A school stereotype that permits assumptions about the type of student the school will attract. Knowing the character attends a particular school implies a set of characteristics.
The schools used for this fall into the following categories:
BerserkeleyShameless is simply not enough to describe Berserkeley. It is is filled with nudists, Granola Girls, Hollywood Atheists who get furious at the mere mention of something vaguely religious and won't hesitate to tell you you're a deluded fundie who believes in an Invisible Sky Wizard Fascist who Doesn't Believe In Rationality(tm), stoners, Straw Nihilists, nudists, angry socialists/communists/anarchists/your choice of far-left political radical howling about how AmeriKKKa is pure evil and that we deserve to die in a ditch and getting really mad whenever the overworked and irritated cops come in to break up their latest protest, pissed-off black nationalists and militant minorities who really hate white students, angry radical feminists who see sexism everywhere and either demand you adhere to nonstandard gender roles, or stay in them, irritating, pretentious, elitist hipsters wearing risible fashions and making nonsensical, offensive pieces of 'art' (read: trash) to complain about the mainstream (read: anything not their art/trash), elitist hard-science majors who sneer at the rest of the school and ESPECIALLY you for not being in a hard science and/or indulging in pointless things like philosophy, and of course angry marijuana-toking nihilist anarchosocialist-communist anti-white radfeminist hipster artist Nudist scientists. The faculty will be all of the above — just with pieces of paper saying they're better educated. And more often than not, they will engage in nude parties.
Every third storefront is a coffeehouse or bar with atheist nihilists Wangsting about Everything, or pretentious beatniks explaining how true their incomprehensible art is. The city council is packed with people who pass truly absurd ordinances... after they finish decriminalizing weed.
Real schools used to invoke this one:
- University of California, Berkeley, of course. Useful for radical-left political flavoring.note note
- The entire University of California gets this rap, especially UC Santa Cruz, which belongs to an already famously liberal town (the town denied permission to the Navy to operate there, and forbade the police to press drug charges against marijuana smokers — especially if smoking in public, and has the largest 420 gathering in Northern California). Even the newer UCs aren't immune, as UC Irvine had an incident where the black students' club chained themselves together and marched into the student council meeting to protest a racist incident perpetrated by an Asian-American frat.
- Wellesley College — This one is handy if you need a Straw Feminist overtone.
- any of the Seven Sisters—Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Bryn Mawr, Barnard, Radcliffe (assimilated by Harvard), and Vassar (now co-ed)—will suffice. Is handy if you want Schoolgirl Lesbians.
- University of Michigan, Ann Arbor — Great for pegging the character as an activist. Actually active, that is, rather than just slinging the activist lingo. Good one for anti-animal testing shenanigans.
- The University of Glasgow in Scotland fits the political part of this but not really the pretentiousness bit. That would be St Andrews or Edinburgh.
- Reed College in Portland, Oregon — they only tell students their grades if specifically asked, the administration has an extremely lax drug-use policy even for hyper-liberal Portland, and about half of their traditions are weird hippie in-jokes. More infamously, a student group called Reedies Against Racism (RAR) protested and harassed humanities professors and guest speaker Kimberly Peirce, accusing them of promoting racism and bigotry.note
- The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington — does not assign grades to students at all in favor of "narrative evaluations,"note many of the courses offered are political in nature, and there are no "departments" like you'd see at other schools — all classes are a form of "integrated studies" which approach a single issue from several different academic angles, with freshmen and seniors often in the same class. Professors are addressed by first name most of the time. The school operates an organic farm and a nonprofit vegetarian restaurant staffed and operated by unpaid volunteers who manage cooperatively.note
- The University of Colorado at Boulder — Much like UC-Berkeley. A liberal college in a liberal enclave in a conservative(-ish, see The Several States) state, referred to as "nine square miles surrounded by reality". Ward Churchill (he of the infamous essay alleging that the 9/11 victims were "little Eichmanns") was a professor here, and like UC-Santa Cruz, it has a large pothead population, and endorses a Halloween nudist run where revellers will wear nothing but jack-o'-lanterns on their heads, which annoys the local police to no end. It is an oddity in the University of Colorado system, since its sister school, University of Colorado Springs, is more known for being a haven for nerdy STEM students and business majors, and UC-Denver is known for a high percentage of art students.
- Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos from Perú, The National University of Saint Mark.
- Virginia Commonwealth University, Particularly the school of Arts, is known for its highly liberal use of drugs and high amount of Hipsters.
- George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia— Outside of their prestigious School of Economics, has enough dyed-hair feminists and such a diverse student body to be known as the Tumblr of Virginia schools. Being near the super liberal District of Columbia certainly helps.
- Kent State University, Kent, Ohio — Popular for antiwar-style liberals, thanks to the 1970 National Guard shooting that killed four students.
- University of Wisconsin-Madison — likewise a history of 1960s Vietnam-era activism, long called "Berkeley of the Midwest."
- Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, has a reputation for "progressive activism" where students were known to adorn the interior hallways with left-wing graffiti. Or, as Aileen LeBlanc of NPR's All Things Considered put it, "The college stands proudly as a progressive place, with a reputation of breeding beatnik, toxic, hippie, gay, New Age, vegan weirdoes." And she was being sympathetic. The college was closed from June 2008 to October 2011 for "restructuring."
- Although many (most?) religious colleges fit easily into the Jim Jonestown University mold described below, a few don't:
- Ashland University (Brethren Church) in Ashland, Wisconsin, is fairly left-wing. One of the largest majors offered there is in Toxicology/Environmental Sciences.
- Earlham College (Religious Society of Friends — i.e. the Quakers) in Richmond, Indiana, is so left-wing that everybody is addressed by their first name — calling an instructor 'Mister', 'Ms.', 'Professor' or 'Doctor' So-and-So is definitely frowned upon.note Students are often at odds with the local and regional Yearly Meetings (the Quaker equivalent of a synod) over sexuality and drinking. (In case you're wondering, the Yearly Meetings are against both.)
- The University of the Philippines (or UP for short) in metropolitan Manila, Philippines has gained a reputation as a hotbed for activists and radicals spanning the entire political spectrum. Historically, it has been stereotyped as being both Communist and far-left, though with their ideological rivals very close behind.
- The University of Texas at Austin is noted for this, as Austin is very famously a weird and liberal place. It's somewhat unclear whether the university is weird because it's in Austin or the city is weird because UT is in it. Either way it often gets contrasted with Texas A&M.
- Mexico has its Jesuit universities: the Iberoamerican Universities (Mexico City, León, Puebla and Torreón), the Pacific Loyola University in Acapulco, the ITESO in Guadalajara, and the Ayuuk Intercultural Higher Education Institute — the last one's name comes from the lectures and courses being literally taught in the local ayuuk language.
St. Jim Jonestown AcademyA Boarding School of Horrors run by the harshest, most conservative Corrupt Church imaginable and their goons, bordering on fascism. The school itself is filled with Sinister Ministers and fundamentalists who constantly teach lies and intolerance in the classroom and will give the worst punishments to those who even think otherwise, and Moral Guardians blaming the downfall of America on the lack of Jesus and the presence of boobs on TV. The students are small-minded Bible thumpers who believe in a Magic Sky Fairy who tells them anyone not following the book of some liars from long ago will go to an imaginary place where everyone suffers from a "loving" Magic Sky Fairy, ultra-capitalist economic professors who think anything vaguely leftist is "communist" and that poor people deserve to die because they're just lazy, shrieking harpies who think anything above the knees is Satan's Clothing and sneer at anyone who doesn't adhere to gender norms as "people playing out a fetish", Jerk Jocks who won't pass up the opportunity to spew racist, homophobic, and transphobic slurs at every opportunity and are more concerned with football/hockey/some kind of physical sport than anything else (besides disgusting hazing rituals and beating up minorities or the homeless around town), thinly-veiled neo-Nazis who blame everything on the Jews, and ignoramuses who think Islam is a race and every black person is from the ghetto. The faculty and students will often be incredibly racist, sexist, and/or homophobic, and anyone who doesn't fit into the herd gets beaten down — literally, in some cases — or worse. Contractual Purity is required of students and faculty alike, both on and off campus. (And yes, even for students, it may be literally a contractual requirement, depending on the school.)
