Stateside 4: 150 Years of Light

On March 23, 1868, the University of California was born, and Berkeley was its first campus.

The first and one of the biggest

By Roger Childs

Students groups bidding for members

The University of California has 14 research institutions throughout the state, however Berkeley (sometimes called Cal), is one of the biggest. It covers a large area in the East Bay across from San Francisco and has scores of buildings. There are currently about 40,000 students enrolled from every nation on earth.

It is in fact a small city, and its buildings housing academic and research departments stretch up the Berkeley hills to an altitude of over 300m.

It has wonderful grounds complete with redwoods, gardens, leafy paths, lawns, streams and squirrels, and the architecture covers every style which has existed in the last 150 years.

Well worth a visit

If you are in San Francisco, catch a BART train to the down-town Berkeley station and you then have about a 10 minute walk up to the campus. Downtown Berkeley itself has many cafes and restaurants, and some great bookshops, one of the best being Moe’s at 2476 Telegraph Avenue.

Bancroft Way looking up towards International House where foreign students live

On the way to the university grounds you can go past the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive which as the name suggests has plenty of wonderful art exhibits featuring, as well as continuous movies.

On the eastern side of the campus is Bancroft Way which has many shops and cafes: one of the best is Strada.

A rich history

Levi Strauss financed the first scholarship to Berkeley. Advertising on campus

The Berkeley campus has on occasions been a hot bed of radicalism and unrest. There was strong opposition to McCarthyism in the late 1940s and 1950s, and plenty of protests against the American (Vietnam) War.

It was also a centre for the 1967 Summer of Love radicalism, and saw an outbreak of violence in 1969 over controversial plans for a block of land which led to violence and the intervention of the National Guard.

Today all political, ethnic, environmental and religious groups are represented, and there are even Trump supporters!  It also has its own free newspaper called The Daily Californian. The drama and music departments have regular shows and concerts, and the admission prices are very cheap.

Many facets

UC Berkeley is also home to a major football team The Bears, and the Colosseum where matches are played, seats about 50,000 and could easily host a chariot race.

The talllest building on the campus: the Campanile

The university also has one of the best rugby teams in the country, and competes state-wide and nationally in sports from baseball to lacrosse.

The wonderful Berkeley Botanical Garden (see the article on May 5), is also on campus, and this amazing floral haven, tucked in the evocatively named Strawberry Canyon, has thousands of plants from every environment on Earth except the tundra.

The Gardens are a 150m up the hill and you can approach it via a fire trail which is popular with runners and walkers, and winds high in the hills for about 6km. However, a bus runs from the main campus up the road past the Colosseum to the Gardens, every 30 minutes.

And if you are lucky and there is no sea fog, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance from the Gardens.

The academic light continues to burn brightly at UC Berkeley as faculty and students from all over the world continue their studies and research on every subject under the sun.




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