Though Berkeley’s famed hippie-ness arguably wanes under the persistence of Haas bros and CS majors, our off-beat eclecticism certainly stands strong. How do I know? Because of the overwhelming number of registered clubs to join on campus. Many of these clubs challenge our traditional ideas of fun or what we consider legit with their unique character and ensure that all Berkeley Bears get a shot at finding a community that interests and embraces them. If you find yourself in want of something other than business frats and cultural affinity groups, look no further.
Read on to learn about 10 of Berkeley’s most interesting clubs:
1. Detrash Berkeley (@detrash.berkeley)
Not every day does a club form by itself, off-campus and without a plan. Magic apparently does happen, however, when a few good people meet online over a common cause. A little over half a year old, Detrash Berkeley originally began as spontaneous weekend meet-ups to clear litter surrounding the Berkeley campus. Now, the club often sees at least ten people at their street cleanups and regularly partners with other clubs and Greek societies to take trash off the streets. You can’t help but admire their dedication and growth.
“Our goal is to make our campus and areas near our campus cleaner. We only have one campus and one planet, so protecting our environment is important,” UC Berkeley graduate student and Detrash Berkeley Public Relations Chair Julia Métraux said. “Our club is giving students the opportunity to take a small individual responsibility in protecting our campus in a group setting. The leadership of our group came together through r/Berkeley, so our club is unique in the fact that it started by a bunch of strangers who cared about a common mission.”
The club acts as a living sign that community building doesn’t need to involve flashy events and high budgets. On any given clean-up day, anyone who finds the time can join in, no preparation, gear or membership required. It serves as a great way to meet friends who value wielding the power of the trash picker. Aside from physical trash collection, the club also strives to spread awareness about the problem of litter and how it relates to both urban and natural environments. These informational events often take place virtually, ensuring that those who may not be physically available for clean-ups can participate in the cause as well.
2. Cal Quadball (@calquidditch)
Anyone who strolls by the Glade often enough knows this familiar, if peculiar, image— people running along the grass with a broom between their legs. At first, the image strikes you, then it confounds, until you recognize the (relatively) miniature hoop-on-a-stick structures of quidditch goalposts. Though the team can look a little ridiculous amidst the students quietly studying on the Glade, don’t mistake its members for amateurs. Cal Quidditch won the 2022 West Regional Championship and previously took the titles of Western Regional Champions and National Collegiate Runner-Ups in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Above the faux broomsticks sit hardworking players with hearts to win.
“What quidditch (now called Quadball) brings to the Cal community and its students is an inclusive space where people from all backgrounds can come together and be accepted no matter what. In my experience here at Cal, I have found that a lot of spaces here are inherently discriminatory to transfer students. However, within quidditch, I have never felt ostracized or on the outside looking in within the organization,” UC Berkeley senior and Social Chair Zach Roknipour said. “I mean, how much can a club care about someone being a non-traditional transfer student when they literally run around with a broom between their legs on the Glade in front of a bunch of strangers?”
“We love putting on a show for our curious and sometimes bemused spectators on the Glade or at Hearst North Field— but we flip a switch at our intercollegiate tournaments, where we don’t forget the blue and gold’s historic rivalries,” UC Berkeley senior and Tournament Director Chanun Ong said. “It might be an odd-looking sport to the naked eye, but quadball is a balance between absurd fun and challenging competition that’s a perfect fit for the spirit of UC Berkeley.”
