Chancellor Carol Christ gave the following remarks at the 2021 new student convocation:
Hello, my name is Carol Christ, and as chancellor, I have the great pleasure of formally — if virtually — welcoming you to the University of California, Berkeley. We are delighted to have you with us as we begin this fall semester with high hopes and expectations for our return to in-person learning, to extracurricular activities and to all that makes this campus an amazing, vibrant place. Yet, we are also aware of the continued uncertainties born of the pandemic’s ever-changing contours and impacts, and in that, there is cause for care and caution.
With that in mind — as well as all that we have experienced in the last 18 months — I have nothing but respect and appreciation for your confidence in yourselves, as expressed in your decision to continue your education in these extraordinary times. And we are humbled by your vote of confidence in this university, in our ability to continue marshaling Berkeley’s resources, to adapt, to innovate, to do all that we possibly can to support your dreams and aspirations and protect your health and well-being. You have worked hard to earn your place, and we will work just as hard to help you thrive and get all that you wish and need from your time here.
You have worked hard to earn your place, and we will work just as hard to help you thrive and get all that you wish and need from your time here.”
It is now apparent that if the challenges we have faced were unprecedented, our transition back to a new normal will also be filled with unexpected developments — some welcome, some not. Yet, while we are all walking together down an unfamiliar path, I know we have learned a great deal along the way and are now better prepared to face new challenges — and opportunities — in the future. I believe that Berkeley — and all of you — are uniquely equipped to meet the demands and opportunities of these times.
That we are here today, with open residential halls and about to begin in-person instruction, is no accident. The fact that Berkeley has, to date, avoided serious outbreaks and protected the health of its community — while maintaining the excellence of its academic programs — is the result of hard work, unity of purpose and an enduring belief in and adherence to scientific guidance.
In so many ways, your resilience is a reflection of our campus as a whole. You are joining an amazing community that has, over the course of the pandemic, come together in support of each other, our university and our academic mission. More than 90% of Cal’s students and 85% of our faculty and staff are vaccinated. Masking guidelines are being carefully followed. Testing protocols and policies are understood and respected.
Behind the scenes, night and day, the unsung heroes of this campus — our essential workers — work hard to keep our facilities clean and functioning, to maintain the provision of meals and health care and to handle thousands of other tasks that we far too often take for granted.
Our amazing faculty — the heart and soul of this campus — have dedicated an extraordinary amount of time and effort to smooth the transition back to the classroom and, when needed for large lectures, to continue their commitment to make the very best of remote instruction.
I urge all of you to join and extend our communal efforts to protect ourselves and each other. Visit our constantly updated coronavirus website, familiarize yourself with the resources we make available to support your physical and mental health. If you are unsure of something, don’t hesitate to ask.
The virus has intertwined our individual fates. We are at the mercy of our collective ability to treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated. Come what may, I can assure you that we will respond in the future as we have in the past: with your health and well-being front and center, with communications both timely and accurate and with compassion and support for all who are in need.
It wasn’t long after I graduated from college that the wonderful Canadian musician Joni Mitchell sang about how “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Now, after many months when it was so difficult to gather and connect, to engage in and benefit from all that a university has to offer, we are more deeply understanding and appreciating the power and purpose of community. We are more committed than ever to ensuring that our campus community is diverse, equitable and inclusive, offering a true sense of belonging to each and every student.
A strong, supportive campus community is what allows us to take intellectual risks, to continuously challenge the status quo, to learn from one another, to make manifest our societal values and to thrive amidst an amazing diversity of origins and identities.
I also believe that the excellence of our university depends on diversity of thought and perspective, both of which are the result of, and profoundly enhanced by, the diversity of our campus community. And so I am thrilled that this year, like last, we offered admission to the most diverse class in 30 years, and we will continue with our comprehensive efforts to ensure that the world’s leading public university truly represents and reflects the state and the people it serves.
Our quest for communal strength and connection assumes even more importance given the current salience and rising urgency of issues related to social justice.”
Our quest for communal strength and connection assumes even more importance given the current salience and rising urgency of issues related to social justice.
Competing for our concern and attention as the pandemic exposed and amplified societal inequities is mounting evidence that systemic racism is far from being a thing of the past in our country. In the context of our university’s belief in equity and justice, we have an opportunity to rethink and re-examine how we can, in the finest Berkeley fashion, make the world a better place — model the change we want to see — and create a truly anti-racist university.
Our campus community has stood and will continue to stand in solidarity with all who are today fighting for justice and equity in our country. I believe there is great power and potential in our research, teaching and learning, and in our collective efforts as a community.
At Berkeley, we are, and have always been, the changemakers. We are showing, I believe, how essential the public research university is to our country and our world. Now more than ever, humanity needs people who believe in science, in the notion of a greater good, in justice, equity, diversity, inclusiveness and the truth. And these, of course, are the very values that form the foundation of all that Berkeley is and stands for. It is our collective responsibility to ensure it will always be so.
The beginning of the school year has always been a magical time for me — a blank sheet of paper, the first page of a novel.”
The beginning of the school year has always been a magical time for me — a blank sheet of paper, the first page of a novel. You feel the excitement of all the beginnings that surround you — new students embarking on their college or graduate school years, new faculty beginning their Berkeley careers. It was during my own first year as a faculty member that I fell in love with Berkeley — a place where history is happening, a place that matters. It is a love, a connection, that animates me to this day
This may be a challenging time, but so, too, is it a time of creative ferment and possibility, and that is prime time for this public university and for you. There is so much happening here, so many doors to open and avenues to explore, so much to learn and experience. And so I urge you all to take full advantage of the academic riches on offer, to seek out and forge relationships with our amazing faculty and staff, to explore the opportunities for engagement and participation in extracurricular activities, to make the most of this wonderful place that is infused with passion and purpose.
I am so glad you’re here.
Fiat lux, and Go Bears!