Tag Archives: UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley’s Bowles Hall is back after $45M renovation

Bowles Hall, which opened in 1929, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. (UC Berkeley photos by Brittany Hosea-Small)
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By Gretchen Kell / UC Berkeley

Berkeley’s Bowles Hall reopens this weekend as a residential college after an 11-year effort by alumni who raised $45 million to restore the aging, castle-like building and return it to its roots as a live-learn community for undergraduates.

Believed to be the nation’s first residential college, Bowles Hall opened in 1929 to male students who for four years would live, eat, study and be mentored there. But by the 1970s, Bowles was a conventional dorm for men. Meal service was cut in 2001, and in 2005 the hall housed only male freshmen. Over the decades, upkeep of Bowles, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, grew too costly for the campus.

“Our life-changing Bowles Hall experience barely existed — the guaranteed four-year residency, sense of community, on-site dining, regular contact with graduate students, alumni and faculty,” says Bob Sayles, a 1952 Berkeley and Bowles Hall alumnus. The ambitious restoration campaign he led culminates Saturday, Aug. 27, in a daylong celebration.

This weekend, Bowles Hall Residential College will greet 183 new undergraduates — half of them women. Until they graduate, they’ll share the iconic hall on Stadium Rim Way with three Berkeley academics, an archaeologist who is a Bowles Hall alumnus, and five graduate students. … Continue reading »

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Wildfire app aims to put safety alerts in public’s hands

Wildfire co-founders, from left to right: Hriday Kemburu (CEO and programmer), Tim Hyon and Jay Patel (programmers), and Vinay Ramesh (business). Photo: Jaskirat Gaelan
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[Editor’s note: Berkeleyside is teaming up with Wildfire to push out crime news notifications through Wildfire’s mobile app. Download the app and enable push notifications to get quick alerts about public safety news, and make sure to follow Berkeleyside on Twitter and Facebook for the latest information.]

With public safety news, speed can be of the essence. That’s why four recent UC Berkeley graduates have created a crime-alert app that lets people share information quickly and easily right from their phones about potentially dangerous situations.

The mobile app, which is free to download, is called Wildfire. It allows anyone to post information from their cell phones about crimes, car crashes, fires and other incidents of concern. For those familiar with the Waze app — where users share real-time traffic info — it’s a similar concept but it’s focused on public safety.

Download the Wildfire app.

Wildfire launched earlier this year but, now that students are coming back to the UC Berkeley campus for the fall semester, its founders are ramping up efforts to spread the word about its existence.

It’s not just for students. Anyone with a mobile phone can use it, though most of the app’s users — and most of its posts — are in the Berkeley area. The more people who use it to post about incidents, the more robust the app will become.

“There’s literally nothing like it,” said Caroline Winnett, executive director of UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck, which selected Wildfire earlier this summer to work in its startup accelerator as part of its six-month mentorship program. “There is no other app that does what Wildfire is trying to do, and it’s a much-needed solution that can really impact public safety.”

For those who simply want to see what’s happening around them, there’s a map with pins that show the locations of public safety incidents. Those who want to post alerts can easily do so too. The app, which is available for iPhone and Android platforms, sends push notifications to mobile phones so its users can quickly learn about public safety reports. There’s also a feature to allow emergency contacts to receive text alerts about incidents, even if they don’t have the app themselves. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Lab scientists set sail to unlock climate data

The research vessel USS Oceanus, now testing carbon-measuring robots off the California coast. Photo: UC Berkeley
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UC Berkeley

What’s life like aboard a scientific research vessel plying the California coast deploying robots to unlock important data about climate change?

A team of scientists and engineers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley have just set out on such a venture. And they took along lab writer Sarah Yang to document the scientists’ work — and, along the way, to provide answers to burning questions like “how do the scientists keep their coffee mugs from sliding when the boat tips back and forth?” (See photo below to find out.)

The team took off over the weekend on a mission to test updated versions of a robotic float used to measure carbon dynamics in the ocean.Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks says he will step down

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks: Choudhry resignation "in the best interests of Berkeley Law and the university as a whole." Photo: UC Berkeley
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UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced Tuesday he will step down from the position he has held for just over three years, once a successor is found and in place. The university issued a statement about the resignation around 4:20 p.m.

In a letter to the campus community, Dirks said he had come to a personal decision that “the time was right for him to step aside” to “allow someone else to take up the financial and institutional challenges ahead of us.”

The chancellor enumerated what he views as his key accomplishments while in office, including improving undergraduate education, improving practices relating to sexual harassment, and addressing the university’s structural budget deficit. The university has faced criticism for how it has dealt with sexual harassment on campus, including cases involving faculty.

