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Getting a grip on Cal Day: Everything from A to U

12 April 2005

What's the best way to experience the inexhaustible sights, sounds, and sagacity offered up by the world's premier public university on a campus that spans more than 1,200 acres?

It's a question that could stump most scholars on a routine day at UC Berkeley. But when all is revealed on Saturday, April 16 - better known hereabouts as Cal Day 2005 - is it even possible to impose order on what might otherwise strike the casual observer as a kind of domesticated chaos?

"Cal Day is a once-a-year opportunity to see the university from the inside out," explains Diana Musto, the event's coordinator. "There's something for everyone."

Everyone, in this case, is an expected 35,000 visitors, none of whom will want for fascinating ways to pass the time from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the witching hour when campus life reverts to its quotidian routine of cutting-edge research, top-tier academics, ascendant athletics, and a smorgasbord of music and cultural events to satisfy every taste.

The problem is deciding what to do, and in what order to do it. Fortunately, both the printed Cal Day program and the event website provide a variety of methods for managing this April madness.

There's the alphabetical approach, starting with "alumni" and ending with "undergraduate research." (If zoology is your thing, try the listings under "biology.")
There's the chronological approach, beginning at 8:30 a.m. with a track meet and a "new student welcome session" and concluding at 4 p.m. with a reception for the College of Environmental Design Alumni Association.

Or, if you're geographically inclined, you can plan your itinerary by moving systematically from the Hellman tennis courts on the lower campus to the Botanical Garden and the Space Sciences Lab.

However you come to Cal Day, expect to find things seldom seen by those from beyond the campus's borders. Visitors will get a rare peek at museum collections and laboratories that are normally restricted to researchers, for example, and a chance to check out art and architecture studios. For the truly adventurous - or for families with a student who's been admitted to Berkeley - residence halls and student facilities will be open for public tours beginning at 10 a.m.

As always, motorized cable cars, equipped with student guides, will transport the curious around campus on 30-minute tours of the sights and sounds, with the ever-present option to get off and sample whatever strikes one's fancy. The possibilities are practically endless, but this year's highlights include a rapelling clinic, fossil and bug exhibits, performances by the campus symphony orchestra, an assortment of sporting events, and even robotics demonstrations. Kids will especially enjoy the Calnival celebration on Sproul Plaza from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Also scheduled are faculty lectures and panel discussions on a variety of stimulating topics, including the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004; the search for extraterrestrial life; what it means to be an American in the 21st century; Alzheimer's disease; and the No Child Left Behind program. And Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, whose formal inauguration is April 15, will deliver his "State of the Campus" address on Cal Day at 2 p.m. in Dwinelle Hall.

And if none of the above grabs your imagination, you'll find still more possibilities at the Cal Day website, www.berkeley.edu/calday/. Or just hop on a motorized cable car and go with the flow.