By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
"Bring me an environmentalist!" Gallais cries as he wanders down the aisle of tables in search of a worthy opponent. He passes a cluster of church groups, ethnic student associations, a gay rights group, and an animal rights group, but none strikes his fancy. Back at the BCR table he joins Alisa Farenzena, a freshman from San Francisco.
He waits for a "crazy Socialist" to approach, but most of the table's visitors are BCR members greeting him on their way to class, plus a handful of students and local residents asking for copies of the Patriot.
Finally, a trio of quintessential Berkeley types -- an assemblage of long hair, tie-dyed shirts, and peasant blouses -- wanders by and, noticing the club's banner, pauses in front of Gallais to make pained faces at one another. Gallais readies himself.
"Are you Republicans?" he asks sweetly.
"No, we don't vote," says the youngest of the group. The young man fishes a hemp wallet from his baggy jeans and pulls out a red scrap of paper bearing a large "W" with a slash through it, presumably referring to George W. Bush. He tells Gallais, "We took a pledge not to vote."
"If you like living in a democracy and you enjoy your freedom, that's the stupidest thing you can do," Gallais counters.
The three shrug and walk away wordlessly.
Clearly disappointed, Gallais watches them disappear down a set of stairs. He continues his rant to no one in particular: "It's OK to be wrong on the political issues, but it's not OK to not vote!"
On a rainy Sunday evening in April, Andrea Irvin has settled onto her bed with a notebook and her cell phone. She listens to Reba McIntyre songs on cable TV as she waits for the rest of the club's board of directors to arrive.
On top of her TV set, which she passes every morning on her way to the closet, is a picture of herself with George W. Bush, taken last summer after she volunteered at a campaign fund-raiser in Southern California. The president is flanked by nearly a dozen students, but Irvin stands right next to him, his hand resting loosely on her shoulder. "I fought for that little spot right there," she told me during my first visit to the house, pointing to the picture. "You see how my foot is kinda at a weird angle? I stepped on his foot! I didn't say anything; I hope he didn't notice."
There's a banging on the front door. It's Gallais and the club's secretary, Rhianna Bauer, who stomp up the stairs and shake off the rain. Gallais takes a seat on the floral couch next to Jen Kolin, who has come into the room and stationed herself there with a laptop; Bauer positions herself at the foot of Irvin's bed. Ashley Rudmann joins the group last, pulling a chair from Kolin's room on her way in. The students chatter like old friends, but after a few minutes, Irvin cuts in to begin the meeting.
"I just wanted to remind you that [club] elections are coming up [on April 29], so those of you looking to run again ...." She leaves the sentence hanging.
The board members launch into a discussion of the positions that need to be filled, and Irvin declares that she will run for a second term as president. (She won handily.) The other board members cheer -- and then tease Irvin for making some volunteers "scared that you'll yell at them."
They assess the pros and cons of various candidates being considered for leadership positions. All but Gallais, who is more reserved in this discussion, speak in dramatic, gossipy tones.
Rudmann describes one candidate: "He was totally a freak at the debate."
Irvin interjects. "My freshman year he was, like, yelling at me, saying, 'Your dad buys you everything.' I'm like, 'Uh, single mom, thank you very much.' So anyway, I don't like him."
She runs the meeting casually, and though there's a fair amount of banter, it's clear Irvin is in charge. The group briefly visits other topics, such as the upcoming End of the Year Banquet that Irvin and Kolin have been organizing (John Herrington, a secretary of energy under Ronald Reagan, will be the keynote speaker). But soon it's back on the topic of fresh blood for the board.
"Maybe I expect too much from the people I appoint," Irvin says. "It's not just telling them to do this; you have to hold their hand through the entire process, and it's actually more time-consuming. And that's what happened this year. So even when people were told what to do and they had training, they messed it up and we had to go back and fix it, or they gave up entirely and said, 'You do it.'"
"So what does that mean for the future of BCR?" Bauer asks.
"Exactly. That's the question," Gallais replies.
"Like Andrea said, we need to get younger people on the board," Bauer continues. "If we don't, in positions that are important, then we're all going to graduate and BCR is going to drop. They're probably going to go back to having, like, 10 members."