On UC Berkeley’s Perception of its Transfer Students

Can photographs, along with short personal anecdotes, of transfer students at UC Berkeley change the negative perceptions some students have shown towards them and shed light on the resources they need in order to succeed here? This idea is not an original one: it was not long ago that Humans of New York blew up on social media, inviting people from all over the world, particularly Americans, to see the humanity in others. Others, who, despite living in poverty, in war torn cities, or in the streets of New York, had similar goals and stories. As Humans of New York’s Facebook comments suggest, the page taught us about diverse people, who, at the core, are similar to us in goals and hopes, which include to succeed in life or provide for the family. Similar to the Global Lives Project, it is a movement that, in my opinion, instills an empathy in Americans for others in foreign countries — an empathy we lack due to our main source for information on them being from news or movies, where we often perceive them through a skewed political lens.

After seeing the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presentation, I am interested in how social movements communicate through art. Humans of New York is not art, but perhaps an earlier champion of their practice is Platon, a photographer whose portrait shots run the gamut — from Vladimir Putin on TIME magazine to people in the revolution in Egypt. I learned about him on Netflix’s original show, Abstract: The Art of Design. Unlike Humans of New York, Platon’s work is artistic, well-composed, and with dramatic lighting — rather than straight up portraits

As Jennifer Martindale and James Im from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts noted, “culture precedes change”. I am curious of the claim: that in order to change politics, the culture has to change first. As a Graphic Manager working for a transfer ASUC Senator Carmel Gutherz Office, I want to conduct a mixture of Human’s of New York and Platon’s work, as in the UC Berkeley culture, transfer students are often percieved negatively and can be invisible to the community. This past month, the fact that transfers were here during their first semester was absent from many forms — particularly during GBO events, and they were denounced as not having worked hard enough to get here. Because transfers students are invisible to some, I propose that in order for there to be policy and structural differences to positively impact transfer students and address the issues they go through — such as red tape during their initial Calcentral encounters and the housing crisis they experienced this past summer, we must first change the culture: make the campus, administrators, students, and professors, understand their stories. Transfers tend to be higher in percentage in students of color, student parents than first year students, so this movement will target many facets.

For example, UC Berkeley is active on Facebook, where they speak about Berkeley culture. One post on Overheard at UC Berkeley garnered controversy, stating, ‘“I don’t get why they even let transfers in here. Like, high school was really hard and we got As while they just got Cs and Ds.” — freshman outside Sproul”. While many defended transfer students, I also noticed transfers being omitted from various places, such as the tweet by the Cal sports twitter account, which omitted transfer student participation in the big C Guinness World Record event, and during a lot of GBO events, which were catered to Freshmen. Even in my dorm, where we are supposed to be an inclusive community, I constantly saw transfer students being omitted from activities meant for new students. And while we may be older, we still have to navigate through the difficulty of how to operate in a large campus.

Jen Schradie in Bringing the Organization Back In: Social Media and Social Movements describes Silicon Valley Ideology, which “privileges the individual in exercising freedom of expression in a (neo)liberal system disconnected from hierarchical structural positions, such as being members of political organizations” (Schradie). As a staff member, Graphics manager, in ASUC Senator Carmel Gutherz Office, and I hope the movement is, pro-organizaitional rather than an online movement without a leader, as we have Senator Gutherz. It will help further her movement to make UC Berkeley a better and more responsive place for transfer students.

Check out brenda_celio on Twitter for more information.