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Sunday, April 19, 1998

Cal Day '98 - a big draw on campus


Open house brings nearly 30,000 to UC-Berkeley

BERKELEY -- Maybe it was the lecture on "Fluid Behavior in Microgravity" that lured prospective students, families, Berkeley residents and lums to UC-Berkeley's Cal Day '98 on Saturday. More likely, it was the student activism, the cable-car tours of the campus, and the multicultural music programming that brought nearly 30,000 people to Sproul Plaza for the school's annual open house.

For alums such as Rich Kolm, just the opportunity to visit his alma mater inspired him and his wife - also a Cal grad - to make the trek back to Berkeley from their Castro Valley home. The campus, however, is not exactly as he remembers it.

"There are more people, more buildings and more computers," the former civil engineering major said.

"We didn't have computers in the classrooms in the '50s."

Cal Day, a one-day, seven-hour event, is a showcase of the university's diversity and an attempt to "demystify" the campus, said event coordinator Lani Shepp.

Cal Day '98 transformed Sproul Plaza, normally a more serene setting on Saturdays, into a carnival of university life, with tents and booths disseminating everything from student housing information to pro-affirmative action stickers to literature on the Bahai faith.

The steps in front of the administration building became a stage for student performances. Sather Gate was converted into a backdrop for the Men's University Choir. The south wall of Wheeler Hall was used for rappelling demonstrations by the Army ROTC.

Lectures and discussions

Meanwhile, dozens of lectures and discussions - such as Professor Paul Concus's aforementioned "Microgravity" talk or Professor Steven Small's "Mixing and Matching in the American Melting Pot" - were taking place in the classrooms.

"This provides an occasion for people to get a glimpse of the intellectual life, the research of faculty, the student activities and events at Cal," said Vice-Chancellor Genavo Padillo. "It's a way of thanking the state for its support in higher education."

The event also has become a recruiting tool, particularly for Southern California students, who may never have experienced the campus before.

Ryan Bank, a 16-year-old from Laguna Beach, Orange County, visited the campus for the first time Saturday with his family. Bank said he wants to go to Cal to study engineering. The fact that there was so much action so close to campus appealed to him.

"There's great energy here," said Bank's mother, Elena. "I hope it's like this every day."

In addition to all the festivities, Cal Day '98 was charged with political activism. Students and the university are beginning to feel the repercussions of Proposition 209, which eliminated affirmative action from the admissions process at UC schools. Saturday, more than 100 people attended a rally on cultural diversity at Sproul Plaza, featuring speeches by Professor Ronald Takaki and Rashad Ibrahim of the Student Education Opportunities Office.

More booths this year

Shepp said more student organizations, including the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary and Students of Color Solidarity Council, had set up booths than in the past.

Mary Lai, the co-chair of the Asian Pacific Council, said because of the lack of diversity in the incoming freshman class, her organization set up a Cal Day booth for the first time.

"Even though I am part of the 40 percent of the Asian Pacific Islander population here at Cal, I support affirmative action emphatically," Lai said. "Even though Asians comprise such a large percentage of the school, we are still affected, as minorities, by what happens to other minorities."

Grace Wabuke, a senior history major, also mourned the lack of underrepresented minorities.

"One of the greatest things about this campus is the diversity," Wabuke said. "We're going to lose that with the changes that have been made."

Padillo called the students' attempts to recruit underrepresented minorities "extraordinary."

"Just look at the students out there today," he said.

"We are hoping that will make a difference."

©Copyright 1998, San Francisco Examiner

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