Dirks concluded: “While we have made important progress, substantially reducing our deficit for the coming year, and developing a plan to balance the budget over the subsequent two to three years, there remains much work, and many difficult decisions, ahead of us. We need fresh approaches and new ideas as Berkeley forges a path to maintain its excellence along with its full commitment to a public mission in the current funding environment.” See Dirks’ full letter below.

Read more about Nicholas Dirks on Berkeleyside.

When Dirks announced a comprehensive strategic planning process in February to address the university’s deficit, the deficit was projected to be around $150 million dollars in the fiscal year ending in June 2016. … Continue reading »

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Black Student Union and UC Berkeley agree to establish on-campus Black resource center

In March 2015, the Black Student Union at UC Berkeley held a rally to protest the decision not to prosecute the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. It was one of many protests at the university and led to the BSU presenting a series of demands to the administration that they believed would improve the  atmosphere for Black students on campus.
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After 15 months of negotiations, UC Berkeley’s Black Student Union (BSU) and Chancellor Nicholas Dirks reached an agreement to establish a new Black resource center on campus that will be named after Fannie Lou Hamer, the famed voting and civil rights activist.

The BSU, which worked with the Afrikan Black Coalition, hopes that the new suite of rooms in the Hearst Field Annex off Bancroft Avenue and right behind Sproul Hall will create a place where the Black community can feel safe and thrive and will also make the campus feel more inclusive. Members also hope securing this space symbolizes what’s in store for the future.

“Black students have reported multiple times through campus climate surveys that they feel isolated and disrespected on campus regularly,” said Gabrielle Shuman who served as the chair of the Black Student Union from 2014-15. “A primary reason for this is the lack of a critical mass of Black students at the university and a lack of physical space where students can be themselves and feel as though they are understood by those around them. This is exactly what the Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center aims to change.” … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley police announce sexual battery

Police say this man touched a woman inappropriately Wednesday. Image: UCPD
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Police are looking for a man who touched a female student on the UC Berkeley campus “inappropriately” Wednesday.

UCPD has said the man, who appeared 50-60 years old, touched the 20-year-old when she was walking through Upper Sproul Plaza at 11:50 a.m. No further detail about the battery was provided.

The man then left the area walking north toward Dwinelle Plaza.

The University of California Police Department looked for the man but could not find him.  … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley bans off-leash dogs, cites biting incidents

No more off-leash fun for dogs on the Cal campus now that the university has said owners must keep their four-legged friends on leash. Photo:  John Goode
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For the first time since 1968, UC Berkeley has banned dog owners from walking their dogs without a leash on the Cal campus, according to the university.

Citing “a number” of incidents of “dog-related fights, including one where “a service dog was threatened by an off-leash dog,” the new policy aims to prevent future episodes, and allow service dogs to do their jobs without distraction, UC spokeswoman Claire Holmes said in an emailed statement. The new policy, which also is “more aligned with the Berkeley Municipal Code for dogs,” went into effect Aug. 1.

Holmes’ statement said there have been seven dog biting incidents since Jan. 1, 2015, but, in a follow-up email, said she was not able to make details of the incidents available by publication time (for example, the number that involved off-leash dogs).

UC Berkeley disability compliance officer Derek Coates also expressed concern after being “confronted by a number of dogs who were off-leash while on campus,” and said that he “contacted and worked with UCPD to require that dogs on campus be leashed.”

In a voicemail message, UC Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Sabrina Reich echoed the safety concerns. … Continue reading »

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Magoosh: Proof that Berkeley startups can flourish without Silicon Valley

Co-founder of Magoosh. Photo, taken in June 2016: Kelly Sullivan
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To tour Magoosh’s Berkeley offices is to visit the unremarkable. Nestled inside an office building on Milvia Street, the company would be easy to miss if it weren’t for the homemade logo affixed across several windows. Unlike many of Silicon Valley’s hot startups which boast multi-million dollar valuations, lavish perks such as free booze, gyms and electric scooters, Magoosh’s offices are tame — open-plan layout, app-booked conference rooms and a handful of standing desks thrown in, it’s all relatively quiet.

That’s not to say Silicon Valley’s clichés are absent: Apple products abound, there is a game room complete with a ping-pong table and the majority of the employees are young. And Magoosh has taken the Valley’s money — though nowhere near as much of it as many of its peers. And its four founders were once part of the Haas Business School at UC Berkeley, designed to manufacture entrepreneurs, much like Stanford has done historically.

Read more about Berkeley startups on Berkeleyside.

