UC Berkeley announced task force this fall to consider merging of Cal brand
A recommendation could come early this winter.
This past fall, Chancellor Christ announced a new task force. It sounds as if a recommendation will be coming sometime early this year, as the Chancellor set a deadline for before the New Year.
One obvious issue is that too many people still do not understand Cal and UC Berkeley are the same place. People have no idea Marshawn Lynch and Jared Goff played football in the best public university in the land. It’s an issue entirely unique to our university among major Power 5 programs.
The other issue is internal. Many units inside the university cannot refer to Cal in many official capacities. The fact that our mascot is the bears also can’t be merged with the Berkeley name, which is why you never see a Golden Bear on merchandise with “Berkeley” anywhere in the title.
And then there is the cultural issue—Cal student-athletes in general feel separated from the larger UC Berkeley community even more so than other student-athletes from the general student body at their universities.
It’s hard to say exactly what recommendation makes the most sense, but it’s one that’s long overdue. With a very limited pedigree of success on its own, Cal has suffered as a standalone athletic brand. UC Berkeley, by contrast, is one of the largest and most prestigious brands on the planet. That needs to be reconciled in one way or another.
Over the years, the campus has assumed two distinct identities: UC Berkeley and Cal. UC Berkeley is most often associated with academics and research. Cal is most often associated with athletics but is also an important part of the identity for alumni, students, faculty and staff. Some have said that UC Berkeley is the head and Cal is the heart of the institution.
1. Having two distinct identities for one entity is highly problematic from a branding perspective. This would be akin to Apple being known simultaneously as “Mac” and “iPhone” without the Apple brand to associate the two. Some people do not realize that UC Berkeley and Cal are the same university, which means that the breadth of the institution is lost on some people. Others may know that it is one university but continue to form independent associations with each name due to the way the identity is bifurcated.
2. Current guidelines preclude campus (non Intercollegiate Athletics) units from using the Cal name and marks and disallow the use of the word “bears” or bear imagery with the Berkeley name. This leads to a great deal of confusion and frustration as many people within UC Berkeley consider the names Berkeley and Cal to be interchangeable and are surprised when they learn that they cannot use “Cal” or bears in their name. Sometimes departments do not learn that they are in violation of these rules until many years later.
3. Having two distinct identities has interfered with efforts to create a sense of belonging on campus. Some students, such as student athletes, feel excluded from the UC Berkeley identity because they’re only allowed to use Cal in athletics contexts. Similarly, multiple affinity groups have expressed concerns that current restrictions on the use of the Cal name hinder their equity and inclusion efforts.
What are your thoughts everyone? What’s the direction we should go?