My friend and I have a foolproof napping system. A particularly evil professor of ours takes attendance in class. As a result, we both show up. But we do not let the professor defeat us. We wear our comfortable pants, raise our hands when our names are called for attendance, and then one of us promptly falls asleep. The other takes notes, and we share in the spoils of a lecture that one of us slept through.
Mutual aid agreements like this don’t just appear willy-nilly out of thin air. They require foresight, planning and age-old relationships.
We have a similar agreement in Morrison Library. This magical, beautiful library, with its stoic bookshelves, wood-paneled walls, lounging chairs, rugs and magazines galore serves as the noted campus “comfy spot.”
Morrison isn’t like regular libraries. In this rustic oasis, reading on paper is the law, and lawbreakers are reprimanded. Naive patrons who take out their tablets or, god forbid, attempt to answer an email, are quickly reminded that Morrison Library is a no-technology space. It is a reading space, thank you very much.
Most of the reading I do, I do on a screen. That 13.5-inch Lenovo screen is the perfect medium for any kind of content: five-second scans of a high school acquaintance’s inane Facebook status, professor-assigned academic paper, online news sites and more.
I know what you’re thinking: Why on earth do you own a Lenovo? I haven’t got a good answer, but even this archaic machine isn’t allowed in Morrison Library.
So when the friend and I are in Morrison, we take shifts. Sometimes I’ll sneak out my computer, curl up so that it’s mostly hidden from view and sneakily answer emails or engage in some prohibited academic study. All the while, my friend will keep lookout. As a paper enforcer prowls the floors of the library, like Snape roaming the castle at night, I’ll feel a discreet nudge and quietly hide my elicit electronics. In other cases, they’ll be crouched in that same position and I’ll keep the first watch.
It’s all about sticking together. When I first started at UC Berkeley, like most people, I was a lost puppy. I had no idea what I wanted to study, how to navigate the bureaucracy, where to get lunch and which bathrooms would be the best on campus. And there are no maps for these things, either, no database on campus with a series of how-to guides for students (except for maybe in the Daily Cal).
The only sign points that were available for my confused and pathetic self were Other Students. These beacons of light populate all the residence halls, classrooms, local apartments, houses and offices. They cram into rooms too small and sit on the floors of overfilled classrooms. They are Other Students, and they are the best, (often only) productive resources on campus.
Libby Rainey, class of 2016, put it best when she wrote, “Joan Didion, class of 1956, put it best when she wrote, ‘Berkeley is a great place only for students capable of self-definition. It is a place of great riches, but it gives them up readily only to people of great expectations.’ ”
People of great expectations and solid self-definition don’t just wallop onto campus on top of the world. They’re developed and changed through grueling years of higher education. And people only survive that through the support and love of their friends.
It was a friend who first alerted me to the fact that the Daily Cal was hiring, and a friend who regularly keeps watch in Morrison when we’re breaking those sacred no-technology rules.
And increasingly, friends on campus find themselves on their own. The state invests less and less in higher education. Bay Area housing prices are through the roof. Our city’s become a magnet for hateful protests, and nobody’s quite figured out the best way to react. UC Berkeley has stricter tuition deadlines, and degree requirements are always changing.
Through it all, national pundits have dubbed recent times Berkeley’s Semester of Hate. Reasonable students everywhere reacted by coming closer together. Amid hate, there was an increase in love and support. Amid chaos, supportive friendships grew stronger.
Berkeley’s a challenging place, and the most important use of anybody’s time is to care for the friendships that will end up saving lives.