Advantage, BearMail

Paul would like to thank Megan and his mom-Hi Mom. If he forgot to thank you, e-mail [email protected].





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I'm stumped. There really isn't anything of significance to rave about regarding the school year that's now coming to its end. Well, I guess there's one good thing the university cranked out this year: BearMail.

Yep, of all the campus services the university has the power to provide, the most relevant-yet least praised-is BearMail. Days of e-mail deprivation only to come back to Berkeley to hundreds of messages are now no more.

Too bad for bestofberkeley.com, though. The Web site that once monopolized the outside-Berkeley e-mail-access market now is deprived of the users of its most relevant service. I could call the university a bully, though, for stealing much of the Web site's lore, but then I would be a contributor to the bully, which is something I'm reluctant to admit.

Seriously, though, this school year should have something more to speak for it than BearMail. We're the best and brightest, the ones who are the caretakers of social change; there must have been something about 2001-02 that would make it a school year worth remembering.

Maybe UC Berkeley's prestigious independent student government, ASUC, proved to be a formidable rival for BearMail in giving this campus something worthy with which to label this academic year.

If ASUC did anything this year, it managed to orchestrate one of its greatest failures in the form of-you guessed it-the One Campus Initiative. Or you could point to numerous symbolic bills ASUC debated, which had no effect on any of us.

Winner: BearMail by a long shot.

Next up is the most glamorous Berkeley institution, the protest. OK, this has been a bit overdone, but when compared to BearMail, you really see the inferiority of this year's protests.

Protests need to improve on providing their participants with information, which is key when calling attention to their issues, which are by nature controversial. Shouting and sign-waiving mask any lack of knowledge. In addition, legitimate commencement speakers are said to have been turned away by our un-American image, courtesy of the protesters.

Without question, BearMail is clearly the victor over a futile year for the protesters. The Web-based e-mail program by its very essence provides information to the masses in clear, plain text. It also possesses an element of courtesy of which any protester would be envious. When I graduate in two or three years, I'll miss BearMail, not "One, two, three, four! We don't want your racist war!"

Next match-up: UC administration v. Bearmail. As BearMail's toughest opponent, the administration displayed class when it refused to shut the campus down after the Sept. 11 attacks, in essence showing that the most effective way to combat the national crisis was with the unobstructed exchange of knowledge.

It also dealt with subsequent protests in stride, respecting protesters' right to free speech while drawing the line when the Wheeler takeover proved to be too much (it's really too bad that the university rescinded the suspension of Students for Justice in Palestine).

Yet the UC Berkeley administration propagates the horrid terrorism that is college academics. Have any of you involuntarily burned the midnight oil at the hands of BearMail?

Sadly, the administration loses a close one.

So, by logical deduction, 2001-02 is the year of BearMail. That is fairly pathetic. A campus saturated with more than capable faculty and students couldn't come up with anything but a Web-based e-mail program to show for this school year.

This raises the question, where to now? If one thing is for damn sure about UC Berkeley students, it's that we take ourselves too seriously. Dubbing ourselves the caretakers of free speech and activism is a pretty masturbatory claim.

As for myself, along with the rest of the campus community, I feel I should lighten up a bit and shed my egocentric attitude if I want to avoid a year of disappointment. In this enterprise, I'm reminded of lyrics from U2's song "Zoo Station," which declares, "I'm ready, ready for the laughing gas/ I'm ready, ready for what's next."

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