Rhetoric 98/198 DeCal Course

Cal History, Spirit and Traditions

Rhetoric 98/198

Contact Information:  ucrc.traditions@gmail.com

Sponsoring Professor: Dr. Nadesan Permaul

Course Description:

The University of California, Berkeley was the first American public university to be ranked among the nation’s elite institutions of higher education.  Cal’s worldwide reputation for academic excellence may have been the reason that you chose to come to Berkeley.  But Cal also has a long and distinguished history of student engagement that dates back to the 19th century.  One of the first manifestations of student leadership was the development of an athletic program and all the student activities that animate it, and give color and tradition to college life.  Through this course, we hope to introduce you the history behind the university and the tradition of student leadership and engagement through the years; “The Spirit of Cal.”   

Course Format

This is a one-unit course that will last for 15 weeks, with 1 hour of lecture each week. Each lecture will cover a different aspect of the History, Spirit, and Traditions of the University of California, and will feature a speaker with personal experience or expertise on the topic. This includes faculty, staff, alumni, and fellow students. Students will be expected to attend lecture and give the guest speaker their attention and respect. Course assignments will include two (2) short written reflections, engagement in campus events, one midterm, a final paper, and engaging with speakers during class.


There is a course reader for this DeCal. Here are the passages it contains:

  1. William Warren Ferrier, Origin and Development of the University of California, Chapter 28 “The Development After Fifty Years”, pp. 507-552.
  2. Benjamin Ide Wheeler, The Abundant Life, “Student Life”, pp. 105-113 and “The University”, pp. 149-162 and pp. 175-188.
  3. C. Michael Otten, University Authority and the Student: The Berkeley Experience, Chapter 3, pp. 38-76.



            This course includes three projects.

  1. A research project that answers the following question: How has student involvement contributed in the development of campus policy on sexual harassment and assault in the 21st century? The submission must include viewpoints from opposing sources, and can come in the form of 3 page paper or video.
  2. Select a building on camps, research its history, and describe how the current student body and faculty feel about its effectiveness as a tool for learning or activity. The submission must be a paper 3 pages long.
  3. An end-of-semester project that reflects “Cal Spirit and Tradition.” This project can come in any form; projects in the past have included dioramas, essays, and      documentaries. As it’s open-ended, this project will be graded on the apparent amount of effort put into it as well as the creativity of the assignment.

Engagement in campus events

Each student is required to attend one event on campus at any point during the semester that is in some way related to the History, Spirit, and Traditions of the University. Examples include rallies or events coordinated by the UC Rally Committee, University-sponsored guest lectures, or other campus events deemed worthy by the facilitator. The facilitator will announce potential opportunities for this assignment throughout the semester. The student must take a picture of themselves at the event, and submit it to the facilitator before the last week of instruction. These events are usually plenty of fun; try to bring friends!


Halfway through the term, there will be a midterm based upon the material covered in previous lectures and from readings. The midterm format will be a scavenger hunt on the Cal campus, with questions to answer at each stop along the way. Each student will be required to answer all of the questions and turn in their answers at the end of the exercise. This will take place during class time.

Final Paper

As the final for this course, each student must write a 3-5 page, double-spaced paper on a topic of their choice related to Cal History, Spirit, and Traditions. The paper must have at least 2 academic sources (i.e. NOT Wikipedia). This assignment will be turned in through the bCourses website by midnight on the last day of instruction for the fall semester, and absolutely no late papers will be accepted. This is an opportunity for students to explore more deeply a topic related to the University that they are interested in.

Engaging with speakers during class

Students are expected to be attentive during lectures, and respect the speakers who have generously donated their time to come and speak. This means listening quietly, refraining from laptop and phone usage, and asking questions should they arise.

Key Outcomes

By the end of the course, students should know the history of the University of California, as well as have a basic understanding of its Spirit and traditions. Students should have a broader understanding of the campus’ sports teams, faculty, and student body as a result of taking this class.

Grading Policy

   -Attendance and Participation: 30%

    -Projects: 20%

    -Midterm: 20%

    -Final Paper: 30%

Attendance Policy

Class will start promptly on Berkeley Time, 10 minutes after the officially scheduled start time of class.

Students must attend the first two classes in order to ensure enrollment in the class.

As this course is essentially a speaker series, it is vitally important that students attend lecture every week. Of course, things come up, and everyone has to miss class every once in a while. Each student is allowed two absences during the semester. After those two absences, the facilitator must be notified within 24 hours of the absence by email at ucrc.traditions@gmail.com. 

If you must arrive late or leave early for any reason, please notify the facilitator in advance whenever possible.

Instructor Supervision

The Instructor of Record will advise the facilitators in choosing speakers, assist in obtaining space for the class, and remind and encourage facilitators to meet deadlines.

Academic Content

The academic content of this course comes in the readings, research projects, and lectures from the speakers. All of these facets come together to bring in a breadth of concrete information that will be drawn upon for assignments.