Why Berkeley?

Sproul Hall, home to many protests at the University of California Berkeley. Is now the undergraduate administration office. Photo by Jolie Ebadi

BERKELEY, Calif. — When visiting the campus of the University of California, Berkeley  one sees and hears a diverse and passionate culture.

The famous green-arch entrance at Sather Gate stands for new beginnings. Some are drawn here for academics or the eclectic laid-back city, but what else causes people to stay?

Viry Cabral, a 19-year-old local, said “Berkeley is a cool place to work in because it is interesting and diverse.” She attends community college in nearby San Pablo.

In informal interviews across campus, some students said that although the university is more affordable than a private college, there are underlying issues socially.

One described a racial dispute in the library; others were concerned about the recent housing crisis and lack of  affordable space for students.

Maritza Geronimo, a UCLA student, was visiting the campus for a symposium directed at research and scholarships. She said she didn’t think the campus was “welcoming for people of color,” but knows this is something students are working on. ( To read more about Racial issues at Berkeley, go to http://www.dailycal.org/2016/10/23/student-groups-block-sather-gate-latest-protest-relocation/ ) Her colleague, Christian Vasquez, also from UCLA, said he’s enjoying “a different culture than I am used to back home in Westwood. There are more food options for expressing ethnic communities in Berkeley, and more opportunity for all social classes financially and politically.”

Several students said they saw a renewed political activism and welcoming spirit and a general encouragement for artistic expression. One student’s favorite artistic piece was a car covered in chains that she saw around town often.  

Nicole Blake, associate director of the undergraduate admissions office, said the school has “an eye for diversity, not just how people look, but where they come from, making it very inviting for students and staff,” which is why she has stayed for 12 years.

“I would want other people to know that I know how young people feel,” she said. “I think they believe it’s about the GPA and the rigor, but I would say to them: Berkeley is for you.”