Editorial Welcome Back, Part Two By BECKY O'MALLEY

Friday August 26, 2005

This issue of the Berkeley Daily Planet contains the second of two special “Back to Berkeley” pullout magazine sections. Like the first one (which is still being distributed around town as well) it’s full of insider tips from local residents on how students and other newcomers can make the most of their Berkeley experience. For those of you who can’t find a copy of Part One, we’ll just repeat a bit of what we said earlier. The Planet is the publication for what we call Greater Berkeley: people who live in Berkeley, but also people who work in Berkeley, shop in Berkeley, go to school in Berkeley, or even just wish that they lived, worked or shopped in Berkeley. We believe that Berkeley is a state of mind which has expansive boundaries. Those of us who are lifers here are happy to welcome most of the new faces we see every August.  

At this time of year, though, the perennial conflicts between town and gown are highlighted. The University of California always has new schemes to reduce friction between students and residents. This year it’s a new alcohol education program and re-configuration of housing sites where there were problems last year. Good luck. Student rowdiness has always been a part of the university experience, and it won’t be completely banished. The thirteenth century seems to have been particularly hot. A quick Google produces the University of Paris riots of 1229 and a whole bunch of English clashes in the 1200s, but also the “Turl Street Riot” in Oxford in 1979. Sometimes rowdiness and politics mix, sometimes not.  

Incoming students might just keep in mind that they are the guests of the long-term residents of Berkeley. A recent editorial which suggested that Berkeley’s non-taxpaying religious institutions (of which we have a plethora) are also guests produced an outraged response from some congregants. But it’s a fact: neither the University of California nor any of the many other non-profits which dominate the majority of the square acreage in Berkeley pay their fair share for the upkeep of the roads, the sewer system and other necessities of modern life. Some money flows to city coffers from sales tax revenues generated by students and staff, but in these days of regional shopping malls and web purchasing, not that much anymore.  

The City of Berkeley huffed and puffed a lot last spring about the cost to Berkeley of UC’s new long-range expansion plan. At one point consultants hired by the city estimated that if the university paid its full share of civic costs it would add up to about $11 million. Chancellor Birgeneau’s response was that if the university gave the city even $3 million more a year, it would mean depriving 300 students of a UC Berkeley education. City officials ended up making a sucker deal with Cal for less than a million in compensatory payments. Using Birgeneau’s figures, it would therefore seem that at least a thousand U.C. students are going to school courtesy of the local taxpayers’ approximately $10 million contribution.  

Not, of course, that we Berkeleyans aren’t glad to see you again. We choose to live here instead of in Walnut Creek or San Mateo because we appreciate the pizzazz the presence of a major university and its students adds to our lives. We enjoy going to your lectures, your plays, your museums and your concerts. Many of us have fond memories of our own riotous student days, so we’re happy to wink at a certain number of indiscretions. But we’d appreciate it if you could try to keep your youthful exuberance within reasonable limits most of the time, at least at night when some UC neighbors need their sleep.