At a recent colloquium in the English department at UC Berkeley, a local scholar posed the question “Where is the place of anger in the university?” I could not help but feel as though I knew the answer to the question, but that the venue and the mode in which it was asked (something like the academic-rhetorical) – and therefore the possible answers – were unable to fully address the problem to which the question was ostensibly directed. My proposed answer, then – to throw a brick through the nearest window – would therefore have been incomprehensible to the vast majority of those in attendance.
In response to this question, I propose here to provide a series of sketches of university life, culled from my experiences and the experiences of others, in the short time since the beginning of the Fall, 2013 semester.
A1: Toward the end of the summer of 2013, after what had already proven to be a frustratingly bureaucratic and often redundant application process, I was told by a representative of UC Berkeley’s Early Childhood Development Center that my partner, our child and I would not be able to tour any of the facilities, as we were applicants for subsidized child care. When pressed to explain why, I was told that since we were subsidized, we might not even get a spot. It was therefore, apparently, not worth the trouble to show us the space in which we might or might not be able to place our daughter in preschool. Nevermind the fact that the reason we were applying for preschool was so that a) my partner could resume her studies at Berkeley City College (with the intent to transfer to Cal) and b) I could resume my classwork and begin teaching in the fall.
A2: Everyday I walk past UC Berkeley’s newly renovated football stadium on my way to drop off my daughter at the Clark Kerr facility for toddlers, and everyday – after picking her up from school – I wait at a bus stop directly across from the same stadium. The stadium, which has put the university 445 million dollars in debt, is just down the street from my daughter’s UC preschool, which is housed in a double-wide trailer and sits on a parking lot in the northwest corner of Clark Kerr Campus. Its interior walls have been removed, and linoleum and carpet patchwork that are no longer contiguous with the layout of the room still show marks of these former walls – in some places adhesive still clings to the floor, marking where one of these walls once stood. This is the facility that we were not granted a tour of – a facility that houses only subsidized children. We do not know where the unsubsidized children receive their care.