Anyone who has half a brain turns out to be either a Stepford Smiler, Holier Than Thou, or Ax-Crazy. The city council, if it exists, will be packed with oppressive, right-wing dictators who want to eject anyone who dares to be more liberal. Being a historic university, its founding charter frequently comes with a long and detailed list of complex bylaws and regulations which just seem tailor-made for the Dean to abuse our plucky heroes.
Schools in this continuum:
- Horrifically Truth in Television in Victorian Britain. Boarding schools were not a Victorian innovation, but the institution was embraced as a means of counteracting the softening, emasculating influence of mothers and preparing young men for the harsh rigours of the world of business and Empire. The move to purposefully harsh institutions as a solution to parental mollycoddling took place in the context of the early-mid Victorian love of childhood and doting parenthood, which it was later feared would render the new generation of the better sort of people — i.e. the middle and upper classes — too soft to maintain Anglo supremacy. Thus, boarding schools were intended to break the attendents and thus prevent them from becoming 'soft' and/or homosexual. More specifically they would instill discipline and self-discipline, deference to authority, strict morals, a vague sense of the Christian religion, and teamwork. This was of course in addition to all the usual things one expects a public school (a school open to the paying public as opposed to a private school, which was more exclusive) to do. To make a long story short, the architects of of this system were great admirers of Sparta — enough said.
- Religious schools that primarily turn out pastors and missionaries (Bob Jones, Regent, Oral Roberts, Brigham Young, etc.).
- All of these schools (except BYU) are rather infamous for their morality codes which threaten summary expulsion for the heinous crimes of fraternizing with the opposite sex (or indeed the same sex, which is infinitely worse), dressing in immodest clothing, drinking alcohol, listening to contemporary music or getting an unconventional haircut. BYU has a morality code, but it's more concerned with things that go against Mormon beliefs, mainly alcohol, tobacco, and especially sex outside marriage. As for the other schools mentioned, Regent tends to be a tiny bit more laid-back than the others, mostly because a large proportion of the school is graduate students in secular fields such as law, government, communications, and business.note
- Liberty University used to merit inclusion on this list, but in the new millennium and particularly since the passing of its founder it has become a lot more laid-back on issues like clothing, tattoos and piercings, and other personal style choices. Drinking, drugs, sex and NC-17 or X-rated movies are still off-limits, though. By the mid-to-late-2010s, virtually all of these schools have scaled back their dress code. It's still stricter than at non-Religious universities.
- Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (Pontifical Catholic University of Peru) is a private university that has this characteristic with granola girls in the mix.
- Deep South schools big and small can get this treatment (Washington and Lee, Tennessee, South Carolina, Ole Miss).
- Texas A&Mnote gets a big (not exactly unwarranted) reputation for this, especially compared to its more liberal and diverse neighbor/rival, The University of Texas at Austin. Until 1960, it was closed to women and minorities (then again, 'liberal' colleges such as Harvard were closed to women as well) and required all students to train as reserve officers in the Army (ROTC, basically). Even after the end of that requirement, A&M's Corps of Cadets is far larger than the average and A&M remains one of the most conservative schools in the country.
- Mexico has the Pan-American University, where law students are never once taught about divorce procedure, you're required to show up to your exams wearing a three-piece suit, you must always behave like a distinguished member of the elite in and outside of campus, you must always go to church every single Sunday and confess yourself regularly. They view Jesuit colleges as full of unruly potheads.
- Monterrey Tech (ITESM), the National Polytechnical Institute (IPN) and the Autonomous University of Guadalajara are conservative too, albeit in a more filthy-rich-right-wing way.
- Historically, many famous universities were of this variety to different degrees. Many once had requirements much like those of private American Christian universities today, if not more-faculty and students had to make strict statements of faith, dissenting views were not tolerated. Even what are now stereotypically liberal universities like Harvard started this way - it was founded by a Puritan, who denounced secular education in general. Oxford University forbade Isaac Newton joining the faculty because of his heterodox beliefs (denying the Trinity) - in fact it required faculty to be Anglican priests, which he wasn't. Newton joined only after being granted special dispensation. Trinity College of Dublin was founded by Elizabeth I, permitting Anglicans only for centuries (when Ireland was - as it remains - majority Catholic).
