Best of Berkeley: Campus 2020

Illustration of Hearst Mining Building for Best of Berkeley, Campus
Armaan Mumtaz/Staff

Best building: Hearst Memorial Mining Building 

Heather Feibleman/File

The Hearst Memorial Mining Building, home to the materials science and engineering department, is nothing short of grand. Located in the northeast end of campus in the College of Engineering, the journey to this gem is an uphill trek, but worth it nonetheless.

Completed in 1907, originally as a building for UC Berkeley’s College of Mines, Hearst Mining’s facade features arches and columns in an ode to classical architecture. In many ways, this building, which was seismically retrofitted and renovated just two decades ago, is one that celebrates the old while welcoming in the new, illustrated by its seamless blend of classical and contemporary elements. 

After climbing its concrete steps, you will be met by an absolutely stunning interior, of which the highlight is its ceiling of skylight domes. Even the brick flooring is beautiful and understated — it’s no wonder this building is often used for social events like the Engineer’s Ball. Upstairs, Hearst Mining 390 is arguably one of the best and most comfortable medium-sized lecture halls.

The Hearst Memorial Mining Building really makes you wonder: Is Evans Hall actually ugly, or is it just in an unfortunately close proximity to the most beautiful building our campus has to offer?

— Sarena Kuhn


Best library: C.V. Starr East Asian Library 

Karen Chow/File

You know a library is good when it’s always packed. Consistently crowded, with people lining up outside on Sunday afternoons, the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, known colloquially as the East Asian Library, easily ranks among the top study spots on campus.

Since opening at its current location in 2008, the East Asian Library has provided a modern yet warm study haven, with rich wooden furnishings, cool gray stone, beautiful light fixtures and oversized glass windows. The library offers a variety of seating, from study cubicles to shared tables, all perfect for studying. The East Asian Library also has an extensive array of books, mainly in the humanities and social sciences. With more than 1 million titles, the library’s collection of East Asian language materials is one of the largest in the country. 

And if you’re hopeless at navigation like me, never fear. The East Asian library is well-organized, with a straightforward floor plan and a central staircase connecting its levels. Another perk is the library’s location adjacent to the steeply graded Haviland Path, making it the perfect place to stop by for a little studying on your way uphill — if you can find a seat, that is.

— Lillian Morgenthaler


Best faculty member: Alexander Paulin

Alexander Paulin/Courtesy

Taking a full year of calculus is daunting for anybody, and it sure was for me. Being a freshman thrust into two of the most intricate foundational mathematics courses at UC Berkeley was indeed frightening. Both Math 1A and Math 1B, however, undoubtedly became some of my favorite courses. No, this is not because I love calculus — it was because of my professor.

Alexander Paulin, a mathematics lecturer here at UC Berkeley, made what should’ve been the worst hour of my day one of the best. For anyone who’s taken a course with him, this shouldn’t be a surprise in the slightest. Paulin is a professor with heart and personality, and it’s what makes his teaching almost unparalleled. Whether it’s coming to lecture dressed in a superhero outfit with a blonde wig to match, or just making a funny remark during class, Paulin’s bright disposition is something his students can always rely on.

Though he has a kind of star power on campus, Paulin always feels approachable and personable, two qualities that couldn’t be more sought after in a professor. If you ever get the chance to take a course taught by this extraordinary man, don’t hesitate.

— Ryan Garay


Best student-athlete competing in NCAA men’s sports: Evan Weaver, football 

Karen Chow/File

There’s having one of the best seasons for a Cal student athlete, and then there’s having one of the best seasons for any student athlete. Evan Weaver didn’t just have a great season by Cal standards, he had a great season relative to every other player in the country.

Weaver’s senior season was one for the record books — literally. In his final year, the inside linebacker led the nation with 182 tackles and was named a consensus All-American, breaking Cal’s record for tackles in a season.

