Berkeley Protest on Aug. 27
As of early evening Sunday, press reports indicate clashes between right-wing protestors and counter-protesters in downtown Berkeley turned violent, with police using tear gas to disperse the crowds. Those on the right claim they gathered to promote free speech and counter what they perceive to be the spread of Marxism in the US. Counter protestors have organized around a desire to reject what they argue is a right-wing movement centered around racism. Early reports suggest violence surged when antifa protestors jumped a barrier separating the two sides. A full report on media coverage from the protest will be included in next week’s summary.
More audits, Christ center stage, and the right-wing’s fall plans
A state audit deeply critical of UC’s payroll system was released Thursday. The report highlights not only that costs have trebled beyond projections to nearly $1 billion, but that the time to completion has been extended by five years. UC Path was intended to upgrade disparate HR systems across the system’s campuses and save money by eliminating the need for duplicate positions, but the audit says such savings “will not materialize.”
A few days earlier, the state auditor released another report that found UC failed to follow its policies regarding replacing workers with cheaper contract employees. Of 31 contracts the audit reviewed, two were found to violate rules requiring the system to provide justification for any contracts that will displace existing university employees.
The week before the two audits brought negative attention to UC, back-to-school coverage of Berkeley cheered the campus’s new leader, Carol Christ. The San Francisco Chronicle focused on the financial challenges facing Christ and the recently announced plan to reduce Berkeley’s $110 million deficit. The article notes Christ’s long tenure at the campus offers its advantages: “Many faculty appreciate that, and say she’s an insider who understands UC Berkeley’s culture and politics far better than the outsiders who preceded her.” However, the article foreshadows what may be a controversial decision to “help athletics pay the seismic retrofit portion of its stadium debt.”
In its take on Christ, the Mercury-News emphasized her status as the first woman to lead the campus, one rocked by a string of recent sexual harassment scandals. A profile in the LA Times painted a flattering portrait of Christ greeting newly-arrived freshman as they moved into Cal. The article notes her myriad professional achievements but goes on to add, “But it is her personable style, her penchant to listen and learn, and her natural instinct to connect that draw people in. Those qualities have helped stir new optimism and excitement on a campus battered by financial woes, free speech controversies, sexual harassment scandals and a leadership crisis under her predecessor.” In an interview with Times Higher Education, Christ discussed the campus’s financial challenges and expressed pessimism that state funding will ever return to its historic norm.
Meanwhile, while plans to bring right-wing provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter back to campus have circulated for months, the details remain murky, according to the Chronicle of Higher Ed. The student group reportedly behind the invitation, Berkeley Patriot, may also be attempting to bring Breitbart editor and former Trump administration official Stephen Bannon to Berkeley. In an editorial ahead of Sunday’s protests, the Daily Cal criticized campus and city leaders for urging counter-protesters to stay away from the right-wing rally in downtown Berkeley. The editorial cites the recent right-wing protest in Boston which was peacefully drowned out by a sizable counter-protest.
Meanwhile, as happens annually, UC’s salary information was made public. Two former coaches earned nearly $3 million. On a happier note, UC President Janet Napolitano published an op-ed touting the system’s welcoming of 30,000 first-generation incoming students. Beyond urging other universities to reach out to first-generation students, she notes policies UC has implemented to attract and retain such students.
8/22 – New UC audit raises more questions about Office of the President (SJMN): The article on the contract audit notes a lawsuit is in the works related to the violation of protocol.
8/24 – UC’s new payroll system will cost at least $200 million more than expected (LATimes): The article notes, “As she did in that stinging audit earlier this year, (State Auditor Elaine) Howle on Thursday accused the president’s office of leaving the UC Board of Regents in the dark on the problems.”
8/24 – UC ripped again in latest audit that finds bungling of payroll upgrade (SFGate): The article notes Napolitano pointed out she arrived two years after UC Path was initiated.
8/22 – University of California system didn’t follow its own contracting rules, state audit finds (LATimes): A UC spokesperson, noting that only a few contracts reviewed violated the rules, said the contracts “generally adhered to the Office of the President’s contracting policy.”
The Right Returns
8/24 – Details on Berkeley Free-Speech Event Are Hazy, but Campus Readies for Another Fight (Chronicle): Students involved in Berkeley Patriot refused to confirm details to the paper.
8/22 – When white supremacists flood the city, Berkeley should not back down (DailyCal): The student paper argues:
“But recent events show how a bloodbath can be avoided, and it’s not by staying away. In Boston, one week after Charlottesville, tens of thousands of counter-protesters drowned out the planned alt-right rally (dubbed a “free speech” protest, which nobody’s buying). And by 1 p.m., rally attendees had slunk away before they even made the speeches they had planned, and the Washington Post reported that no one was injured.”
Carol Christ Profiles
8/15 – New UC Berkeley leader takes over as school seeks creative money sources (SFChronicle): BFA Chair Michael Burawoy is quoted as saying, “She’s been very impressive. She is so prepared to talk with everybody.”
8/15 – Meet UC Berkeley’s groundbreaking new chancellor (SJMN): The article emphasizes Christ’s long tenure at Berkeley and provides a good overview of her career and recent campus controversies.
8/18 – UC Berkeley’s new chancellor brings optimism — and a world record — to an embattled campus (LATimes): The article says Christ is planning “open hours for students, community-building events, a new blog and visits to students, staff and faculty.”
8/19 – Berkeley chancellor to focus on funding and rebuilding community (TimesHigherEducation): Christ told the website, ““I will certainly do everything I can to advocate that state funding stays stable. [But] understanding the state budget in the way that I do, I don’t think it’s likely it’s going to go back to its former levels when it was much higher.”
8/18 – UC Berkeley wants students to know it’s OK to fail (SJMN): Recognizing how many students may challenged for the first time at Cal, the campus is doing what it can to help students face and grow from setbacks.
8/21 – Here are the 5 highest-paid UC Berkeley employees last year (DailyCal): Berkeley’s former mens basketball and football coaches led the list.
8/23 – Op-Ed: How UC is Shaping the Next Generation with First Generation (HuffPo): The article notes ways UC has offered targeted support to first-generation students, including special housing at UCLA.