Freshman Seminar — Why Are Universities Special? The Story of Berkeley and the University of California in a Global Context

HISTORY 24

Spring 2017
Section: 
003
Instructor: 
Location: 
3205 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
F 10-11:30
Class Number: 
33502
Units: 
1

The university as a self-governing corporation has the second longest unbroken history in western society.  Only the Roman Catholic Church is older. The university began almost imperceptibly in the 12th century. Within a short period, it found a home throughout Europe.  Colonial expansion took the university form to the New World.  Today it is to be found everywhere, educating millions of students. China in particular, the second largest economy in the world, is expanding higher education at an almost unprecedented rate.  The university is sometimes referred to as the powerhouse of modern society. How can we account for its triumph and supremacy? A good part of the answer lies in the fact that it is unique.  It is different from other institutions: different from business corporations, churches, the military or government.  Within the global world of universities, UC and Berkeley stand out, our campus in particular ranked amongst the top four or five research universities in the world.  We will explore the nature of this achievement, even its mysteries and odd rituals, in discussions, presentations, guest colleagues, visits to special collections and walks around the campus, which has one of the most unusual designs to be found anywhere.  This is a course designed to bring the newest members of our university community fully into the history and nature of the institution they have chosen to attend. 

Sheldon Rothblatt is Professor of History Emeritus.  He was Associate Dean of Students, L&S, Chair of the Department of History and Director of the Center for Studies in Higher Education at Berkeley.  His specialty is the comparative history of universities.  He is a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (the body that grants Nobel Prizes), a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of Britain, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Member of the National Academy of Education. Upon retirement, he received the Berkeley Citation for "distinguished achievement and for notable service to the University." He has also been knighted by the King of Sweden as Knight Commander of the Royal Order of the Polar Star (founded in 1748).