It’s high season for Conference Services
Up to 15,000 visitors use campus facilities in the summertime

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs

11 July 2001 | For many campus employees, summer means vacation time or the luxury to catch up with backlogged work or special projects.

Not so for Conference Services, where the staff kicks into high gear June 1 and by mid-August has housed and fed an army of campus visitors. Fifteen thousand of them, in fact — from Summer Sessions students to astronomers, mortgage bankers, budding actors, James Joyce scholars, locomotive engineers and Anglican ministers.

Fourteen groups of incoming freshmen and transfer students “come in waves,” beginning in early June, says Conference Services Manager Mary Saito, who oversees bed and board for the CalSO orientation program. So do hundreds of young athletes, who sleep and eat in student residence halls while learning the fine points of football, lacrosse, track and field, soccer and rugby from professional coaches through athletics department sports camps.

It has been more than two decades since the office’s first summer season in 1978, when it hosted a small number of incoming and Summer Sessions students. Conference Services now provides creature comforts and meeting spaces for 175 summer conferences, professional meetings, training programs, sports camps and student orientation programs. In the process, it offers a service to the community, year-round employment for campus food service and housing staff, and income used to defray student expenses.

“What we make goes back to the students to reduce room and board,” says Assistant Director of Conference Services Ray Whitaker.

As much as 75 percent of the business, he says, comes from groups that have worked with Conference Services before.

A college for judicial officers
Several generations of California judges and other judicial officers, for example, have honed their courtroom skills at a judicial school that has met on the Berkeley campus for more than 30 years.

This summer is no exception.

Every newly elevated state judge, commissioner and referee is required to attend the B. E. Witkin Judicial College of California, operated by the Center for Judicial Education and Research. This June, 100 judicial officers from 29 counties spent two weeks at Clark Kerr Campus, taking advantage of professional and recreational services the university offers. While here, participants took required and electives courses on preliminary hearings, evidence, jury trials, sentencing, courtroom management and related topics.

Experienced judges and judicial officers train their peers.

Stephen O’Neil, supervising judge for the Los Angeles criminal courts, co-taught a class in civil and criminal court procedure.

“We take all of these nice new judges, from start to finish, soup to nuts, on procedural law and jury trials,” he said.

As part of their course, O’Neil and three other instructors used Hollywood courtroom scenes — Al Pacino in “Justice for All,” Paul Newman in “The Verdict,” and Joe Pesci in “My Cousin Vinnie” — to facilitate dialogue about trial management.

“Since the Trial Court Delay Reduction Act, the judge has had to become a manager,” he said.

In and out of class
Extracurricular offerings include dtalks by top state jurists. California Supreme Court Associate Justice Joyce Kennard was a featured speaker this summer. The group toured San Quentin State Penitentiary, including its death chamber, and the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, an alternative program for ex-convicts and former substance abusers.

Conference Services staff helped to put on a barbecue, accompanied by a highly competitive volleyball tournament. After a night’s sleep in their dorm rooms, attendees returned for another full day of judicial schooling.

One newly appointed Santa Clara County court commissioner, Connie Jimenez, came eager to learn more about evidence permitted in decisions about child support.

Only a handful of the people whose cases she rules on are represented by attorneys, she said at the college’s opening reception. “I want to know the rules.”

Former prosecutor Craig Phillips was elected superior court judge this spring. As the newest judge on his block, Phillips now “floats” between two different Kern County towns.

Some who end up in his courtrooms are “frequent fliers — people who know the system as well as I do,” Phillips noted. But for many others, the judicial system is a mystery.

“You have to take the time… to walk them through, so they understand what’s happening to them,” he said. “There’s a lot more teaching than I expected. Here I get to learn.”


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