...The media narrative around these events has tended to frame Berkeley students as the violent protesters — and, very often, as intolerant obstructionists and militant liberals intent on destroying our university’s legacy of free speech. We are also cast as excessively sensitive millennials who fear the aggressions, micro or otherwise, of conservatives and the alt-right.
But in these moments of high drama, very few of the actors are actual Berkeley students. The large pro-Trump rallies have not been organized by Berkeley students, and, for the most part, the large counter-protests have not been organized by Berkeley students. Although a conservative student group, Young America’s Foundation, invited Shapiro to campus, it wasn’t students who led the angry response, but outsiders such as the Refuse Fascism organization.
And even if that weren’t the case, even if every single protester at such events were an undergraduate enrolled at Berkeley, the selection would be far from representative of the student body. Most on-campus protests have attracted only a few hundred people. At a school of 30,000 undergraduates, a crowd of several hundred does not impress.
The truth is that daily life at UC Berkeley is, for the most part, rather ordinary. Students work and study, striving to rack up credits and minimize debt. Professors lecture, do research and hold office hours. An understaffed administration slogs through the mini mountain of paperwork that accompanies each potential graduate.
Life gets out of whack only when high-profile speakers descend on campus, at which point the students become collateral damage. We receive email alerts advising us to avoid protest areas. Teachers, citing safety concerns, cancel classes that fall at the same time as the speaking engagement. The police materialize with unsettling speed.
The dissonance between these two states is rivaled only by the dissonance between the reality of campus life and the story unfolding in the national media...