crash Course: Cal and its surge of foreign freshmen struggle to adjust to one another

The first time Larry Zhou traveled outside of China, it was to start his freshman year at Berkeley in 2010. The University’s bid to admit more international students—they would enhance campus diversity and pay sticker-price tuition—brought a surge of foreign arrivals with Zhou. More than a third came from Chinese territories.

Zhou, now a senior, had studied British English in high school in Suzhou, about 65 miles west of Shanghai. He did so well on a language test that his school encouraged him to study abroad, and he garnered a high verbal SAT score as well. Read more about Crash Course: Cal and its surge of foreign freshmen struggle to adjust to one another »

The Accidental Spy: In 1979, He was Both Canada’s Man in Tehran, and Ours

It was not the most provocative speech in Berkeley’s history, but Kenneth Taylor’s 1980 Charter Day address is remembered for its reception. The former Canadian ambassador to Iran had just left that post, after helping six U.S. diplomats escape the fate of 52 other Americans being held hostage by student revolutionaries. Read more about The Accidental Spy: In 1979, He was Both Canada's Man in Tehran, and Ours »

From the Winter 2012 Culture Shock issue of California.

What a Way to Go: Woman Who Created the Darwin Awards Wants to be a Winner Someday

Wendy Northcutt has made a host of obscure people famous, and although very few lived to savor their notoriety, she anticipates one day sharing their dubious honor. It almost happened when a recent heat wave gave her the idea to “air-condition” her sweltering home: She pried up an oubliette floor grate in her hallway, intending to install a fan to suck up the basement’s cooler air. But she left to answer the phone, and hours later she strode back down the hall and obliviously stepped into the gaping hole. In the milliseconds as her body swooshed down, she thought “Oh nooooooooooo! Read more about What a Way to Go: Woman Who Created the Darwin Awards Wants to be a Winner Someday »

From the Summer 2011 The Soundtrack of Berkeley issue of California.

Get Thee to a Nonery

For those of a certain age, Sproul Plaza today seems like an analog locale on Bizarro World, the cube-shaped planet from the Superman comics where everything is backwards. In the 1960s and 1970s, of course, Sproul was a hotbed of social activism. And to an extent, that remains true: The placards are still abundant, and there are plenty of undergrads handing out flyers and advocating in earnest. Read more about Get Thee to a Nonery »

From the Spring 2011 Articles of Faith issue of California.

Killer App

Update: In the fall of 2014, the Berkeley City Council is considering an ordinance that would make it the only city in the nation to require cell phone warning stickers. We explore whether, based on the latest science, the proposal is a proper precaution, or paranoia, here. Read more about Killer App »

From the Winter 2010 Inside Out issue of California.

Strange Renderings: The Secret Geographies of UC Berkeley’s Trevor Paglen

The light is fading on a bitter-cold December afternoon in Berkeley, and Trevor Paglen is talking about spy satellites. Specifically, he’s explaining how hard it is to photograph them—not just because our government doesn’t want us to know they’re there but also because they’re a long way away. “You’re basically trying to shoot something the size of a car on the other side of the Earth, but actually it’s even farther,” he says, his words dissolving into a machine-gun laugh. Read more about Strange Renderings: The Secret Geographies of UC Berkeley's Trevor Paglen »

From the Spring 2010 Searchlight on Gray Areas issue of California.

Toward a Common Wealth

If you’ve been paying attention to the economic news you’ve probably noticed pundits using an ecological metaphor: Green shoots are sprouting. It’s a nice image. First the blackened earth of economic collapse, then tender leaves of recovery pushing up from below. If they said instead that we were seeing the early signs of infection, that wouldn’t work so well. Economic growth is never portrayed as the vine that strangles, the multiplication of locusts—it’s always the heroic sprout. The metaphor must jibe with an assumption so fundamental that few stop to consider it: Growth is good. Read more about Toward a Common Wealth »

From the Winter 2009 Food for Thought issue of California.

Not Rushing Anymore

Russell White ’93, the all-time leading rusher in Cal football history, sat alone on a Friday afternoon late last fall, watching from the bleachers as Castlemont High kicked off against East Oakland rival Skyline. At the time, White was nominally a Castlemont coach, but as an “assistant offensive coordinator” he was about eighth on the depth chart. Instead of standing on the sidelines during the game, he’d climbed into the stands and was talking to the head coach via headset. Read more about Not Rushing Anymore »

From the Fall 2009 Constant Change issue of California.

What it Was Really Like to Be the First Black Lawyer in Justice Dept’s Civil Rights Division

Thelton Eugene Henderson didn’t study the civil rights movement; he lived it. After earning his law degree from UC Berkeley in 1962, he joined the Justice Department as the first African-American lawyer in its civil rights division. Working with his mentor and fellow Cal grad, John Doar, Henderson traveled often to the South to monitor law enforcement on civil rights cases. He investigated the famous case of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four young girls. Read more about What it Was Really Like to Be the First Black Lawyer in Justice Dept's Civil Rights Division »

From the January February 2008 25 Ideas on the Verge issue of California.

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