Robert Birgeneau to step down as chancellor of UC Berkeley

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Barbara Sullinger/Staff

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UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced Tuesday that he will step down at the end of the calendar year.

Birgeneau, who became the campus’s ninth chancellor in September 2004, said in a campuswide email Tuesday morning that he will continue as a regular faculty member of the departments of Physics and Materials Science and Engineering after stepping down as chancellor.

He did not specify his exact reason for stepping down, though he did say he has remained in the position longer than he originally intended due to “the extraordinary circumstances facing the University of California that emerged with the financial crisis and steep loss of state funding.”

“The precipitating event probably is the fact that later in this month I turn 70 and felt that I already had a long run as a major university leader,” Birgeneau said in a media conference call on Tuesday. “This is a decision that my wife and I made together probably more than a year ago but delayed until it got close to my birthday to make the formal announcement.”

(Read the full text of Birgeneau’s email here.)

Birgeneau said in the email that UC President Mark Yudof will appoint a search committee to find a replacement, as per university policy. Looking back on his years at UC Berkeley, Birgeneau also championed the progress the campus as made “in maintaining and expanding Berkeley’s excellence and preserving its unique public character.”

He also addressed the increased cost of tuition and fees that occurred during his tenure.

“Although a necessary response to the loss of state funding was an increase in tuition and fees, we nevertheless have been able to sustain access and affordability for our students from low-income families through our financial aid policies,” Birgeneau said in the email.

The announcement that Birgeneau will step down comes after years of staggering budget cuts from the state and intense student activism that have shaken the campus.

In November 2009, a day after the UC Board of Regents approved a 32 percent systemwide fee hike, students protested en masse at UC Berkeley as 40 activists occupied Wheeler Hall for more than 12 hours. The administration’s response to that protest was criticized at the time and in a June 2010 report from the UC Berkeley Police Review Board. And in December 2009, Birgeneau’s house itself was attacked by protesters.

Furthermore, in the wake of the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal protest last semester — during which police used batons against protesters attempting to set up an encampment on Sproul Plaza — Birgeneau’s leadership came under scrutiny, with some calling for his resignation.

However, ASUC External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman said in an email that Birgeneau has been “an incredible advocate for students.” He pointed specifically to the Middle Class Access Plan – a financial aid opportunity for middle income families unveiled in December – and his support for undocumented students, among other issues.

“On the tough issues that matter most to students, he has been a true partner,” Freeman said in the email. “Certainly, there were challenges along the way but I think he is leaving Berkeley with a solid record of accomplishment and I am proud to have been able to work with him.”

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof denied any relation between Birgeneau’s resignation, Occupy Cal and the calls for his resignation following the use of police force at the Nov. 9 protests on Sproul Plaza.

“This decision was made based on his own personal evaluation on what he wants to be doing at this point in his career … it’s a tough job,” Mogulof said.

Mogulof said that there are no ideas for possible replacements as of yet but that there will be “a full national search” to select the next chancellor.

Following the announcement, Yudof issued a statement reflecting on Birgeneau’s time as chancellor.

“He has been an ardent champion of academic excellence, as well as an unwavering advocate for the underdog,” Yudof said in his statement. “Birgeneau also has stood out as an administrative innovator.”

(Read the full text of Yudof’s statement here.)

Staff writer Sara Khan contributed to this report. 

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  • markmasonphd

    This isn’t journalism. This is re-typing a press release from the chancellor’s office.

  • Berkeleybear2014

    “Although a necessary response to the loss of state funding was an increase in tuition and fees, we nevertheless have been able to sustain access and affordability for our students from low-income families through our financial aid policies,” 
    That may be true, but what about all the middle-income families who are putting everything they have into the ever-rising costs of public education?

  •    Well I imagine it is better that Birgenau step down rather than be forced to resign considering there was a question of whether ASUC should ask him to resign.  Perhaps he did not like the drilling he was given by state legislators after he had the cops beat up on the students or the Governor calling him on the carpet?                                                                                                                                                                                                      
          He is being disengenuous or thinks we are truly gullible when he said  “..It was my intention to serve as Chancellor for seven years to lead Berkeley in breaking new paths on the frontiers of knowledge and education, to support its noble public mission and to further its goals of access and excellence.”

