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Posts Tagged ‘Berkeley’

Which University?

As I start this post, I hear voices on bullhorns in Sproul Plaza (ground zero for the Free Speech demonstrations 50 years ago) calling Berkeley students to walk out of classes today (Monday, Nov. 24) to protest the tuition increases approved last week by the University of California Regents for the entire ten-campus system. Many details are being argued about — promises, costs, efficiencies, subsidies, and much more. I am not going to address the particulars here; I lack the expertise to do so. Instead, I draw upon my 42+ years at Berkeley and what I know about the history of public higher education to make a few general points. They boil down to the simple observation that the citizens of California and the students need to decide what they want.

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The city in which I live is probably the national capital of multiculturalism. Its logo (shown here) displays four races in profile. (For sources of the logo, see this and that.)  An October holiday is officially listed as “Indigenous People’s Day” (aka Columbus Day). The University of California, Berkeley, where I teach, is probably the multiculturalism leader among the nation’s major research universities. For example, to graduate, a student must have taken an “American Cultures” course, one which presents the diversity of America and which explicitly reviews the experiences of three particular groups. (When I taught an American Cultures version of urban sociology, I included two-week modules on African-, Jewish-, and Mexican-Americans.) In class discussion, students display considerable sensitivity about and respect for multiculturalist ideas.

In the end, the commitment to multiculturalism here – and, I think, in most settings around the nation – is important, sincere, and commendable. But it is not that real nor very deep. It is multiculturalism lite, which is just about right.

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