by Marie Felde
With 150 Berkeley undergraduates surrounding him and an army of TV cameras fixed on him, Vice President Al Gore brought the Clinton administration's vision for education to Berkeley Feb. 19.
A relaxed and conversational Gore met with students in a town hall discussion at Clark Kerr Campus's Krutch Auditorium.
Chancellor Tien, who with ASUC President Grant Harris, welcomed Gore to campus, said Berkeley is a fitting place for a conversation on the future of education.
Gore thanked Tien and told the assembled students, "He is a hero to you and a hero to me."
Students, clearly delighted with an opportunity to share their views with the vice president, applauded the administration's proposals to increase financial aid and provide tax credits and deductions for tuition.
Among President Clinton's proposals is a $1,000 presidential scholarship for the top 5 percent of graduating high school students. "How many of you where in the top 5 percent?" asked Gore, and hands went up all around him. "That's Cal all right," he responded.
Later, when Gore asked how many in the audience received some form of assistance, hands shot up again. "That makes the point in a powerful way," he said. In fact, 64 percent of Berkeley undergraduates receive financial aid.
International relations student Maria Villavicencio told Gore her father's a janitor and her mother's an industrial laborer. "Financial aid has given me an opportunity to be here today," she said.
Students didn't stick with just money issues, however. During his hour-long meeting, he was asked about everything from campaign reform to affirmative action. He was his most passionate and got the biggest student response when he said that he supports affirmative action efforts.
"A commitment to diversity means making extra efforts to bring disadvantaged groups into the mainstream," said the vice president. The vice president also addressed the importance of technology and education. "Since we are at the dawn of the information age, in the future what you earn will depend on what you learn." He said he believes the Internet is "under hyped," adding that this is "another reason why I congratulate you on having CyberSemester."
He wrapped up his hour-long meeting to a standing ovation. On his way out of town, Gore stopped at Cafe Strada to pick up a bianca mocha and departed for a private meeting elsewhere.