As the Championships demonstrate, the sport of quadball involves a whole network of college and professional teams. What appears quite niche actually encompasses a bigger part of the population that you might imagine, so don’t feel shy about expressing an interest. Even though quadball does break our traditional image of a contact sport, it no less challenges the players’ physicality. Between dodging bludgers, getting the quaffle through the hoop and evading seekers, the field can quickly turn chaotic. You need a combination of fitness and strategic thinking to defeat your opponents. If you find yourself itching to join in on the magic, seek the team out at Hearst North Field from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays and 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
3. Coffee Club at Berkeley (@coffeeclubatberkeley)
Considering how coffee acts as the life fuel of college students and Americans at large, it comes not as a surprise that someone would dedicate their free time to coffee. The level to which the Coffee Club at Berkeley immerses itself in the art of coffee, however, does surprise. The Coffee Club doesn’t just hop around the neighborhood’s coffeeshops and name one best. Saying it does so sounds kind of offensive. Instead, the Coffee Club dives into the study of coffee— how each coffee-making element (the beans, the brewing method, the temperature and grind size) impacts the resulting product.
“At the Coffee Club at Berkeley, our main focus is to dive deep into our coffee. We strive to create an open and inclusive environment because we believe that coffee should be for everyone. In addition to having indoor workshops, we also host outdoor workshops, try out local coffee shops, and attend various events, like the SF Coffee Festival, to expand our coffee knowledge and palette,” UC Berkeley Coffee Club said. “To us, coffee means community. It means making memories and sharing experiences. A cup of coffee is more than just coffee, it’s who you share it with that matters… but the taste and energy don’t hurt either!”
Coffee cupping, like any other kind of beverage tasting, often seems like a hobby belonging to the rich. By holding biweekly brewing workshops on campus, the Coffee Club provides an accessible platform for coffee enthusiasts to learn to evaluate coffees. From offering seasonal brews like fall-favorite pumpkin spice to breaking out special coffee makers, the club shares all its best goods with its members. Members get a chance to brew their coffee using the recipes, equipment and ingredients provided by the club. The club also requires no set time commitment. If you have the time, drop in on a Sunday to better your palate and coffee vocabulary and make friends. The club promotes a genuine and self-motivated zest for the art of coffee and would never want to stamp on your preferences.
4. UC Berkeley Taylor Swift Society (@swiftiesofucberkeley)
Few people can compel individuals to collectively lose themselves over them quite like Taylor Swift. The Taylor Swift Society proves this very phenomenon. Just when you think you can see through what the club does, however— sing Taylor songs and stream her music videos— they take a step beyond to show you that fans can contribute far more than the stereotype of mindless, emotional obsession. Aside from karaoke sessions and album release parties, the club also organizes song analysis circles and even a sexual violence workshop. These events create a space for Swifties to have fun and find community but also elevate their passion into something intellectually and socially meaningful. The best fans evaluate their own behavior and use their love to better appreciate art and enact change; Berkeley’s Swifties certainly fit the bill.
5. Furries at Berkeley or the Anthropomorphic Animal Appreciation Association (@berkeleyfurries)
Never thought we’d head here, right? Me neither. Before you turn away and giggle, stick this out and hear what the furries want to say. Tracing back to its origins, the furry fandom likely first appeared in the ’80s and fundamentally involve people who enjoy engaging with the idea of anthropomorphic animals. Clearly outlining this on their website, Furries at Berkeley aims to destigmatize the negative stereotypes surrounding the furry community and those who participate in the culture.
“Furries at Berkeley represents a physical manifestation of the fandom. We provide platforms for furries in the Cal community to better understand the fandom, bond with each other, and connect with the wider furry community,” UC Berkeley Anthropomorphic Animal Appreciation Association said. “We’ve had students who are simply interested in furry culture attend our events out of curiosity and even multiple sociology researchers at the university join our club to explore and document this often-misunderstood subculture. In a way, we are like a mini embassy of the imaginary furry nation to the university, promoting our culture and fostering mutually-beneficial relationships.”
Sounds quite heart-warming and fuzzy, no? When it comes down to it, furry culture functions more as one avenue over which people congregate and build relationships. The focus lies within bonding, belonging and community and not necessarily the furriness of it all. Still, the club does its utmost to create opportunities for members to explore furry culture through a variety of activities— drawing furry art, making fursuits and constructing fursonas. These events don’t happen in a private bubble though, the club strives to connect with the broader public as well. Aside from monthly meet-ups with other Bay Area furries at the Berkeley Furmeet, you can always try to catch the Furries of Berkeley tabling on Sproul. Next time you pass by, make sure to stop by and show the furries some love!
