Berkeley is #movements
It’s been a tumultuous semester for political activism at UC Berkeley, full of students encouraging their peers to #StandWithPlannedParenthood on Sproul Plaza, marching in solidarity with Mizzou’s #ConcernedStudent1950, demanding climate justice leadership from #COP21, invoking calls to long-term solutions for higher-education funding crises at the #MillionStudentMarch, and as always, much, much more.
For every hashtag, a movement. For every movement, a hashtag.
Fortunately, UC Berkeley is one place that reliably follows through on passion and ensures that advocacy transcends armchair activism and manifests itself both in the streets and in legislative offices. Such activism at UC Berkeley has, for years, molded our campus into a beacon of progressivism, earning us the attention of the nation and the attendance of notable public figures such as Laverne Cox and Martin O’Malley.
This fall semester has been characterized by grassroots organizing and mobilizing, but as the state legislature swings back from recess in the spring, the halls of the State Capitol will fill with students ready to lobby for our vested interests. It is said that where California goes, the nation follows. A step further: Where UC Berkeley goes, California follows. Lest you become jaded by the constant protests and marches, pay attention. UC Berkeley students just might change the world.
Rigel Robinson is the vice president of membership for Cal Berkeley Democrats and a UC Berkeley sophomore.
Berkeley is discovery
2015 has been another banner year for research at UC Berkeley. Our faculty, students and researchers made a number of important discoveries and started many new projects during the past year, far too many too describe here. Some of the highlights that make it to my perhaps idiosyncratic list are as follows:
- The Breakthrough Prize was awarded to Ian Agol and Kam-Biu Luk for their pioneering discoveries in mathematics and elementary particle physics, respectively.
- Peidong Yang, a chemist trying to capture carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into a sustainable transportation fuel, received a MacArthur “genius grant” for his work on nanowires.
- The CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technique invented by professor Jennifer Doudna continues to be refined by research teams around the world. Doudna is helping to lead the conversation about the ethical use of the technology in an effort to codify international consensus on editing DNA, recommending against applying it to human germ cells.
- Scientists at the Space Sciences laboratory designed and built the in situ instrumentation for the Mars MAVEN mission, which recently discovered that Mars loses a major portion of its atmosphere directly to space.
- Chemists Christopher Chang and Omar Yaghi developed a powerful method for removing greenhouse gases from power plant emissions.
- The Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute celebrated the grand opening of the Zeiss Berkeley Brain Microscopy Innovation Center, a campus resource that will generate commercially available microscopy tools optimized for use with emerging neurotechnologies.
- The Berkeley Natural History Museums continue to lead the nation in the use of collections to gauge the human impact on our environment, with research on the acceleration of human–induced species loss providing evidence that we are likely entering a sixth mass extinction.
Across the campus, we continue to see increased interest among faculty and students to bring their research to the marketplace, taking advantage of the campus ecosystem and supporting innovation and entrepreneurship.
Christopher McKee is the interim vice chancellor for research at UC Berkeley.
Berkeley is activism
In solidarity with campus custodians and parking attendants subcontracted under private companies, the Student Labor Committee, or SLC, and AFSCME 3299 launched the #Justice4UCWorkers campaign to demand full direct employment by the university. At the beginning of the semester, workers conducted a public delegation to Labor Relations at UC Berkeley with their demands. Workers then told their stories in a public speak-out, which about 150 students attended before subsequently marching to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ estate in support of the workers. In October, the LA Times published an article detailing the U.S. Department of Labor’s federal investigation of labor conditions in the stadium under Performance First. As media attention continued, worker-organizers began to face retaliation. Lizbeth, a Performance First worker, was told she would be fired. Students arranged a sit-in at the Athletics Department, resulting in eight students being forcibly removed and cited with trespassing and disrupting a business. Additionally, Peformance First rehired Lizbeth. The campaign also worked with the ASUC, which passed a bill of support for the campaign and the overall goal of insourcing. Next, the campaign organized a rally at the Students of Color Conference, which coalesced at Dirks’ property to call for the recognition of workers’ demands. After immense support by conference attendees from different campuses and UC Berkeley’s student body, the campaign interrupted the regents’ meeting with their own rendition of “Hotline Bling” by centering the lyrics around insourcing to garner attention. Most recently, because of the inaction of the administration despite popular support from students and staff, the SLC organized what was possibly the largest occupation of California Hall in history, which ended with the arrest of 22 students.
Lucy Tate is a member of the Student Labor Committee.