Note that the two former examples are generic higher education institutions which give academic education but do not prepare for any profession. There may be a third example of an academy, which would prepare for academic professions, especially engineering:
Sokal Institute of Rock-Hard Sciences and TechnologyA shamelessly intellectually elitist Ivy League for Everyone which is just as shamelessly Hard on Soft Science. This academy concentrates on hard natural sciences as well as engineering and industrial management, with possible faculties of economy, business and law. Expect a lot of tech-savvy Hollywood Nerds and Geeks, including sizeable contingents of Jews (because You Have to Have Jews, after all) and Asians (take your pick from East Asia or South Asia). These guys certainly won't think Everybody Hates Mathematics or Science Is Useless. Expect a lot of Hollywood Atheist and Straw Nihilist types, often overlapping with Mad Scientist. If the academy has a faculty for law, the Amoral Attorney is omnipresent. The teaching staff will include the Absent-Minded Professor with Einstein Hair, Mad Scientist professors aiming for Nobel prizes, Engineers who absolutely despise anyone not them (and show their displeasure by pulling complicated MIT-style pranks on their less-than-enlightened fellows, usually those from Berserkley and Jim Jonestown) and the occasional Omnidisciplinary Scientist. Everyone will wear a Labcoat of Science and Medicine. Libertarian right-wing politics will predominate, but not religion, as everyone will claim to have Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions and assert that Belief Makes You Stupid. If the university has a faculty of Economics, expect it to be horribly elitist and ultra-Capitalist right wing.
The alumni will look frowningly downwards both the Berserkeley and St. Jim Jonestown Academy, considering themselves both morally and intellectually superior to them. Needless to say, the Berserkeley will loathe them as inhumanly cold robots and St. Jim Jonestown as amoral Commie Nazi Liberal nerds. Especially the Berserkeley alumni will consider anyone graduating here having a Morally Ambiguous Doctorate Expect many of the alumni being Corrupt Corporate Executive types.
The life outside studies would consist of getting drunk and/or high and performing hacks and pranks. And, of course, MacGyvering things. Expect a lot of science, astronomy and chemistry geeks, otaku and LARP fanatics. Everyone will be male and single.
Schools in this continuum:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), for all places.
- California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
- Ecole Polytechnique (France)
- Universities of Cambridge, Strathclyde and Napier (UK)
- Kungliga Techniska Högskolan (Sweden)
- Aalto University (Finland)
- PCU, in the film of that name, somehow manages to be both. The campus is, shall we say, polarized. This trope was basically the entire point of the movie.
- Faber College from National Lampoon's Animal House is a Jim Jonestown University. Politics and religion don't come into play, thank God, but it's definitely a stuffy and stodgy place without Delta House's Wacky Fratboy Hijinx. Toward the end of the movie, the Deltas also go on a road trip and pick up some women at a 'socially activist' women's college that is hinted at being a 1950s/early '60s version of Berserkeley. The movie takes place in 1962, two years before the free-speech movement, when Berserkeley was still an Unbuilt Trope.
- Not a college, but American Eagle Christian High School from the film Saved! qualifies as a Jim Jonestown High School.
- In John Singleton's college drama Higher Learning, Columbus University is obviously supposed to be a stand-in for one of the University of California campuses — but the faculty, as represented by Professor Phipps, are actually quite reasonable folks who aren't angry at the world. A disproportionate number of the students, however, appear to be unhinged militants in full-blown Berserkeley mode, screaming everything from "White power!" (even the neo-Nazis come off as lefties in this movie, thanks to their constant rants about reverse discrimination) to "Dead men don't rape!" and calling the school's namesake "nothing but a thief and a murderer." Even the 'good guys' are misguided: one student, dismayed at the gang violence, organizes a school-wide "Peace Fest." It doesn't end well.
