Monday, December 12, 2016


Example of the wisdom of crowds?
From the Mercury-News:

Every morning, they wake up to catch the AC Transit bus to San Francisco, then return home well into the evening, after a 90-minute, rush-hour commute that can be standing-room-only.

But these aren’t your typical commuters battling urban gridlock. They are first-semester freshmen at UC Berkeley, 18- and 19-year-olds who — instead of stumbling a few steps from their dorms to class — are commuting sometimes two and a half hours daily to and from class in an office building in San Francisco.

“It’s not that bad,” said Faizan Samad, 18, a physics major from Seattle. “You’ve just got to tough it out.”

To meet soaring demand with limited space, UC Berkeley has pushed hundreds of students off campus, with freshmen studying in San Francisco — and even London — and other students living in dorms at neighboring universities.

A record 101,650 students vied for a spot this fall at Berkeley, more than applied to Harvard and Stanford combined. Under political pressure to admit more Californians, the University of California last year agreed that its campuses would find a way to educate more undergraduates, and fast — 10,000 more by the fall of 2018.

For thousands of students, the benefit was instant: The odds of admission rose at every UC campus. At ultracompetitive Cal, the admission rate for in-state freshmen topped 20 percent for the first time since 2009.

After opening its doors wider, UC Berkeley has 1,122 more freshmen and transfer students this fall — a 4 percent increase — and nearly 400 more students than it planned for, as more accepted admission offers than expected, according to official enrollment figures released late last month by the campus.

The impact has been instant: The influx of students coincides with the temporary closure of one of the largest buildings on campus, Wheeler Hall, where 29 classrooms and auditorium are out of commission for renovations.

With classroom space at a premium, UC Berkeley is holding large lectures in performance halls and event spaces. For the first two weeks of the semester, before some students dropped the class, about 2,000 computer science students learned programming from the seats of Zellerbach Hall, where the Philharmonia Orchestra of London and Sweden’s Cullberg Ballet performed just weeks later.

Adding more freshmen and transfer students is important, said student body president Will Morrow. But the rapid enrollment increases, which left little time to build needed classrooms or dorms, he said, “are really pushing the university to its limits.”

The surge of undergraduates has created a more pressing concern: a scarcity of affordable apartments — or room for returning students hoping to live on campus. UC Berkeley is building more housing; in the meantime, the campus was able to place about 330 students in newly leased apartment buildings nearby.

But the school also is testing out less conventional ideas. This summer, it offered 100 students spots in other colleges’ dorms — at Mills College and Holy Names University, small liberal arts schools in East Oakland that have the extra space.

Some freshmen are studying in London, a year or two before they would typically go abroad.

And while Cal has long held courses for some first-semester freshmen a few blocks from campus, this year it expanded its Fall Program for Freshmen all the way to San Francisco. About 300 new students take class and study on three floors of a modern high-rise in the financial district — a space owned by UC Berkeley Extension.

The university promotes the program on a website that boasts “The city is your classroom” superimposed over a postcard view of the San Francisco skyline, complete with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

“You got into Berkeley — congrats!” the plug continues. “But why stop there when you can add a semester in San Francisco to your college experience?”

In reality, many of the students say, it has mostly added a hellish commute...

Full story at

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