UC Berkeley Named Eighth Active School

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A national magazine ranked Berkeley the eighth most active campus in the U.S. yesterday, coming as a surprise to some student activists and a welcome relief from the traditional fall rankings for others.

Despite the large variety of student groups regularly handing out pamphlets and leading rallies on Sproul Plaza, the University of Oregon topped the list in Mother Jones magazine. The Eugene campus garnered special attention for its well-publicized battle against sweatshop labor. The students' protest provoked Oregon alumni and Nike chief Phil Knight to withdraw a pledge of $30 million to the university's athletic program.

Also ahead of UC Berkeley were the Universities of Michigan and Washington, Florida A&M, Wesleyan, Ohio State University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Columbia University and State University of New York, Albany rounded out the top ten.

According to the magazine, last year's most contentious issues on campuses across the country were sweatshop labor, affirmative action, body politics and living wage concerns.

A UCLA study cited in the story said 46 percent of all college students participated in some form of protest last year.

Student activists distributing a petition to repeal the UC-wide ban on affirmative action on Sproul Plaza greeted the news of the rankings with enthusiasm and were pleased to see that activists they knew at other schools had their work recognized on the list.

"UC Berkeley is and has been a leading activist campus, and this will be the campus that determines the outcome of the affirmative action debate," said Hoku Jeffrey, a member of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary.

But other students heralded the ranking with less enthusiasm.

Gene Liu, a junior business major, said she felt that UC Berkeley's staggering diversity of views might have actually contributed to making the campus appear less politically active than other institutions.

"Other schools that aren't as diverse might appear to be more activist because they are more leftist across the board," he said.

But on the same day as the rankings' release, yet another protest launched from the doors of campus.

Student members of the Rainforest Action Group yesterday announced a boycott of Citibank credit cards this semester, alleging environmentally unfriendly business practices.

The group said projects financed by Citibank and its parent company Citigroup, including the Three Gorges Dam in China and the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, are environmentally destructive.

"Students have tremendous power to pressure Citibank," said Daniela Cusack, a local group spokesperson. "Citibank depends on its brand name and its broad base of customers, beginning with college-aged clients. By boycotting, students impact both Citi's name and its customer base."

Group members said they intend to participate in an international day of action against Citibank on Oct. 17, along with student groups from across the country, South Africa and South America.

Still, Matthew Long, a UC Berkeley senior majoring in comparative literature, said he thinks the protests that would draw high rankings occur elsewhere.

"There is a very real fear of scrutiny and punishment by forces not necessarily known toward any open or vocal activist," he said. "The majority of effective activists have migrated underground."


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