Letters to the Editor



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Computer Science is More Than Dollars and Cents

I was amused to see Computer Science serve as a metric of comparison between the “brains” of Berkeley and Stanford (“Battle of the Brains,” Dec. 1). But the feature comparing salary at the top of the list on front page gives me caution. It may be as misleading to the students who read it, as it is only explained in terms of money. Is UC Berkeley really $2,115 in the hole? Even more importantly, is that what really matters? Shouldn’t we adjust salary representation for the value of one’s contributions, including public interest work? If so, how does that differentiate the two academic rivals?

Many UC Berkeley Computer Science grads are deeply involved with open source activism, and other public interest work, which often pays little if at all. In my own case (I was a computer science major at UC Berkeley, class of 1996), I turned away head hunters and took at least a 50 percent cut in starting salary to support social science and text retrieval research at UC Berkeley while maintaining my activism for sustainable cities. As a result, over $50 million is now being spent on Bay Area bicycle and pedestrian facilities, a major shift in how those modes are treated.

The public health and environmental benefits of my work go far beyond those millions. Early use of Internet activism was a factor in this success, and I used my computer science skills for other volunteering as well (not to mention, those skills in sleep deprivation).

Money isn't the only thing that matters, and it's important to honor the complete contribution of a graduate; if business and industry is finally adopting Life Cycle Assessment, surely we can—intangibles should be tallied too. Our law school, for one, is increasingly paying attention to this: Boalt Hall School of Law claims it “leads other elite law schools in the nation” with 13 percent of its grads going into public interest work (a number that will surely grow with the new loan forgiveness program). In the meanwhile, what is Stanford doing? Well, punting of course.

Jason Meggs

UC Berkeley alumnus

Law Enforcement Troubles

In light of an op-ed preceding the Big Game (“This Big Game, Don’t Fall Into the Student Alcohol Trap,” Dec. 1), I’d like to offer a few thoughts about law enforcement. I saw students, alumni and families tailgating in the parking lots, adults walking leisurely from one table to another, open bottle of beer in hand.

I’m glad that these people get to enjoy each other’s company in a public space. What I’m more concerned about is that many Berkeley residents routinely get harassed by police—and often thrown in jail—for engaging in the same behaviors. Today, the police stand idly by.

I don’t want police to arrest most of the people that I see violating Berkeley law today. But please think about the demographics of those who get arrested and those who get a free pass, and the lasting disparities that result from the unequal application of law.

Van Swearingen

UC Berkeley student

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