With a planned student walkout scheduled for Wednesday at the University of California, Berkeley, Cal chancellor Robert Birgeneau sent a campus-wide email on Monday expressing solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
In his email, Birgenau said Cal Berkeley “shares many of the highest principles” with Occupy Wall Street, and pleaded with the student body to remain peaceful and respectful.
“In these challenging times, we simply cannot afford to spend our precious resources and, in particular, student tuition on costly and avoidable expenses associated with violence or vandalism,” Birgeneau wrote.
But the chancellor also wanted to let students know that the university is in sync with the cause. “UC Berkeley as an institution shares many of the highest principles associated with the OWS movement,” he added.
Birgenau didn’t specify which “highest principles” he was referring to, but presumably it’s not the vandalism, assaults, drug overdoses, and acts of public urination and defecation that have occurred at various Occupy protests in recent weeks.
“It is here at Berkeley, and at many other campuses across the country, where so many young people acquire the knowledge and skills that enable them to live fulfilling lives without unreasonable economic stress,” Birgeneau continued. “In fact, more than one-third of our undergraduate students come from families who earn less than $45K a year; it is through their Berkeley education that these students and, often, their entire families are able to move into the American mainstream.”
Regarding “unreasonable economic stress,” new student loans last year topped the $100 billion mark for the first time in the nation’s history, and total outstanding loans will exceed $1 trillion this year, also a first. Student loan debt in the United States is now greater than credit card card debt.
The average cost of a Berkeley education for an in-state student, including room and board and other factors, is $34,286 per year.