6. EthiCal (@ethical_apparel)
What’s so interesting about a campus clothing brand? Well, nothing really, except for the fact that EthiCal makes it their mission to promote sustainable apparel and products in a way that just gets Berkeley students. Berkeley students design all of EthiCal’s clothing and stickers, which makes way for hilarious stickers that poke fun at Oski’s cursed creepiness or beautiful t-shirts that show us the wonders that Berkeley offers. Underneath the veneer of humor, EthiCal honors its mission by using 100% organic cotton sourced from a fair-trade manufacturer for its shirts. They also give 60% of their profit to local social organizations to support efforts to reinforce sustainability and environmental justice. You can’t find a reason to not support the club.
7. Disney Club at Berkeley (@disneyclubatberkeley)
Disney, the single entity that dominated our childhood imaginations in every conceivable way. Movies, toys, theme parks and now our college clubs. A celebration of all things Disney, the club finds unexpected and often oddly educational ways to enjoy and engage with Disney as an adult. Other than the usual watch parties and trivia nights, the club makes the most of its members’ Disney fervour with discussions and debates on movies and shows, providing a platform for everyone to respectfully express themselves. Yet, if you assume only “frivolous” activities surrounding fiction arise from the club, you assume wrong. Disney Club also provides members with a chance to realistically envision becoming an active part of Disney by hosting a professional night where alumni introduced their work at Disney. Following the Disney slogan— the club is where dreams come true.
8. Blockeley (@blockeleyofficial)
Berkeley students just can’t get enough of pop culture, even when it involves reconstructing the entire campus pixel by pixel, block by block on Minecraft. Born during the 2020 Covid lockdown, Blockeley started out as a small-group effort to render campus literally virtual with one of the world’s most popular games. As the club opened up to enlist the help of volunteer builders, Blockeley created a way for students to collaborate and connect during a stressful and isolating time. Blockeley eventually grew to acts as a vessel for major events like the 2020 virtual graduation and a protest for Black Lives Matter. A true embodiment of the school and the motto of “let there be light”, Blockeley brought light to Berkeley in its own innovative, chunky way.
9. Cal Origami (@calorigami)
Ever so stressed and bored doing homework the words on the paper before you blur and your thumbs start twiddling? Why not take that piece of paper and do something with it (if you don’t need to hand it in)? Cal Origami dedicates itself to the art of origami and allows students to relax while creating beautiful pieces. Though the club welcomes all, it does not shy away from teaching its members to fold intricate and elaborate hedgehogs and anglerfish. Nor does it miss a chance to do good for the community. Over the years, the club has used its platform to raise awareness for social issues and even given away free origami pieces to those who present receipts of their donations to relevant charities. Proof that a light-hearted hobby can transform into meaningful action as long as you find a way into it.
10. Gekkou — Queer and/or Women’s Anime Association (@calgekkou)
In recent years, anime transcended the niche realm and entered mainstream popularity. What makes Gekkou special then? Deriving its name from the Japanese word for “moon” and “rainbow”, symbolizing femininity and the queer community respectively, Gekkou serves as a space for female and queer anime fans to appreciate the media form through a personalized perspective. Such an endeavour ensures that anime fans of all kinds find their own safe community. While inclusivity is cool and all, the most impressive part of the club lies in its creation of YGKO, a magazine focusing on cosplay and anime lifestyle. The zine features art from club members, opinion pieces on anime characters, food reviews and cultural essays, among other things. A tangible archive of the members’ passion and intellectual curiosity, Gekkou presents itself as a club that values its members’ creativity and creates opportunities for everyone to spread their wings.