A freshman weighs in on the campus’s human letter

letter to the editor
Willow Yang/File

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Your article covering the Golden Bears Orientation states that participants were to take a historical “all-class photo.” I want to share my thoughts on this phrasing. Actually, this “class photo” features not the class members, but primarily focuses on the fact that together these people form a letter “C,” breaking the Guinness World Record for largest human letter.

Previously this record was held by a “T” that includes 4,223 people from the University of Tennessee. With a possible 9,500 participants, it was highly unlikely that GBO’s attempt would fail. On the other hand, as 1/9,500, everyone’s marginal contribution to this “victory” is close to zero.

In a campus with so many people, everyone seems atomized. Collectivism myths are thus generated to create a superfluous impression of unity and community, which in reality is nonexistent, costly and often meaningless. It is not to argue, from a societal perspective, that they are unnecessary.

It’s just after a day listening to yells of “Go Bears!” for literally hundreds of times (the intensity of the yells diminished as evening approached), as an individual, I felt exiled.

I am a first-year student. I didn’t appear in the photo. It hardly matters for the photo, but it matters for me. After all UC Berkeley is supposed to be liberal and rebellious. Liberty requires individuality, and individuals resist. This is my first lesson at Berkeley.

Tom Lee is a UC Berkeley freshman.

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  • Man with Axe

    Your second lesson is likely to be that “liberal” and “liberty” are opposites on a college campus.