- In Iron Man, Stark asks the annoying (but not evil) liberal journalist if she graduated from Berkeley (she actually went to Brown).
- In the Van Wilder prequel, Coolidge College is portrayed as a Jim Jonestown University. Van is able to turn things upside down by the end of the film, of course.
- The Trope Namer for Berzerkeley is actually name checked in the opening narration of Princess Diaries 2— Lilly naturally is going to college there (though we don't see her there).
- This is a common joke about Universities in Scotland: How many students does it take to change a lightbulb? The answer (or at least a variation thereof) depends on the school:
Glasgow University: 96
One to change the lightbulb, fifty to protest the light bulb's right not to change, twenty to hold a counter-protest, and another twenty-five to produce a pamphlet saying that we would have solar-powered LEDs that never need changing but for big business and U.S. foreign policy.note
One to buy and fit the bulb and nine to petition for the electrification of Dundee.note
One to change the lightbulb and six to throw a party because he didn't screw it in upside down this time.note
One to design a nuclear-powered bulb that never needs changing, one to figure out how to power the rest of Scotland using that nuked lightbulb, two to install it and one to write the computer programme that controls the switch.note
St Andrews: 5
One to arrange the party, two to coordinate the press, one to call the electrician and one to get Daddy to pay for it all.note
Heriot Watt: 3
One to change it and two to figure out how to get high off the old one.note
One to change the light bulb and one to crack under the pressure.note
He gets ten course credits for it.note
He holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.note
Stirling looks better in the dark.note
- Students across the pond have a variation for Virginia schools:
Christopher Newport University students: 360
One to change the bulb and 359 upperclassmen to bitch about how they got screwed over by housing.note
Eastern Mennonite University students: 2
One to hold the candle, and the other to strike the flint.note
George Mason students: 3
If they get lucky and one of them has taken the course at NOVA.note
Hampden-Sydney students: 5
One to actually change the light bulb, and four to figure out how this could get some Longwood girls to come over.note
Hollins College students: 0
That’s what maids are for.note
James Madison students: 0
Harrisonburg doesn’t have electricity yet.note
Liberty University students: 0
God said “let there be light” and all was good, and no one questions Falwell.note
Longwood students: 0
The Farmville Super Walmart has fluorescent lighting.note
Mary Baldwin students: 4
One to change the light bulb, and three to figure out how it will help them meet their future husband.note
Mary Washington students: The Whole Student Body
There’s nothing better to do on the weekends.note
Old Dominion students : 4
Two to change the bulb, and two to figure out how to get high off the old one.note
Radford students: 1
But it takes six yearsnote
Randolph–Macon students: 0
They’ll just drink in the dark.note
Sweet Briar students: 4
One to change the bulb, and three to call up daddy and cry and complain about how awful the whole experience was.note
University of Richmond students: 2
One to mix the martinis and one to call the electrician.note
UVA students: 1
He just holds the bulb and lets the world revolve around him.note
VCU students: 0
Downtown Richmond looks better in the dark.note
VMI students: 4
One Rat to actually change the bulb, one upperclassman to yell at him for not doing it fast enough, one to yell at him for not using the proper wattage, and one to send him up to the Rat Disciplinary Committee for letting the bulb burn out in the first place.note
Virginia Tech students : 3
One to change the bulb, and two to discuss how they did it just as well as a UVA student.note
Washington and Lee students: 4
One to change the bulb, three to write up a complaint to the board of directors stating that they could have gone to a better school if they had wanted to.note
William and Mary students: 3
One to change the bulb, and two to crack under the pressure.note
- The titular school in Neal Stephenson novel The Big U manages to avoid either extreme version of Strawman U, but the SUB and the unionized professors would fit in well at a Berserkeley, and the administration and Temple of Unlimited Godhead (a fundamentalist Mormon offshoot) are close to a Jim Jonestown.
- Taken past the point of parody by Victoria where several colleges compete to out-liberal each other by, among other things, holding classes on Lesbian contributions to 18th Century tactics and female oppression throughout history, building a temple to Artemis and forcing male students to prostrate before it, holding gay orgies, and having white male students confess to racism, sexism, homophobia etc. and wearing humiliating signs. Ultimately, the problem is solved by killing all the Marxist college professors and instituting one true, righteous university of the Western Canon.
