University of California

Crammed into Berkeley’s Housing Zone, Students Get Creative—and Desperate

The stereotypical student has long had a meager existence—subsisting on rice and pasta, living on the cheap in order to binge on swanky textbooks later. But for students in Berkeley, the most expensive U.S. college town according to Realtor.com, finding a place to live in a highly competitive rental market requires particular creativity.

Not Adding Up: Math Lecturer Behind Viral Email Set to Lose His UC Berkeley Job

Alexander Coward—the charismatic UC Berkeley math lecturer whose 2013 emailed justification for teaching during a university employees strike went viral—now says he’s about to be fired by the university, despite stellar reviews from his students. 

The university’s response: Personnel matters are confidential, and lecturers such as Coward receive no guarantee that their contracts will be renewed.

Bones of Contention: Cal Paleo Expert Doubts Homo Naledi Is New Species

The popular science press went bonkers last month with news that fossilized bones of a previously unknown hominid had been discovered in a cave system in South Africa. Dubbed Homo naledi by lead researcher and University of the Witwatersrand paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, these proto-humans appeared to have lived somewhere between 1 to 3 million years ago, used tools, walked upright, and may have buried their dead, a practice that has only been attributed to our own species, Homo sapiens, and Neanderthals.

Innate or Learned Prejudice? Turns Out Even the Blind Aren’t Color Blind on Race

Stephen Colbert’s assertion notwithstanding, none of us is color blind. Not even the blind, it turns out. That’s according to the work of Osagie Obasogie, law professor at UC Hastings who earned his doctorate in sociology from UC Berkeley. In 2005, he began interviewing more than a hundred people who had been blind since birth, asking how they understood race. Were they conscious of it? Did it shape how they interacted with people? Could blind people, in fact, be racist?

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Buried Past: Cemetery Tour Of Cal Notables Offers Window Over to the “Other Side”

Coming up this weekend: an unusual 3-hour stroll through Cal’s 147-year history. But you’d better whistle while you walk, because it’s a walk through a graveyard—namely, Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. On Saturday it will present its annual “Founders and Faculty of UC Berkeley” tour, led by docents Jane Leroe and Ron Bachman. Both are dedicated taphophiles—lovers of old cemeteries—and loyal Old Blues. (He got his bachelor’s from UC Berkeley in 1959; she got her hers in 1968 and her J.D. in 1971.)

Performance Trumps Policy: Is The Donald’s Media Presence Enough for Nomination?

Since Donald Trump announced that he was running for president this past June, he’s spread through news headlines like the Resident Evil t-Virus. Judging by the number of readers he’s attracting and supporters he’s gaining, we now appear to be a nation of Trump zombies with an insatiable hunger for his next sapid statement or offhand comment.

‘Bout That Action: How Marshawn Lynch Threw the Sports Media for a Loop

Marshawn Lynch is a jerk. And he’s also a hero. He’s ungrateful, immature, and stupid. And he’s a genius with a heart of gold. Lynch, star running back of the Seattle Seahawks and former UC Berkeley phenom, is all of these things and more—if the various media portrayals are to be believed. Just don’t ask Lynch himself if any of it is true, because he’s not talking.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Can’t We All Get Along? Case Studies of Racial Tensions In and Around Progressive Berkeley

Science tells us that race is in our heads, not in our genes; it’s all a social construct.

It’s an observation that seems to illuminate everything and nothing at once. It makes it sound so arbitrary and trivial—a trick of the mind. And yet history tells us that race has mattered enormously. And the news emphasizes how much it still matters today in terms of what researchers call “life outcomes”: Your chances of securing a loan, for example; or of getting a good education; or of being shot by the police.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Out of the Gate: Laughing Through Tears

In 1966, the same year that I finished my studies at UC Berkeley, the psychology department made a scientific breakthrough. A graduate student discovered that watching an extremely graphic film documenting the subincision rites (the ritual cutting of the undersides of the penises) of Australian aboriginal boys could raise stress levels, particularly in men.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

A Smoking Gun: The Asteroid that Killed the Dinosaurs May Have Had Help

Any third grader can tell you what killed the dinosaurs: an asteroid that smashed into Earth 66 million years ago, obliterating T. Rex, Triceratops, and Velociraptor, and paving the way for mammals to thrive.

But that theory was wildly controversial when first introduced in 1980 by Berkeley Nobel laureate Luis Alvarez and his son, Walter, a UC Berkeley paleogeologist. Their idea plunged the paleontology community into decades of acrimonious debate before it became the accepted explanation. Now the theory is being challenged once again.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Black Cop, White Cop: What can two Berkeley police from the century before tell us about race relations in America today?

It was Berkeley in the 1920s. “The Fighting Swede” was driving through town, feeling even more pugnacious than usual. That’s because he was drunk. The Swede had carved out a reputation as a barroom brawler in the waterfront dives on both sides of the Bay, and he was always more than willing to defend his title—especially when he had a snootful of booze.

So he didn’t feel particularly tractable when a cop pulled him over at Ashby and San Pablo.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

California Consequences: What If High Court Bans Race Preferences in College Admissions?

Almost lost amid the recent flurry of marquee U.S. Supreme Court rulings—including one endorsing same-sex marriage and another upholding Obamacare—was a judicial move that could have a huge impact on who gets into top colleges. The justices, by opting to reconsider a case that challenges the University of Texas’s use of race and ethnicity to select students, signaled that they may be ready to effectively end affirmative action in college admissions nationwide.

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