His exploits earned him a call to the NFL combine and will likely result in his selection come the NFL draft. Weaver led the Bears to an 8-5 season — their first eight win season since 2015 — which included a Redbox Bowl victory and the first Cal Big Game win in a decade in a legendary comeback at Stanford.

Weaver made his senior season one to remember for fans from Cal and beyond, ensuring that his will be a name that California Memorial Stadium won’t soon forget.

— Jasper Kenzo Sundeen


Best student-athlete competing in NCAA women’s sports: Kyana George, gymnastics 

Lisi Ludwig/File

The Cal women’s gymnastics team was a victim of circumstance. Amid perhaps the best season in school history, COVID-19 brought the Bears’ season to a premature halt, ending any dreams of a postseason run from a squad that was ranked No. 9 in the nation.

Kyana George, however, was in her groove all season. The junior all-arounder was Cal’s rock, its pillar, a consistent performer who was named a second team All-American and earned three All-Pac-12 honors. She was the No. 10 all-arounder in the nation at the season’s early end.

George led the Bears at multiple meets, winning 17 event titles in 2020 was a fount of experience on a relatively young team. Gymnastics is by no means a simple sport, but George made it seem so, dominating across meets and creating strong results for her teammates to build off of.

While the Bears will surely be disappointed to see such a promising season fall by the wayside, George has at least one more year of eligibility and will likely be a factor as Cal gears up for 2021.

— Jasper Kenzo Sundeen


Best campus eatery: Free Speech Movement Cafe 

Brianna Luna/Staff

The Free Speech Movement Cafe, home of the legendary Pepperoni Pizza Panino, truly lies at the heart of campus life in every sense. 

The cafe’s walls are decorated with uplifting images and messages, dedicated to the progressive ideals of UC Berkeley. At the same time, the eatery’s location is also physically and conveniently located at the heart of campus.  

Need your daily dose of caffeine? Want a delicious, affordable variety of snack and meal choices? Want to sit outside in the warm sun? Need a place to hold an interview or club meeting?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, FSM is the place to go.

Even in the darkest moments of midterm season — literally, because it’s 2 a.m. and you’re still at Moffitt — this amazing cafe and its friendly workers have got your back. Late night coffee and treats are available.

If you go to UC Berkeley or are even remotely near its campus, you need to stop by. And for the love of all things good, if you can, you’ve got to try the espresso brownie. 

— Kristen Hull


Best lecture hall: Wheeler Hall 150 

Allen Zeng/Staff

Wheeler Hall 150 is one of the most popular yet most underrated classrooms in all of UC Berkeley’s campus. 

Chances are, if you are a student taking large classes — as most of us are when enrolled at UC Berkeley — then you have had a class or two in this iconic classroom. From Political Science 179 to many of the largest computer science classes on campus, the room is heavily used with its maximum capacity of 744 people, but it’s also just a good classroom in general. 

The room is accessible and set up in a way that, no matter where you sit, your ability to see the professor or speaker is largely unimpeded. The sound system is impressive, easily allowing sound to enter 1,488 ears, and the screen and projection system allows instructors to employ different forms of learning. 

If you haven’t had a class in Wheeler Hall 150 yet, I hope you do — you should audit a class or definitely check it out at some point. This lecture hall truly is a highlight of the campus experience and makes classes with more than 700 people enrolled feel more accessible and bearable for all.

— Kate Finman


Best campus performing group: Jericho! Improv and Sketch Comedy 

Jericho! Improv/Courtesy

Everyone remembers their first Jericho! improv show. Whether you knew someone on the team, wanted to check it out with your friends or stumbled into the wrong Moffitt Library basement classroom, laughs were guaranteed at the door.

Even if you’ve never experienced live comedy or don’t really know how improv shows work, Jericho! makes certain that you leave wanting to hear that thrill of a “yes, and…” one more time. The team works hard every semester to provide students with the genuine comedic relief that all of us deserve amid the stresses of college life. 