- In The Silver Chair, C. S. Lewis gives us a proto-Berserkeley in the form of Experiment House, where the kid heroes Eustace and Jill go. The faculty, fancying themselves modern and progressive, allow bullies to run wild, creating a hellish environment for other students. Earlier on, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe hints that either Experiment House or another Boarding School of Horrors contributed to Edmund's spiteful behavior as after his Heel–Face Turn, his sister Lucy observes that he looks better than he has "since his first term at that horrid school which was where he had begun to go wrong."
- In the Jessica Christ series, Texas State University is portrayed as a combination of both. The bulk of the student body seems to be half obnoxious, self-righteous Christians who scream about persecution any time their religion is implied to not be 100% right about everything, and half obnoxious, self-righteous atheists who scream about persecution any time they have to hear anyone so much as mention religion. Jessica, being the once-begotten daughter of God, naturally ends up on the wrong side of both crowds.
- Mentioned in an episode of Dharma & Greg to show the grandparents' personalities. The biological mother of the title couple's adopted son wants him back, and the grandparents (a pair of WASPs and a pair of hippies) have this discussion:
Kitty: We'll tie her up in court. By the time she gets Daniel back he'll be graduating from Stanford.Edward: Notre Dame.noteLarry: Berkeley.Abby: Oberlin.
- Faking It has a Strawman High in Hester High School, a school that's so progressive, the outcasts are the in crowd, the coolest kid in school is gay, and the girl who would be the Alpha Bitch at most schools is at the bottom of the social ladder. And the principal? Went to Berkeley. Also, the school's in Austin.
- On Awkward., Jenna visits a university that she expects to be like the "Berserkley" stereotype but is more of a generic state school (though not to the level of Jim Jonestown).
- Chicago Justice: The university in "Comma" is portrayed as having serious aspects of this. A group of conservative students advocating the right to carry concealed handguns on campus (for protection against school shootings) clashes with a left-wing professor and his followers. This turns out to have caused a murder. Granted, a professor ranting in class and students getting in trouble for passing out copies of the US Constitution is based on real incidents.
- In the early years of Doonesbury, Walden College was a Berserkley variety.
- If you think this is just a modern phenomenon, you're wrong. In Aristophanes' The Clouds, Socrates is running an ancient Greek Berserkeley and we see a debate with a straw conservative from another school.
- Extreme Jim Jonestown example: The 'University' in Sarah Kane's play Cleansed is really a concentration camp, run by the evil Tinker, where there are peepholes in the showers that lead to Tinker's private viewing room, for his pleasure, and students are tortured by Tinker and his goons.
- Echo Bazaar has both — Benthic College is Berserkeley (to the point of having a few devils on its roster) while Summerset College is a Jim Jonestown University.
- The South Park episode "Die, Hippie, Die" features an invasion of hippies, the main group of which has a University of Berkeley bumper sticker. One of them continually calls people "little Eichmanns," a reference to controversial (and discredited) professor Ward Churchill, who used the phrase to describe some (not all) of the American victims of 9/11. It's up to Cartman, his Hippie Digger, and a disc full of Slayer songs to stop the chaos.
- Side note: Ward Churchill was a professor at Trey Parker and Matt Stone's school — the University of Colorado at Boulder (another example of a Berserkley), though it's unknown whether they ever attended a class he taught, and they would probably not be eager to admit it if they did.
- Side note #2: During the Colorado-Nebraska football game in 2007,note Eric Cartman introduced the Colorado starters. He takes a moment after announcing the defensive secondary to take a shot at Boulder's hippie population.note
- There's a plethora of religious Urban Legends about a student humiliating a smug Hollywood Atheist professor in an argument; Rational Wiki has a whole article full of them. One popular variant ends with the Tomato Surprise that the victorious student was a young Albert Einstein, and the...questionable veracity of this particular version has led The Internet to adopt the phrase "And his name? Albert Einstein!" to mean "Yeah, right."