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What if Sproul Plaza didn't exist?

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APRIL 15, 2015

“Sproul is to UC Berkeley as water is to camels and protein to vegetarians.” — UC Berkeley student walking through Sproul Plaza.

Sproul Plaza: a place of merriment, motion and mysticisms. It is both a way station for wanderers and a plaza of frenzied pace. Music, food and drink await to be plumbed. Fresh faces bearing gifts of paper and tag lines beckon drowsy ones. What if it could all vanish just like that? Poof. Gone. No more Sproul Plaza. Telegraph Avenue starts where Sather Gate ends.

Which came first, the plaza or the table? We don’t know, but perhaps we’d lose one if we didn’t have the other. Oh, where else could we possibly go to pretend we lost all peripheral vision? Perhaps a dorm bathroom. No longer forced to table for two hours while people walk tantalizingly close, but just out of range of your rehearsed pitches? Oh, the temptation!

Meeting up with friends? Without Sproul Plaza, we’d have to change the meeting place to Wheeler or maybe Dwinelle Hall. That’s playing a dangerous game with the GSI whose section you skipped earlier that day. Besides, who wouldn’t miss sitting on the pearly steps of the glorified faculty building that is Sproul Hall? And where else could we go to find street prophets fighting a capella groups for our attention while a jackhammer thumps to the beat? And what about our pockets? They would be noticeably free of crumpled networking-event flyers. We wouldn’t know what to do with that much free space near our loins!

And the signs! We’ll certainly miss the signs, the flyers, the papers, the hastily stapled advertisements, the free poems, sonnets, haikus, limericks — you name it! What about the invasion of elderly activists on Friday afternoons? There must be a progressive geriatric clinic somewhere close by. Or maybe their grandkids just don’t visit them enough.

Alas, the loss of such hallowed ground would make us pine for its return! Sproul Plaza is UC Berkeley. It conjures up memories of the Free Speech Movement, of sexual and mental liberation and of guided tours! Oh, how we miss those! It was the place of Occupy and many other movements. Even professor Robert Reich has stood at the feet of the great Sproul Hall to deliver an address to the student body. The plaza has the power to connect us with our past better than the history offices in Dwinelle Hall. How could we forget it? Losing Sproul Plaza would be like losing the thumping heart of a campus that has a reputation for inciting high blood pressure in its student body.

Contact Ismael Farooqui at [email protected].

APRIL 14, 2015