In this world, there are stereotypes about everything, and the city and school of Berkeley are no exceptions. Some of these stereotypes or reputations we have come to be known by are being very academic and intelligent people (because we ARE the #1 public university no matter what anyone says), being very politically active all the way since the Free Speech Movement of the 60’s, and perhaps being a little hippie-like, among others. We can’t forget about the classic style stereotypes including North Face jackets and backpacks, Cal gear galore, and our beloved Birkenstocks.
It is safe to say that some of us realize these reputations, while some of us Golden Bears do not realize any of them – part of the beauty of having such a diverse campus. Upon self-reflection, it is safe to say that I realize a fair amount of these stereotypes. I love North Face apparel, own an entire store’s worth of Cal gear, and just recently purchased my first pair of Birkenstocks (they are wonderful, by the way). My brother has also called me a “hippie” for most of my life. To stay true to that nickname, I joined a club on our campus called Universal Love and Peace, or ULAP for short. While I have been poked fun at for being in a club with this name, joining it has been one of the best decisions I have made since being at Cal. This club teaches a DeCal (a class taught by students for other students) on Human Rights, and engages in various philanthropic projects each semester.
In this class, we teach about a different human right each week: including LGBTQ+ rights, the education achievement gap, Islamophobia, and more. I took this DeCal my first semester as a freshman, and that is how I initially found out about the club and became the Secretary. Taking the class was interesting and informative, and now I am able to help teach a lot of the classes since I have gained knowledge in so many distinct areas of social justice. Being a second-semester freshman teaching to my fellow students of all ages was one of the coolest experiences I think I will ever have on this campus. I now am the Vice President of the club, and remain ecstatic about the fact that I have five semesters left to keep pursuing our mission of educating our peers about social justice.
The other aspect of ULAP is the different philanthropic projects we complete each semester. Generally, we let the students pick the topic they are most passionate about and focus the project on spreading awareness of that topic. Last semester, our students were particularly passionate about mass incarceration. Our final project consisted of holding a poster board on campus that read “Mass Incarceration Is..”, and we asked people to write down their thoughts. It was one of the most powerful, educational, and successful experiences I have been a part of, and yet was so simple. (See picture above).
I will gladly be called a hippie if that means I get to impact our campus in a positive way. With over 1,100 student organizations here on campus, it can be overwhelming to try and find the perfect one. Luckily for me, I found a club and a community within it filled with people who want to and believe they can change the world for the better.