Launched in 2009, Magoosh is in the education business: it creates digital tools that prospective students use to study for standardized tests such as the GRE, GMAT and LSAT. To help students prepare for those tests, the company has built a veritable arsenal of software products that span mobile and desktops. The company touts its relatively inexpensive offerings — for example GRE prep costs $129 for one month of access, or $149 for six months — and says they are about a quarter of the price of those of its competitors. Helped by a free trial to hook prospective customers, Magoosh CEO Bhavin Parikh says the company has captured about 10% of the students who take the GRE and GMAT every year.Continue reading »

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Former UC Berkeley staffer sentenced for stealing $400K

Lawrence Hall of Science. Photo Wikimedia Commons
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A former UC Berkeley staffer has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to repay the nearly $400,000 embezzled from the educational program she worked for, federal prosecutors and the FBI said.

DeSondra Michell Ward admitted in February to stealing $389,948.57 while working at the university’s Lawrence Hall of Science, and was sentenced Tuesday in Oakland by district magistrate Jeffrey White.

As part of the plea deal, Ward admitted to gaming the university’s travel system (an Expedia- or Priceline-like online travel booking website) to buy airplane tickets for friends, family, and herself — for personal purposes — as well as selling the tickets for a profit to others, according to a statement from federal prosecutor Brian Stretch and FBI special agent John Bennett.Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley acts after concrete falls at Edwards Stadium

Edwards Stadium. Photo: Hank Chapot
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After chunks of concrete fell from under the bleachers of Edwards Stadium causing safety concerns, UC Berkeley has closed part of the building and initiated plans to install a temporary fix for the aging facility, according to a university official. Cal employees with offices under the bleachers have been ordered to vacate by today, Thursday.

Starting Monday July 25, construction will begin on nets designed to catch any further falling concrete — the chunks being the result of years of water damage, real-estate division spokeswoman Christine Shaff told Berkeleyside.

“The netting installation should start next week, and in preparation for the installation we’re moving equipment and staff out of the tunnel,” she said.

Rated “poor” by the university’s Seismic Action Plan for Facilities (SAFER) — meaning expected to sustain “significant” damage that will have deadly consequences in case of a severe earthquake — the stadium is on the university’s list of structures to receive seismic retrofitting. But the university does not currently have the funding necessary to complete the fix.

Falling blocks of concrete and the water damage that has caused them are a distinct, unrelated problem from the potentially life-threatening susceptibility to earthquakes, Shaff said. … Continue reading »

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At vigil, UC Berkeley student Nick Leslie is remembered as good friend, full of life

People hold hands at the conclusion of a vigil for UC Berkeley student Nicolas Leslie at Sproul Plaza, in Berkeley, on Monday, July 18, 2016. Leslie, 20, was one of 84 people killed in a terrorist attack in Nice, France on Thursday. Photo: David Yee
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Hundreds of students, friends and UC Berkeley faculty — even some who had never met him — gathered Monday afternoon on the Cal campus to remember Nicolas Leslie, 20, who was killed in the terror attack in Nice, France on July 14 which took the lives of 84 and injured over 200 more.

“If I had 20 years to live, I would live them like Nick,” said Natasha Nicholson, reading words written by one of Leslie’s childhood friends, who couldn’t make the vigil, which was led by ASUC President William Morrow.

Leslie was studying in UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources, and had been accepted to the Haas School of Business. He was one of 85 students on a 15-day study abroad program called Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Europe, part of the European Innovation Academy. Three other UC Berkeley students attending the program were also injured in the Nice attack. … Continue reading »

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Police: Possible BB gun used in Berkeley students’ assault

I-House. Photo- UC Berkeley
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UC Berkeley Police reported that a man began shooting at a group of UC Berkeley students early Monday morning. The weapon may have been a pellet or BB gun, police said. Nobody was seriously hurt, but one victim sustained a minor injury and was treated at a local emergency room.

According to UCPD, the assault happened at about 12:22 a.m. at International House, at the intersection of Piedmont Avenue and Bancroft Way. Eight Cal students were standing and sitting on the steps outside International House, also known as I-House, when they noticed a man standing across the street holding what appeared to be a gun. It was later determined to be possibly a pellet or BB gun.

The suspect started shooting the gun towards I-House and the students ran inside.

Witnesses who spoke to the police reported that there may have been a second male suspect who was letting off fireworks.

One victim was taken to the hospital to be treated for a minor injury. … Continue reading »

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Cal student missing after Nice attack; other students injured

Nick Leslie, a Cal student who reportedly is missing after Nice attack. Photo: Facebook
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Nick Leslie, a UC Berkeley student studying abroad, is missing after the Nice truck attack, according to news reports.

Leslie, who grew up in Del Mar but who was originally from Italy, was along the promenade when a French-Tunisian citizen drove a truck through crowds of people who had gathered to watch fireworks, killing 84.

“His uncle Fabio Bottini is checking hospitals in Nice to try to locate him and is in contact with his mother back in California,” Continue reading »

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