Media Coverage 3/17/17

Carol Christ has been appointed Berkeley’s next chancellor, the first female to hold the position. An expert on Victorian literature, Christ served as executive vice chancellor and provost for six years in the 1990s. In 2002, she left Berkeley, where she had worked since becoming an assistant professor in 1970, to become president of Smith College, a role she held from 2002 to 2013. Christ returned to UC in 2015 to lead the campus’s Center for Studies in Higher Education and became interim executive vice chancellor and provost in May, replacing Claude Steele who resigned due to a perception that he and other campus leaders were tolerant of sexual misconduct. Christ has again been called on to fill a post vacated by a controversial resignation, as current Chancellor Nicholas Dirks agreed to step down following mounting criticism around his handling of sexual misconduct and an investigation into misuse of funds. The move was met with a high-level of praise from various bodies representing campus communities, including the Faculty Senate, the BFA and the Daily Cal’s editorial board. Christ’s salary will be$532,000, the same as what Dirks currently earns. Regents approved her appointment on Thursday and she will officially take over July 1.

In other news, Assembly Democrats announced a plan to reduce student debt. The plan has four components: (1) to make community colleges tuition free for one-year; (2) to expand the Success Grants program for low-income community college students; (3) reject Gov. Brown’s proposed elimination of the Middle Class Scholarship, which covers about 40 percent of tuition for 55,000 students; (4) and to create a new Degrees Not Debt Scholarship to help with non-tuition related costs of attending a UC or CSU campus. The governor’s office has expressed skepticism about the state’s ability to fund the $1.6 billion program. Elsewhere, the UC Regents delayed a vote on the non-resident enrollment cap until May. While it hasn’t received media attention, Assemblymembers Kevin Kiley (R-Roseville) and Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) have proposed a bill that would “urge” higher education campuses in California to adopt a free speech statement similar to the one produced by the University of Chicago (which you can read here).

3/13 – Carol Christ is named UC Berkeley’s chancellor (SFChronicle): Note the following reactions quoted by the paper:

“It’s fantastic news for the campus. Carol already commands a great deal of respect from the faculty,” said Robert Powell, a political science professor who chairs the Faculty Senate on campus.

“Carol Christ’s integrity, commitment to transparency and genuine love for UC Berkeley make her a worthy choice,” said the group’s co-chair, Celeste Langan, an associate professor of English, though “we don’t expect always to agree with (her) on every issue.”

For example, Langan said, her group believes the solution to the campus deficit “is to restore full public funding of tuition, not to turn the university into a revenue-generating business enterprise.” But she said Christ, who has not advocated eliminating tuition, has “demonstrated her willingness to engage in respectful, collegial dialogue.”

Michael O’Hare, a professor at the campus’ Goldman School of Public Policy, was so enthused by her selection that he emailed lyrics from Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado,” which include the sentiment: “With joyous shout and ringing cheer, inaugurate our new career!”

O’Hare said he thinks Christ might be the first chancellor willing to slash money-losing intercollegiate athletics.

“I think she’ll have the courage to put them on a short financial leash, even if that means we have to leave Division 1, which I think would be great,” he said.

Kathryn Lybarger, a UC Berkeley gardener and president of the statewide labor union, congratulated Christ in a statement while inviting her to “join our efforts to address skyrocketing executive compensation (and) prevent outsourcing of career jobs to poverty wage contractors.”

3/17 – Editorial: Appointment of Carol Christ good for campus (DailyCal): Student editorial praises Christ for her knowledge of the campus and notes some of the challenges she may face, such a decision over whether to build a dorm on People’s Park.

3/14 – Editorial: Assembly Democrats over-promise free college (SacBee): Given uncertainty around Federal funding for social programs, now may not be the best time for a large new expenditure, the paper writes.

Also see: Official Statement

3/13 – Debt-free college? Assembly Democrats want to make it possible for California students (SacBee): The plan would cost the state about $1.6 billion, a figure the governor is citing in statements reflecting his office’s skepticism toward the state’s ability to pay for plan.

3/16 – UC regents debate enrollment limits on students from other states and countries, approve Berkeley chancellor (LATimes): The Regents delayed until May a vote on a proposal to limit out-of-state enrollment system-wide to 20 percent. A number of issues are in the air, including how to treat campuses which already exceed the limit and will be allowed to maintain their current levels under the plan and whether the cap is set at the right level. There is pressure both to lower the cap and to eliminate it.

3/16 -Four-year degree costs drop at California systems (IHE): According to a report, the institutional costs per degree dropped by 6 percent at UC from 1987 to 2013. In 2013, the cost was $109,000.

3/15 – University of California Fund to Double Private-Equity Holdings (Bloomberg): UC will double its investment in private equity (such as startups) and reduce what is held in traditional stocks, a move the fund’s manager said is made with long-term stability in mind.