Berkeley Forum announces spring 2020 lineup of speakers, panels

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Every semester, the Berkeley Forum hosts a series of panels and speakers, all on a variety of timely topics and featuring significant community members.

This semester — during which the organization will host activists, executives from major companies and social media stars — is no different. Students in the campus organization spent the entire previous semester finding and organizing this semester’s speakers on a variety of topics relevant to today, according to Charlie McMurry, campus junior and Berkeley Forum president.

“From entrepreneurs to activists, I think there is something for everyone in our lineup of distinguished speakers,” McMurry said. “These events will address some of the most important topics and discussions this world faces right now.”

McMurry added that the Berkeley Forum’s mission is to keep the events free and accessible for everyone. He also said he hopes more people attend a Berkeley Forum event for the first time this semester.

The tickets for the events will be available through Berkeley Forum’s Facebook event posts. All the events are free for the public.

Rebecca Nagle, two-spirit Cherokee activist

Rebecca Nagle is an indigenous activist who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She identifies as a two-spirit/queer woman and writes about Native representation and tribal sovereignty. Nagle is also known for her work against rape culture and promoting consent.

On top of her activism, Nagle is a podcast host and writer. In 2013, Nagle was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People for her project “FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture.”

Nagle will be speaking at the Berkeley Forum’s event on Thursday, Feb. 6 — its first event of the semester.

Ien Chi, creative director of Jubilee

Ien Chi is the creative director of Jubilee, a popular YouTube channel with more than 4.5 million subscribers. The channel promotes a belief in “the power of empathy for human good,” according to the channel’s description on YouTube.

Before Jubilee, Chi worked for many major companies including Apple, NASA and NBC. His work has accumulated more than 750 million views collectively, according to his website.

Chi will speak at the Berkeley Forum on Monday, Feb. 10.

Tim Chau, owner of 3.14 (pi) on Instagram

Tim Chau, the owner of popular account 3.14 (pi), has more than 5 million Instagram followers from his accumulation of memes on the social media site.

He raises awareness surrounding refugee situations, mental health stigmas, social rights and politics with his posts. Chau has also released a documentary film, “Share,” which highlights issues of identity, sexuality, family and communication.

Chau will be speaking at the Berkeley Forum on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Christian Picciolini, founder of the Free Radicals Project

Christian Picciolini is a television producer and author who founded the Free Radicals Project, an organization that works against extremist groups and disengages their members across the globe.

Picciolini was a part of the “white-power” movement himself, before he left the organization in the 1980s. He now spends his time with the Free Radicals Project, writing books advocating for peace and against hate and giving talks about peacemaking and compassion.

Picciolini will speak at the Berkeley Forum on Thursday, Feb. 27.

Bias in Machine Learning panel

The Berkeley Forum will host a Bias in Machine Learning panel Monday, March 2, on the field of machine learning algorithms and their potential social biases. These biases may target certain races, sexes or other demographics.

According to McMurry, the panelists for this event have not been confirmed yet.

Affirmative Action debate

The Berkeley Forum will be holding a debate on affirmative action Thursday, March 5.

In 1996, California banned affirmative action through Proposition 209, which prohibits public schools, such as the UC system, from considering race, sex or ethnicity in admissions decisions. The topic has become especially controversial in recent years, especially because of UC and campus initiatives to promote diversity across the system.

According to McMurry, the people on the debate stage will include Public Advocates senior staff attorney Nicole Ochi, former ACLU lawyer and current president of the New York Civil Rights Coalition Michael Meyers, and Florida’s District 7 Congressional candidate and member of the Republican Party Yukong Zhao. One additional speaker has yet to be determined.

Andrew Kortina, co-founder of Venmo

Andrew Kortina founded Venmo, the popular virtual payment app, after randomly being paired with his roommate and future business partner Iqram Magdon-Ismail on his very first day at the University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in creative writing and philosophy.

Venmo which debuted in 2009 — was not the first company that Kortina and Magdon-Ismail founded. They also started a website for college classifieds known as My Campus Post.

Kortina will be speaking at the Berkeley Forum on campus Wednesday, March 11.

Doug Freeman, COO of Patagonia

Campus alumnus Doug Freeman has been the chief operating officer of California-based company Patagonia since May 2007.

Patagonia works to promote fair labor practices and reduce the social and environmental footprints of its products, according to its website. Prior to this position, Freeman worked as Patagonia’s sourcing manager for Asia, The North Face’s sourcing director and Nautica’s sourcing manager.

He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in English literature in 1985.

Freeman will be speaking at the Berkeley Forum on Tuesday, March 17.

Alice Wong, founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project

Disability rights activist Alice Wong is the founder and director of Disability Visibility Project, an online community that works to empower individuals with disabilities to connect and share their stories. The community also serves to heighten awareness surrounding disability media and culture. She also works on other projects, including Access Is Love,, the #CripLit and #CripTheVote Twitter movements and the Disability Visibility podcast.

In 2013, she was appointed by former president Barack Obama to serve on the National Council on Disability.

Wong will be speaking at the Berkeley Forum on campus Monday, April 6.

Hong Kong Protests panel

The Berkeley Forum is hosting a panel on the Hong Kong protests Thursday, April 23. The Hong Kong protests, which have been ongoing since March 2019, have garnered international attention. Millions of people have taken to the streets in protest against Hong Kong citizens’ extradition to mainland China, as well as the role the Chinese government plays in Hong Kong society.

According to McMurry, the speakers on the panel will include University of Notre Dame political science professor Victoria Hui, Hong Kong Free Press writer Dan Garrett and former Hong Kong lawmaker Au-Nok Hin.

Barry Levenson, founder and curator of the National Mustard Museum

In 1992, Barry Levenson quit his job as the state of Wisconsin’s assistant attorney and left behind his long-term career as an accomplished lawyer to open one of Wisconsin’s most popular attractions: a free mustard museum.

When he is not collecting mustard from around the world or orchestrating the World-Wide Mustard Competition, Levenson is an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, lecturing on food law.

Levenson will be speaking at the Berkeley Forum on Tuesday, April 28.

Steven Lim, former BuzzFeed producer

Former BuzzFeed producer Steven Lim has branched out on his own with two of his ex-BuzzFeed colleagues this month, serving as co-founder of Watcher Entertainment, a new digital brand.

Lim is an Ohio State University chemical engineering graduate by study and producer by practice. Lim served as BuzzFeed’s executive producer from 2017-19, where he created and hosted “Worth It” — BuzzFeed’s popular food show — and Asian Bachelorette 2.

Lim is tentatively scheduled for the semester, and this event’s date is still to be announced.

Alaleh Kianerci, deputy district attorney of People v. Brock Turner (2016)

Alaleh Kianerci is the Santa Clara deputy district attorney who garnered the national spotlight for her work on the 2016 People v. Brock Turner case.

In People v. Brock Turner, 20-year-old Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner was convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault. After this case, Kianerci worked to toughen the penalties for sexually assaulting an unconscious individual.

Kianerci is tentatively scheduled for the semester, and this event’s date is still to be announced.

Contact Kate Finman and Skylar Schoemig at [email protected].

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Christian Picciolini will be giving his talk on Feb. 25 and Tim Chau will give his talk on Feb. 27. In fact, Picciolini’s event is on Feb. 27 and Chau’s is on Feb. 25.