ZELLERBACH PLAYHOUSE HOSTS EVENT FOR CHANCELLOR’S BOLD ANNOUNCEMENT
Berkeley’s first female Chancellor Carol T. Christ announced plans for a campus renaissance as the Zellerback Playhouse hosted historic event on July 14th, 2017. While this was not a theatrical event as normally held at the Playhouse, the stage was set to be a powerful platform for Chancellor Christ. U.C. Berkeley had been a beacon for free expression in the past, making it a target for attack in effort to silence dissenting voices. Christ promises to resurrect the principals that made U.C. Berkeley that beacon for free expression.
CHANCELLOR CHRIST HAS LONG HISTORY SUPPORTING FREE SPEECH IN ACADEMIA
Professor Christ has a long professional history related to free speech and academia. While teaching at Cal, both Bear students and faculty risked their lives as well as their professional futures supporting free speech. Christ then served as Chair of the English Department, Vice Chancellor, and Provost at Berkeley in the 80s and 90s. Since then she was President of Smith College, a small private women’s college in Massachusetts, for over eleven years.
So when Christ points out that Berkeley, which had been the home of the Free Speech Movement in challenging times, now lags far behind institutions like Smith which offers many private spaces dedicated to conversations on current issues. Today, “Berkeley is just the opposite,” she says.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING IN THE WORLD IS FREEDOM OF SPEECH – DIOGENES
According to Christ, Sproul Plaza, the famed campus public space, has become a worldwide icon of Free Speech. If the Plaza is the public space, where are the private places for discussion? How can the University encourage robust and sage discussion between opposing views? Christ responds by proclaiming next academic year a “Free Speech Year.”
BERKELEY MAY BE THE MOST IMPORTANT UNIVERSITY IN THE WORLD, OWED TO FREE SPEECH AND DIVERSITY OF PEOPLE, IDEAS
Carol Christ talked about coming to teach at Berkeley in 1970, driving across country to the West Coast for the first time. She discovered that Berkeley was the place where history was happening. She fell in love with the intellectual excitement and diversity of Berkeley. She says, “I loved the fact that Berkeley felt like a place where history was happening—political, scientific, intellectual. Berkeley is a place that matters; some say it matters more than any university in the world.”
If you go to the Mario Savio Free Speech Movement Café on Campus, you will see a display of news articles about the FSM. Since the 1960s, U.C., Berkeley has been a cornerstone of Free Speech and innovative ideas. When the Vietnam War provoked widespread student protests, the University tried to ban political expression. In 1964, 10,000 students went on strike and 800 students were arrested. Even in 2017, Cal is confronting violent protests against controversial speakers.
10,000 BERKELEY STUDENTS REJECTED BAN ON POLITICAL EXPRESSION DURING VIETNAM WAR, PROTESTED SUPPORTING FREE SPEECH
At the Free Speech Movement Café, you will see giant black and white photos of Mario Savio standing on top of a police car addressing hundreds of students. Savio’s famous speech requires that we listen to each other more. The fight for free speech is still not over. But what is free speech without someone there to listen?
To strengthen conversation, the new Chancellor wants to enhance the undergraduate experience. Christ intends to overcome divisiveness through greater unity and tolerance. She aims at accommodating debate between people with clashing views on political and social issues. She wants to “take back the narrative” by bringing opposing ideas together, safely.
CHRIST WANTS TO “TAKE BACK THE NARRATIVE,” PROVIDE SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR CLASHING IDEAS, DEBATE
Christ plans to make progress on diversity by inviting more voices into the debate. In addition, she wants to expand critical research in medical, energy, economics, climate change—the list goes on. She also plans to make Cal’s famous researchers more available to students. Berkeley is poised to create even greater social impact on the future.
Zellerbach Playhouse hosted the new Chancellor’s speech for the 30th Annual Wheeler Society Luncheon. She followed up by adroitly answering questions from the audience of alumni, asked by Kevin Crilly, Director of Gift Planning. The second half of the event was a luncheon Gala held in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union with performances by the Cal Marching Band and the String Quartet.
Graduating senior Calixtho Lopes, a Los Angeles son of immigrant parents, spoke about his plans to promote social justice for urban and immigrant youth. As a first-generation college student, Lopes will use his education in criminal justice to promote social change.
Free Speech displays itself on and off the stage, in our writing, stories, and everyday conversation. Next year, the 150th anniversary of the Berkeley campus, Carol Christ will honor the tumultuous history of Free Speech. She looks forward to expanding students’ access to housing, research, and expression. Bravo for the new Cal Chancellor, who presented her plans with warmth and wit.