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Vista Becomes Berkeley City College By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday January 13, 2006

When the newly-constructed Vista Community College campus opens in downtown Berkeley this summer, it will include a 21st century structure but a decidedly retro name. 

In response to an initiative by the Vista College administration, the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees voted this week to change the name of the 30-year-old Vista to Berkeley City College when it moves to its new campus. 

Vista (or soon-to-be Berkeley City College) President Judy Walters told trustees Tuesday night that the name change was selected after a survey of college faculty, staff, and students, and that moving into the new building makes this an “ideal time” for the renaming. 

Peralta trustees voted unanimously to ratify the change. 

The change came after a year-long survey of students and faculty groups at the college, as well as businesses, government organizations, residents, and nonprofits in the Albany, Berkeley, and Emeryville areas, the three communities served by Vista. 

Of 305 Vista students contacted in the survey, college officials reported that 138 supported the change to Berkeley City College, 92 supported Berkeley Community College, and 75 wanted the Vista name to remain. 

One of the flagship colleges of the Peralta Community College District was originally named Oakland City College in 1954, which eventually operated out of the Merritt campus (then on old Grove Street—now Martin Luther King Jr. Way—in North Oakland) and the Laney campus near Lake Merritt. Merritt and Laney eventually split into two separate colleges, and the name “city college” went out of fashion as the State of California joined the national trend of naming two-year institutions “community colleges.” City College of San Francisco is one of the few area institutions which retained the “city college” name. 

The change of Vista to Berkeley City College also goes opposite the decision made last year by administrators at California State University Hayward, who changed the name of the university to California State University East Bay. College President Norma Rees said the change was made to reflect CSEB’s role as a “regional university.” 

Vista College/Berkeley City College also has a regional role, targeting the cities of Emeryville and Albany as well as Berkeley. 

President Walters said that she had worked on the name change in conjunction with the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce and with Mayor Allan Maris, among others. 

“For the most part, people were very supportive of the name change. Everybody loved having a ‘place’ in the name,” she told trustees, and called the new name “more portable.” 

“College names have become increasingly important in the world of higher education,” Trustee Nicky González-Yuen said in a statement. “Vista’s move to a new building provided us with the perfect opportunity to consider a name identified with a city known throughout the world for its commitment to education and learning.”  

When Walters told trustees that Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates was “very supportive” of the name change, trustees asked—perhaps not jokingly—if Bates was going to back that support with financial help to the college.  

Vista/Berkeley City College is in the midst of a fund-raising drive to provide furniture, equipment, and other amenities for the new college campus building.