Berkeley time’s time is up

Berkeley time appears to be a much-loved facet of campus culture. It is a saving grace that makes timekeeping and attendance somewhat casual, providing leeway for crossing the prodigious size of our campus, and the often-tight scheduling of classrooms. Berkeley time is treated as a civilized luxury, insulating students and instructors alike from an 8 a.m. class through the comfort of a cup of coffee or a little more time in the shower. But as much as the campus community has come to depend on this institutional grace period, for the good of the community and alumni, Berkeley time must be abolished.

The tradition of late arrival is an outdated practice, originating in the all-but-forgotten days when the clock tower kept the time and almost no student had a personal timepiece. Now that almost every person on campus has a digital clock in their pocket that cannot run fast or slow, students are not marked tardy by a bell at a quarter past the hour. They are, however, induced to indolence when on the way to class.

What Berkeley time does is instruct and reinforce a culture of lateness. Organizations and clubs always have to facilitate a discussion of whether they run on Berkeley time or real world time. Those who work off campus or who leave Berkeley for the workforce must adjust to being actually on time and adopt a sense of urgency at the start of the hour. There is no reason that this should be the case.

Berkeley time affects every part of the community, not just the instructors and students attending class. Students with off-campus jobs must adjust for it. Staffing for on-campus stores and cafes must accommodate it, because schedules typically start at the top of the hour. Student-parents must juggle schedules for their kids that don’t allow for the 10 minute cushion. Bus schedules are designed for arriving a comfortable interval before the hour — not for arriving at 10 minutes past.

As our campus is not likely to get any smaller or less crowded, a passing period is still called for. Let that period exist at the bottom of the hour, ending class periods 10 minutes early rather than beginning them late. Other campuses employ this method and emphasize the importance of professional punctuality. As the job market tightens, UC Berkeley graduates can use any edge they can get. People with morning classes will grumble, but they will adapt. Better that they do so now than when the idyll of college rudely comes to an end.