An analysis of popular UC Berkeley stereotypes

Infographic about UC Berkeley stereotypes, by Aasha Turner
Aasha Turner/Staff

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Both UC Berkeley and the city of Berkeley are home to a slew of stereotypes. We’re here to confirm or debunk some of them from a local standpoint, once and for all.

The stereotype: We are all hippies

We aren’t, but if we were, would it be so bad? Hippie history is, after all, tightly entwined with Berkeley culture, dating back to the ’60s. But either way, let’s take a peek at how the dictionary defines “hippie” and whether or not it fits the typical Berkeleyan.

The truth: According to Merriam-Webster, a hippie is a usually young person who rejects the mores of established society (as by dressing unconventionally or favoring communal living).

Basically, while the average UC Berkeley student or Berkeley resident may be more likely to flaunt luscious locks and prefer co-ops to living the single dorm life, it doesn’t mean that applies to everyone, or even near a majority. Berkeley is made up of people from all walks of life; we embrace diversity in aesthetics, tastes, cultures and ways of living.

Many would argue that while Berkeley’s deep-rooted history may push for political activism and some semblance of living carefree, it doesn’t automatically drop us into the bucket labeled “hippies.”

The stereotype: We are all tree-huggers

We may not all be, but why is tree-hugging considered an insult anyway? Though in at least one recent event, things did culminate in Berkeley protesters hugging trees. 

The truth: Most of us are unperturbed being called a tree-hugger. Many of us want the environment to thrive, a few of us are environmentalists or advocates — the proudest tree-huggers of all — and a few more of us couldn’t care less. It’s probably safe to assume most students and residents reside somewhere centrally on the spectrum. But composting is a pretty big deal — remember the initiative to leave zero waste by 2020? Right, what happened to that?

The stereotype: We are all pretty liberal

Many associate UC Berkeley with liberal ideals (think back to the Free Speech Movement, for example). And that’s pretty much enough said, as few can deny this.

The truth: The campus community is generally left-leaning, and most people you meet will openly identify as liberal. However, it isn’t hard to find conservative students at UC Berkeley. 

Though Berkeley may have been ground zero for hippiedom back in the ’60s and ’70s and is decently liberal today, elitism is rampant, from the competitiveness among students to hiking housing costs. 

Even if not conservative, Berkeley — UC Berkeley included — may be attracting more middle to upper-class students and families due to its high cost of living. While the campus may be more liberal than many other schools, there are still penetrating issues with performative activism and racism, as well as other deep-rooted problems that make it far from the expected liberal utopia.

The stereotype: We are all know-it-alls

I mean, UC Berkeley is the No. 1 public university in the world (sorry, UCLA, we can agree to disagree). But both schools are pretty much equally filled with students who can speak five languages, play an instrument or three and recite the alphabet in reverse and to the nth digit of pi.

The truth: It’s pretty fair to assume that students enter with already a vast collection of knowledge either pertaining to their major or elsewhere. People who are passionate about what they’re learning usually learn better and quicker, and here it’s just the same. But while there’s a decent chance that the person sitting across from you at Crossroads is a triple major studying computer science, English and molecular and cell biology, the person sitting next to you — including me — might be struggling just a bit more.

The stereotype: We all jaywalk

If you’ve ever driven past Berkeley, you might’ve encountered blasting sirens, flashing lights and a slew of students dashing across a noncrosswalk, drinks in hand, backpacks slung. 

The truth: Jaywalkers and UC Berkeley students seem to go hand in hand. But jaywalking is not without its faults and dangers, as pedestrian accidents remain a standard occurrence around these streets. Berkeley, while a beautiful city, is also a busy one. So everyone, drivers and walkers included, should exercise caution, especially at intersections. 

The stereotype: We are all stoners

Yeah, people here smoke marijuana. 

The truth: 4/20 is a pretty big day here at UC Berkeley, which you could probably tell from a few days ago, regardless of whether you saw the number of students spread across Memorial Glade in person or on social media. It’s almost like an extraterrestrial phenomenon now in 2021. But pot, weed, cannabis or any other name you want to call it, is indeed a very common sight (as are red wiry streaks in the whites of some students’ eyeballs). This makes sense, as there are about a dozen dispensaries nearby. 

The stereotype: We are all obsessed with food

Who isn’t? The stoners are for sure craving munchies. And the guy over there for a late-night snack after midterms. That girl? She’s going for a second dinner after rushing. Golden Bears are known to eat everything. (Like a bear, get it?)

The truth: From the countless boba shops to the sheer number of restaurants lining Telegraph Avenue to Snackpass, there’s never a lack of food or variety here in Berkeley. Berkeley Thai House and Muracci’s are some of my personal favorites. But everyone has their own, from Tacos Sinaloa to the fairly new Alley Kitchens to Fish & Bird Sousaku Izakaya to Marugame Udon. Those who follow a plant-based diet have bountiful options too, including Cinnaholic’s drool-worthy vegan cinnamon buns.

The stereotype: Electrical engineering and computer science majors don’t shower

EECS students don’t shower?

The truth: They probably do at some point, as after seven or so days, it’d be quite itchy. But if they don’t, it’s not like they’ll tell you. Their body odor, on the other hand, would definitely. Results: inconclusive, need to smell more people.

The stereotype: We all have Berkeley goggles

Good old Berkeley goggles — the famed, the only.

The truth: We have cute … squirrels? To be honest, our campus squirrels are thicker than some of us students, and that is OK. They probably steal less food than your roommate does, now that I think about it. After all, you are feeding them! Are there more squirrels than students? Is there an army of them? Does this have anything to do with goggles or UC Berkeley? No.

Honestly, this one is too divisive, but it’s generally acceptable to say that there are beautiful people everywhere and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Does that mean that UC Berkeley students have high standards?

The stereotype: We are always late

The truth: Berkeley Time is forever, folks. It never leaves, just like test-taking dreams. Go Bears!

Contact Angelina Yin at [email protected].