Friday, August 16, 2013

Black at UC Berkeley (video)

CC Liu, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly; Kurt Streeter, Los Angeles Times, "South L.A. student finds a different world at Cal" (, 8-16-13)
Campbell overcame many obstacles to become a straight-A student, but his freshman year at Berkeley, the greenest university in the world, shook him to the core (Bethany Mollenkof)
Kashawn Campbell grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in South Los Angeles. Yet he became a straight-A student at Jefferson High School. But at UC Berkeley he found challenges far greater than he anticipated.
School had always been his safe harbor. Growing up in one of South Los Angeles' bleakest, most violent neighborhoods [ghettos], he learned about the world by watching "Jeopardy" and willed himself to become a straight-A student.
His teachers and his classmates at Jefferson High all rooted for the slight and hopeful African American teenager. He was named the prom king, the most likely to succeed, the senior class salutatorian. He was accepted to UC Berkeley, one of the [world]'s most renowned public universities.
Campbell's cramped dorm room
A semester later, Kashawn Campbell sat inside a cramped room on a dorm floor that Cal reserves for black students. It was early January, and he stared nervously at his first college transcript. There wasn't much good to see.
He had barely passed an introductory science course. In College Writing 1A, his essays — pockmarked with misplaced words and odd phrases — were so weak that he would have to take the class again.
He had never felt this kind of failure, nor felt this insecure. The second term was just days away and he had a 1.7 GPA. If he didn't improve his grades by school year's end, he would flunk out.
Spencer Simpson and Campbell in class
He tried to stay calm. He promised himself he would beat back the depression that had come in waves those first months of school. He would work harder, be better organized, be more like his roommate and new best friend, Spencer Simpson, who was making college look easy. More (PHOTOS) 

Surviving College
CC Liu, B.A., Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly (COMMENTARY)
YOLO? No. We live again and again.
It was the toughest thing I'd ever done. I got through it by meditating more and more at the Berkeley Zendo, enjoying school less and less, and trying to care about learning something rather than chasing those elusive As at every turn.

The more I obsessed about grades, the worse I did. It was cutthroat among friends. But everybody seemed to be doing all right. I was depressed, not eating well, and taking lots of herbal caffeine (Chi Power with gotu kola and yang-strengthening herbs).
I couldn't find a supportive relationship to save my life, not that I was there to get my MRS. degree or anything. But an occassional hook up would have been nice. Cal is the wrong place for it. Why? Where are all the free love hippies, the decadent wastrels, the commune schooled nudist socialists? Not in Campbell Hall, not in the quad, not on this elite campus. Nearly everyone is a nerd, except maybe for those taking a semester or two off and living in the vegetarian houses of the Co-op.

Campus map (
I mean, really, high school kids and Oakland drifters flood the main drag every weekend, so Telegraph Avenue is useless. Bancroft is floating in fake intellectuals addicted to candy and coffee. University is good for a meal and that's all. And the other streets are desolate or a good place to get mugged.

I don't know how anyone survives except by luck, karma, good friendships, and the idea that if I can just get through this... I had an enriched prep in LA, and I still feel I barely made it through by hook and crook and everything else it took. If it weren't for Seven, I don't even know how I would have gotten by.

The Ultimate Guide
Yet, if I had it to do all over again, I like to think I would party more, socialize more, celebrate more. But really I would probably just study and protest inequality and take more non-major electives. It's the only time we'll ever have to read for leisure and travel, but academic survival and trying to answer the question "What am I going to do with the rest of my life?" loom so large that there's almost no way to enjoy it. 
"Don't panic." But education is wasted on the young and, as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy observes, "Life is wasted on the living." It didn't help anything that I was constantly infatuated, bemused, in "love," and pining away. Love and academe do not mix:

Sia "Academia" from the album "Some People Have Real Problems"

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