With quick improv scenes, witty sketches and gut-busting videos, this team’s group mind is unbeatable. Just look to the Jericho! YouTube page, where you’ll find man on the street campus interviews, glamorous makeup tutorials and the oh-so culturally relevant “Straight Eye.” Next time you make it out to one of the group’s weekend shows, come ready with the perfect word to yell and get the ball rolling. Ghoul club forever.

— Skylar De Paul


Best DeCal: Adulting 

Jenny Zhou/Courtesy

The world is a daunting place, and it’s completely natural to feel a little lost sometimes. As we get older, responsibilities like paying taxes, making rent and maintaining physical and mental health standards become more and more daunting.

Luckily, there’s a DeCal that can help students, many of whom are entering the adult world for the very first time, with conquering “adulting.”

The adulting class was designed to fill in the gaps that traditional academics miss, including methodologies for managing stress, practicing good habits and developing other life skills. Taught by two campus juniors, the one-unit class is designed by students for other students and asks participants for 1.5 hours per week with mandatory attendance. Students listen to guest speakers, read articles and engage in class discussions, eventually completing one term paper and a final presentation, in exchange for being more prepared to “adult.”

— Kate Finman


Best student housing: David Blackwell Hall

Karen Chow/File

I’ll say it: David Blackwell Hall is like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. 

Sometimes, walking past the ultramodern facade, you can’t help but ogle at the smiling students playing ping pong or wonder how the fancy vending machines that play magical tunes upon purchases work.

As Berkeley’s newest student dorm, Blackwell houses approximately 750 students in the heart of Berkeley’s Southside. A block away from campus and beloved local cuisine, the dorm fulfills a classic real estate mantra: “Location, location, location.” 

But as all teachers remind us, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. 

And to say the least, the expansive interior of Blackwell is no disappointment — it’s like Dwinelle, but you get lost less often and feel happier finding a new room you didn’t previously know about. 

Blackwell’s variety of spaces includes a laundry, social and study room on every floor, not to mention an interior courtyard and personal gym on its first level. And if you’re lucky enough to live in a dorm facing the San Francisco skyline, you’ll catch some of California’s best golden hours.

All that’s missing now are some Oompa Loompas!

— Lisi Ludwig


Best bathroom: Li Ka Shing Center 

Paolo Harris Paz/File

Whether you’re sunbathing on the grass near the “Within” sculpture between Morgan Hall and the Li Ka Shing Center, studying and grubbing at Brown’s California Café, checking out that T-rex fossil in the Valley Life Sciences Building or walking up that hill towards the northwest corner of campus, you can rest assured that when duty calls, the Li Ka Shing bathrooms are there for you.In all honesty, as one of the nicest buildings on campus, Li Ka Shing’s modern amenities will never fail you in the most dire of situations. Find your peace as you’re surrounded by blue tiles layered from floor to ceiling. You also get a chance to sit in a large private space in each stall before finally using those fancy handless water faucets. Most importantly, the lighting is perfect, so if you and your homies are trying to sneak in a mirror selfie, here’s your chance.

— Thao Nguyen


Best place to cry: Top of the Campanile 

Sunny Shen/Senior Staff

At UC Berkeley, there are many reasons to cry. A failed midterm, crippling self-doubt, your therapist tells you she’s going on maternity leave. When you can feel the tears coming and you don’t have time to hustle back to your dorm room, nothing beats the top of the Campanile. 

Many people cope with sadness by surrounding themselves with things that mirror how they’re feeling — they listen to sad music or watch a depressing movie. What better place to reflect on your sense of isolation than from the highest point on UC Berkeley’s campus, where the rest of the world appears far away? If you time it right and reach the top of the Campanile on the hour, the tower’s bells will drown out the sound of your sobbing.

The only downside of the Campanile as the ideal crying location is the chance of being interrupted by tourists during your sob session. But you can simply blame your red, puffy face on the high altitude, or suggest your wails are actually bird calls, attempts to communicate with the Campanile’s resident peregrine falcons. 

— Sydney Fix