             Perhaps that was his intention but it was also to enrich himself which he managed to do despite the cuts in higher education. His salary is well over 6 figures and he has enriched his colleagues and staff as well at the cost of his students at Cal who have had to pay extravagant raises in tuition and go into horrible debt in order to maintain the standard of living Birgenau was able to gain for himself during his tenure.

          Good riddance and may karma came back to him in the end.   

    • Guest

      Wow, you are deluded.

  • Stephanie

    This man has worked for 8 and is going to get a full pension. All while raising tuitions for the students. 

  • Nunya Beeswax

    Birgeneau : “Aw, fuck this shit.  And fuck you, too.”

  • Jack B

    Van Jones is available!

  • University Of Fail

    Bob’s head is so far up his own ass he’ll never see daylight.
    Good riddance to bad rubbish.
    Sadly, the Regents will just appoint another self-deluded habitual liar.
    Fuck ’em all.

    • LAWLS

      Do you like anything?

  • Carlos

    You just know Felarca & BAMN is gonna take credit for this in their usual slimy self-serving way.

  • Calipenguin

    Maybe former UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor Diane Leite will apply for Birgeneau’s job?  

    • Nunya Beeswax

      She’s too busy giving raises to her sex partners.

  • about time

    Better late than never!

  • crusty

    kindly take berkeley mayor bates with you.

  • LReed

    If I were him I would step down, too considering the blitz coming the university’s way: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/03/12/BAKM1NJMJT.DTL

    • LAWLS

      except he still has to deal with it since he’s still here until december….

  • 74Bear

    Good riddance, his plan to solve UC’s budget problems by admitting higher paying out of state and foreign students cheated the children of hardworking, taxpaying California residents. For every out of state or foreign student admitted, one qualified California student was excluded.

    • guest

      By your logic UC owes less and less to Californians each year as the idiots in Sacramento keep slashing the budget.  Its those who pay out of state tuition that are actually subsidizing the instate kids now. 

      • Calipenguin

         The out of state tuition is only helpful if the instate kids were not denied admission.  Cal remains an outstanding university but so many outstanding instate kids were turned down.

        • LAWLS

          You might want to take a look at the stats for out-of-state vs in-state students

    • LAWLS

      There’s just one problem with that statement. Look at it from a kid’s perspective. If you have higher stats (yes, the out of state students tend to have higher stats) and want to go to a good university, why should where you come from matter? It’s not like you chose where your parents would live…

      • LAWLS

        I mean your argument would hold if they were admitting dumbass out of state students for the money, but this whole concept that the university OWES something to the people of california is not very intelligent. Everybody pays taxes in their state and all states have state schools, Berkeley is just more highly ranked.

  • Poop

    …. and replaces the UCB chancellor position with another dictator.

  • cl3

    Not one word about student protests and his role in UC Police brutality. 

    • ChrisM

      The campus (35,000 students, 8,000 staff, 2,000 faculty) is about a lot more than a few self-absorbed students and _one_ faculty member who boasted at the time that she _wanted_ to be arrested.  They should all just get over themselves.  Birgeneau’s done a lot to make this a better place.

      • WilliamR

        Chris, while he may (or may not) have done things to make this a better place, he did use his position to advance his own personal social and political agenda instead of representing and leading the campus, he was caught multiple times lying to the public (and the campus, and the public doesn’t know the HALF of it), violated University policies to hire his friends, and his ethics are publicly (and correctly) questioned.

        When you look at the spectrum of this campus’ chancellors, this one is close to the bottom.

        • ChrisM

          Let’s pick just one piece of this hatchet job and see what facts you’ve got to back that up.  How about this one “violated University policies to hire his friends”.  Names and dates, please?

          • WilliamR

             Don’t remember her name off the top of my head, but it was all over the bay area press.  He hired his friend who was Presiden’t Dyne’s secretary after she took a huge severance package in the UCOP downsizing into a job he didn’t recruit for.  Then lied to the press about it and then tried to cover it up when he got outed for it.

            He hired his friend Frank  as an advisor saying that he got no salary, when if FACT he was paid a very high salary, using state funds, and is eligible for medical benefits and retirement, all on the state’s dime.

