Incoming freshman Shefali Das belted a rendition of the national anthem, while another student, Luis Maurer, sang a track from “Hamilton.” Chancellor Carol Christ conducted a performance by University of California Marching Band. And Haas School of Business Dean Richard Lyons strummed a guitar to the tune of “Bare Necessities” to the roars of audience members.
UC Berkeley’s fall 2017 new student convocation was much more a lively, raucous concert than a typical series of speeches.
Held in Haas Pavilion, the ceremony — officially titled the Chancellor’s New Student Convocation — was a highlight of Tuesday’s scheduled events for Golden Bear Orientation, a new four-part program created for all incoming undergraduate students.
The convocation — with about 575 GBO leaders and around 9,500 incoming freshmen and transfer students in attendance — featured Christ’s first official address to the incoming class of new campus students and remarks from other community leaders, including Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and ASUC President Zaynab Abdul-Qadir Morris.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell opened the event a little past 2 p.m. with welcoming remarks and later presented an academic procession of distinguished faculty, led by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos.
Afterwards, Christ took the stage and offered her welcoming remarks to the freshman class of 2021 and transfer class of 2019.
She called the beginning of the school year one of the “most exciting” times of the year for academic administrators and offered her own advice for student success on campus.
“Berkeley is like a city, and it responds to city skills,” Christ said in her speech. “Find your neighborhood. … Knock on doors, ask questions. This will likely be one of the most diverse communities you’ve ever experienced. … It will stretch you intellectually and emotionally.”
Christ also touched on free speech controversies that have surrounded the campus over the past year. She called for “a free speech year” at UC Berkeley, adding that the campus should “respond to hate speech with more speech.”
“Some speech you’ll think attacks your very identity,” Christ said in her remarks. “The right response is not the heckler’s veto. Call it out for what it is — shouting it down just colludes in their narrative.”
Other headline speakers called on students to advocate in their local communities.
Abdul-Qadir Morris said new students were joining “a legacy of activists” on campus and advised them to “not be complicit.” Arreguín — also a campus alumnus — told the audience he “ was inspired to come to Berkeley because of Mario Savio and all the social movements that started here on campus,” adding that students had a “responsibility to get involved and make change.”
After the event, multiple students called the ceremony’s proceedings “inspirational” and “uplifiting.”
“This community is so open and accepting,” said incoming freshman Victoria Stafford. “I wasn’t expecting such a good and empowering talk. I loved it.”
Christ said in her address this is one of the most exciting times of the year for the campus because it is “surrounded by beginnings.”
“You are a remarkable group with your energy, ambition and intelligence,” Christ said. “We are excited you chose Berkeley. We make history here.”