In the midst of the 2020 elections, various UC Berkeley faculty members and administrators participated in a virtual panel to discuss election outcomes Wednesday as part of the Campus Conversations series.
The event, titled “Elections 2020: What’s Next?” was sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs and moderated by campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof. In the discussion of possible election outcomes and the impact of the election, panelists covered topics such as the division of the United States, legal issues, voter suppression and the role of higher education during elections, among other topics.
“What shows is a country that’s terribly, deeply divided,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, during the event. “The largest challenge after this election and the years to come is how do we heal that deep division of society and go forward?”
Continuing the conversation of division, Henry Brady, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy, brought up the public’s growing distrust of institutions and the government. Brady noted partisan differences between institutions that liberals and conservatives trust and how these dynamics impact societal interactions.
Chancellor Carol Christ added that social division is also influenced by changing media and social media, emphasizing the introduction of fake news and the spread of misinformation.
How society consumes information also contributes to social division, according to Berkeley Law professor Bertrall Ross.
“Our social networks are homogenous based on ideology and values and entry,” Ross said during the event. “They’re homogenous on the basis of race, which is particularly pernicious.”
Noting the basis of race, Lisa García Bedolla, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the graduate division, spoke on voter suppression. García Bedolla defined voter suppression as a governmental policy or practice that causes difficulty in accessing political franchise.
García Bedolla added that the youth and people of color are “twice as likely” to have their mail-in ballots rejected compared to white voters.
Focusing on the legalities surrounding voter suppression, Brady discussed how limiting political franchise is a larger notion within the Republican Party than the belief of voter fraud.
The panelists then went on to discuss voter population, campaign strategies and changes in demographic reports.
“There are humans that move through life in a particular social position that can lead them to a set of political preferences that are similar to other people in the same social position,” García Bedolla said during the event. “It’s really a product of processes that are much more complex than their phenotype or their national origin.”
Mogulof later asked Christ to discuss the impact of elections in higher education and the role universities have in moving forward with the elections.
Christ noted her disappointment in the failure of California’s Proposition 16, which, if passed, would have allowed affirmative action in public institutions, but she emphasized the campus’s commitment to diversity and inclusion despite the proposition’s failure. Christ later added that she hopes the campus and other communities within higher education can be a model of unity within society.