Dirks to step down + Media Coverage 8/19/16

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced he will resign once a replacement is found. Dirks had earned scrutiny for his handling of sexual harassment by senior campus leaders, a costly fence added around the Chancellor’s residence, the creation of what student media called an “escape hatch” near his office and the alleged misuse of funds in connection to a personal trainer, among other matters.

(A follow-up post on the fallout is in the works)

Dirks’ letter to the campus, worth reading in full, is below:

Dear Colleagues:
I am writing today to say that I have informed President Napolitano of my intention to step down as chancellor once a successor is selected and in place. It has been a great honor to serve as the 10th chancellor of Berkeley, and I am proud of all we have accomplished. Over the summer I have come to the personal decision that the time is right for me to step aside and allow someone else to take up the financial and institutional challenges ahead of us.
I am especially proud of the work we have done to enhance the undergraduate experience at Berkeley, as we have launched curricular and programmatic initiatives in data science and arts and design, and begun to re-evaluate the whole student experience, including residential and extracurricular life as well as our academic structures.
The research done at Berkeley is second to none, and it has been exhilarating to learn about the breadth and depth of the research our faculty conducts across every discipline and field. I have worked with colleagues to develop new forms of support for cross-disciplinary research, new modes of connection between research and innovation outside the university, and new ideas to ensure that Berkeley’s future contributions to knowledge will be even more impressive and important in the years ahead. I am especially excited about the ways in which our partnership with UCSF has expanded in recent years and will provide a foundation for even more robust support for, and activity in, the biomedical sciences.
I have also been pleased to work with colleagues in developing new global initiatives for our university, creating significant alliances for research, new educational partnerships and programs and ideas for new forms of global institutional collaboration.
We have also worked hard to increase and improve philanthropy for Berkeley, a source of funding that will be ever more critical to our continued success as a university in the years ahead. Building on the great success of the “Campaign for Berkeley,” we have posted records in fundraising for the last two years in a row ($462 million and $479 million respectively). Meanwhile we are in the final stages of completing and implementing a new development structure we call Fundraising 2.0, which will enable far better coordination across our many units while more fully leveraging our alumni and donor base. We have also been working to build and strengthen our alumni relations.
During my time at Berkeley we have begun to address growing concerns around sexual assault, violence and harassment on campus, investing significant resources not only in our Title IX office, but in identifying new campus leadership, as well as better organized structures, procedures and standards for prevention, care and advocacy, investigation and adjudication, sanctions and community awareness and resolve.
I have worked to increase the diversity of the senior administration, and consider the challenge of addressing issues of diversity across our administration, our faculty, our staff and our student body, and continuing the work to improve our campus climate for all of constituencies regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity as of paramount importance for our community.
I am also proud of what we have done through an earlier task force to ensure that our student athletes have the kind of support they need not only to excel in their chosen sports but in the classroom. In the months ahead, I will work with the second task force on our athletic programs, this one to propose new ways to ensure a sound financial future for the athletic department in the larger context of our budgetary challenges.
Our most critical task now is to ensure a sustainable financial foundation for our university at a time of significantly diminished support from the state. While we have made important progress, substantially reducing our deficit for the coming year and developing a plan to balance the budget over the subsequent two to three years, there remains much work, and many difficult decisions ahead of us. We need fresh approaches and new ideas as Berkeley forges a path to maintain its excellence along with its full commitment to a public mission in the current funding environment.
I pledge my total commitment to ensuring a smooth transition as I leave this post. And I look forward to joining on a full-time basis the distinguished faculty that was my primary reason for moving to Berkeley in the first place.
With gratitude to all for the opportunity of a lifetime,
Fiat Lux,
Nicholas B. Dirks

The university’s press release can be found here. UC President Janet Napolitano’s response can be read here. In part, she wrote, “Today I have accepted the resignation of Nicholas B. Dirks as chancellor of UC Berkeley. I do so with deep appreciation for Chancellor Dirks’s efforts on behalf of this great institution, its students, faculty, staff, alumni and the larger Berkeley community.”

Dirks Headlines

Beyond the typical post mortem, the SF Chronicle reported the Chancellor hired a consulting firm to improve his reputation toward potential donors, among other tasks. The contract has been worth $270,000. Most of the articles covering the resignation are fairly similar, running through Dirks’ controversies and emphasizing the oddity of having two UC chancellors resign in quick succession.

8/17 – UC Berkeley invested in consultants to boost chancellor’s image (SFC): The article highlights the irony of Berkeley’s cost-cutting measures undertaken alongside such a pricey PR sprucing.

8/19 – Campus spends $270,000 to create ‘strategic profile’ for Dirks (DailyCal)

8/16 – UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announces resignation (SFGate)

8/16 – Nicholas Dirks Resigns as Chancellor of University of California, Berkeley (NYT)

8/17 – Berkeley Chancellor Quits After 3 Years in Office (IHE)

8/18 – ‘We don’t sit around saying ‘woe is me.” Napolitano prepares to fill sudden chancellor vacancies at UC Berkeley, UC Davis (LATimes)

8/17 – University of California faces abrupt leadership shakeups at two prized campuses (WaPo): An interesting tidbit in this one notes Napolitano’s claim that she did not try to force Dirks out.

Other UC news

8/13 – One of Donald Trump’s biggest economic supporters? It’s a UC Irvine economist (OCRegister): Peter Navarro, a Harvard-trained Democrat, is the only academic on Trump’s council of economic advisers. While Navarro has never met or spoken with Trump, they’ve been in touch since before the election, when the developer contributed a blurb to Navarro’s documentary “Death by China.”

8/1 – Editorial: Valley deserves a voice among UC regents (ModBee): A bit old, but worth a read. The editorial board argues UC Board of Regents needs to replace its departing San Joaquin Valley member, Fred Ruiz, with someone else from the valley. While coastal California has some of the nation’s best K-12 school and higher education institutions, the editorial notes the valley is underserved on both ends.

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