Founded in 1984 around the successful movement to divest UC funds from the South African apartheid, Cal Students for Equal Rights and a Valid Education is a coalition of progressive students and student organizations that continues to make change on campus and in the world.
From the beginning, CalSERVE has fought for positive change both on and off campus. CalSERVE fights for access, representation, and social, environmental, and racial justice, and utilizes the resources of the ASUC and the power of community organizing to make these things possible.
In addition to pressuring the UC administration to divest from apartheid in South Africa, CalSERVE was successful in electing Pedro Noguera, now a distinguished professor of education at NYU, as the first black President of the ASUC from 1984-1986. One of the first efforts of CalSERVE leaders was working with faculty to create the American Cultures requirement to expose all Berkeley undergraduates to coursework in critical cultural studies. Through the years, CalSERVE has remained committed to its progressive principles, even in difficult times. In 1987 and 1988, when homophobic hysteria was sweeping the country, CalSERVE ran the two of the first openly gay male and female candidates for the ASUC Senate. Both candidates won their seats.
During the late 1980s to the early ’90s, the work of CalSERVE President Jeff Chang was key to ending the discriminatory anti-Asian student admissions policies. Twenty years later, in 2008, with the support of the multicultural student community and Asian Pacific Islander community on campus, CalSERVE helped coordinate the successful “Count Me In” campaign for the disaggregation of the “Asian-American” category on admissions documents and the creation of 10 more Asian categories.
CalSERVE, in tandem with community organizers from our core communities, have left a lasting mark on the campus itself. CalSERVE leaders were integral to negotiating for the Memorandum of Understanding with the University to create a permanent Multicultural Community Center, a demand of the 1969 and 1999 Third World Liberation Front, which has become a vibrant hub for communities of color. CalSERVE leaders also spearheaded the Lower Sproul Redevelopment Project, from developing the BEARS Initiative fee referendum to securing campus support to planning and implementing the project itself.
In recent years, CalSERVE has brought some of the most pressing issues to the forefront of the public agenda. Alongside brave activists, CalSERVE’s “6,000 in Solidarity” campaign in 2013, followed by the “Cal Consent Campaign” in 2014, sparked a national discussion on sexual assault on college campuses. In 2014, CalSERVE was an original founder of the “Half of Us” campaign at UC Berkeley, which sought to destigmatize mental health issues and demand improvements in mental health care. Recently, CalSERVE has been a leader in discussions of food insecurity, affordable housing, police reform, environmental justice, and campus climate.
CalSERVE’s legacy continues to extend far outside of the university. CalSERVE is proud to have alumni across the world, including a number of notable academics and elected officials. In 2010, CalSERVE alum John Pérez was elected Speaker of the California State Assembly, making him the first openly gay speaker of the California Assembly and the second of any state legislature in the country. He joined with California Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner in honoring CalSERVE with a Certificate of Recognition for its 30th anniversary in October 2014.