A lot of the action revolves around Academia, and UC Berkeley. Kate and Lee met in school. Rosalyn Hall is a student and minister. (If you read more of the books, you'll hear a lot more about Roz.) Brother Erasmus commutes to Berkelely weekly. Eve Whitlaw and David Sawyer are both professors, and totally immersed in academic life.
Most people who've been to college leave school and it becomes a fond memory. For academics, Academia is a real place. The term "ivory tower" is very appropriate. Many academics leave high school, get a bachelor's degree, get their various graduate degrees, and then start teaching. They never leave the University setting. They have no real understanding of the real world. This is what gets David Sawyer into such trouble in the book.
Brother Erasmus is able to drift between the real world and the academic world at Berkeley, freely. But it often seems as though he has as little grasp on reality as the most cloistered academic, despite the very real dangers of his world.