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Berkeley students to hold their first campus-wide homecoming since 1964

– For the first time in 39 years, students at the University of California, Berkeley, will hold a campus-wide homecoming. The tradition, which was celebrated at UC Berkeley as far back as 1923, died out in the turbulent, highly political atmosphere of the mid-1960s.

"We've lost some great traditions over the years, but we are thrilled to support student leaders who want to recreate a student presence and celebration at homecoming," said Jason Simon, the California Alumni Association's student services director who advises the student homecoming team.

The event, which will run from Sept. 29-Oct. 5, now blends with another tradition - Homecoming & Parents Weekend - that will be held Oct. 3-5. The entire celebration is being sponsored by UC Berkeley and the California Alumni Association.

Today's UC Berkeley students have plenty to worry about - from this year's 30 percent tuition hike and a state government in turmoil to the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq - but they will put those problems aside during a week that focuses on community building, Cal spirit and public service.

The 19-member student homecoming team has been working since last spring to plan events appealing to the diverse interests of UC Berkeley students. Activities evoking the past include a kick-off party with free ice cream from Oakland's century-old favorite, Fentons Creamery, on Monday, Sept. 29, and a "candlelight" folklore tour of the campus using blue and gold light sticks on Friday, Oct. 3.

Over the course of the week, more than 50 events are planned ranging from a talent show to "Battle of the Brains," a Jeopardy-style contest pitting students against faculty. Audience members will also have opportunities to "stump" the faculty and student leaders for additional prizes.

There will be no homecoming kings or queens, but there will be a big homecoming rally on Friday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. in Haas Pavilion and a homecoming procession of students, alumni and parents at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4, before the kickoff of the Cal vs. Oregon State football game.

"For a first year project, student homecoming has certainly made great strides towards uniting the campus in a single week-long celebration," says Matt Aguiar, overall chair of the student homecoming team.

Public service is a very important component of campus life today, and homecoming participants will have a chance to give blood, donate toys to Children's Hospital Oakland, contribute used books to students in Indonesia, sign up for a day of service with a community organization and attend a service and leadership fair to learn about opportunities for volunteerism.

A highlight of the week will be the Cal Can Creation Competition on Thursday, Oct. 2, on Sproul Plaza. Student groups will collect cans of food for charity and use them to build famous UC Berkeley landmarks like the Campanile. After the competition, all the food will be donated to the Alameda County food bank.
The week of student activities will culminate in Homecoming & Parents Weekend, a tradition successfully revived seven years ago. Twenty classes from 1941-2003 will hold reunions, and several thousand parents and alumni from across the country are expected to visit the campus.

Each year, one of the most popular features of the weekend is a series of faculty seminars. This year, more than 20 of UC Berkeley's most distinguished faculty will offer their views of issues such as foreign policy and the economy and present research in areas from stem cell engineering to weight loss diets.

One session expected to draw interest is a panel discussion presented by the class of 1968 - now celebrating its 35th reunion - on the legacy of UC Berkeley's activism in the 1960s. Did it advance civil rights and feminism, or did it put Ronald Reagan in the White House?

The student-run homecoming events also are receiving support from student organizations and local businesses.