Cal Grads Try to Save UC Berkeley’s Peace and Conflict Studies Program

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Two UC Berkeley alums are fighting to save the Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) major at Cal — a program that began nearly three decades ago, but has started to deteriorate in recent years. Annie Gorden and Shawndeez Davari Jadali, both recent graduates of the PACS program, have launched an online petition for better funding and support for the program. 

The PACS program started at UC Berkeley in 1985 and is offered through the International and Area Studies (IAS) Department. According to the UC Berkeley website, the PACS major “introduces students to the study of peace, conflict, and world order from social, economic, political, historical, and ecological dimensions.” The program allows students to concentrate in one of six topics: Human Security; Global Governance; Culture and Identity; Human Rights; Conflict Resolution; and Nonviolence.

According to Gorden and Jadali, the number of staff members in the program has dropped, forcing the IAS department to slash the number of courses offered in the PACS program. Professors from other programs have also begun teaching PACS courses due to the low staffing, the petition states.

In addition to the decrease in course offerings, the IAS department has also lowered other opportunities for PACS students. The program is currently offering a low number of upper-division courses and plans to decrease its concentrations offerings significantly next year.

Gorden and Jadali attribute these changes to the IAS department’s shift in focus toward the Political Economy major, which has seen a recent increase in enrollment. Although PACS enrollment statistics shot up in the early 2000s, the program’s enrollment has dropped by 36 percent in since 2010, according to the petition. The two alums believe that the recent changes are intended to “erode, and possibly abolish altogether” the PACS program.

The online petition had nearly five hundred signatures as of Tuesday. Gorden and Jadali plan to submit it to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and IAS Director Maximilian Auffhammer at the end of this month. 

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