            All FACTS Chris.  Don’t believe me?  Call Dan Mogoluv and ask him and then listen to the dance and spin he gives you instead of answering your question.  Then ask him what the campus investigation into it revealed, and ask him for a copy.

          • ChrisM

            “He hired his friend Frank  as an advisor saying that he got no salary, when if FACT he was paid a very high salary, using state funds, and is eligible for medical benefits and retirement, all on the state’s dime.”

            That’s Frank Yeary, who  turned over his salary to the campus.
            http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2008/06/16_newavc.shtml

            Nice try.

            Now, if you can find some references for the “Don’t remember” part, maybe we can debunk that too.

        • ChrisM

          Since WilliamR hasn’t been able to provide any info on those scurrilous charges, even though he’s since posted elsewhere on this page, I guess we can conclude that he’s just made them up.  It’ll be nice to be able to link back here when he makes similar posts in the future.

      •    ChrisM…and lets have one of the police hit you with a baton in the head, pull your hair or throw you down on the ground and see if you say the same thing.

        • Guest

          He’s not a smelly hippie or malcontent. Unlike idiots such as yourself.

        • Anonymous

          Civil disobedience requires defiance and willingness to accept the consequences. Haven’t you learned that in school?

        • ChrisM

          So your particular experience on one particular day is the way you want the Chancellor’s entire term evaluated?  Sorry, but 500 years ago Copernicus figured out that you’re not the center of the Universe.  You should have gotten the memo by now.

      • Guest

        I think people in general should put up some facts when stating an argument, isn’t that what we’re taught in college? By saying that the school is more than “a few self-absorbed students and one faculty” you are assuming that they aren’t backed by supporters on this campus. It would be a better point to say that they don’t have a lot of supporters, but could you please prove that? Also, please prove your claim that Bigerneau has done a lot to make this a better place. I am interested. 

        • ChrisM

          To learn more about the Chancellor’s actual record, not the one that WilliamR and Arwen have made up, start with the points in the article itself.  As one example:

          “However, ASUC External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman said in an email that Birgeneau has been “an incredible advocate for students.” He pointed specifically to the Middle Class Access Plan – a financial aid opportunity for middle income families unveiled in December – and his support for undocumented students, among other issues.”

          He’s advocated for the Dream Act & gotten half of it passed.  Student financial aid has risen during his time here, so much that my aid has gone up more than tuition each year.  Yes, some people have been laid off (the thing that the unions are really pissed off about, despite getting more raises than anybody else around here) but those layoffs have been much less than what you’d expect from a 40% cut in state funding.  Etc.

          • Guest

             My advice to you is to stop drinking the Kool-Aid, or at least change flavors.

          • ChrisM

            Really, that’s the best you can do?  No reasoning, no facts, not even WilliamR or Arwen’s fabrications?

            They say you can tell a lot about somebody by the qualities of his enemies.  In the case of the Chancellor, that seems to be true.

          • Guest

            I am the OP to whom you addressed the response I am now replying to. I did not write the “Kool-Aid” response below. With that cleared up I would like to say that I know that Birgeneau was supportive of the Dream Act, repealing of Prop 209, and also reforming Prop 13. I know undocumented students, my dad is undocumented, so I definitely support the Dream Act struggle as well as the other two. 

            But, I also support the struggle for freedom of speech and more accountability from the regents and the UC administration, causes in which Birgeneau can also be an advocate . These accountability issues are particularly present in the UC Regents because they are mostly  appointed by the governor (18 are), while the rest already have positions in the government which eases their to the role of regents. As a result of a lack of the public voice found in the election of these administrators there are pay raises that happen often; these pay raises cost the UC about 600 million per year. In addition to that, there are also more managers compared to professors now than there were in the past. This points to a mismanagement of funds, and something that should be rectified. 

            Students at the Occupy Cal protest were protesting this mismanagement of funds because it was perfectly tied to the broader Occupy movement against the accumulation of wealth by big corporations through loopholes.  If Birgeneau supports a reform of Prop 13, then why didn’t he allow protesters to assemble under the cause of Occupy at least for a period of time and allow them to put their message across with some decency? Also, why is it that he hasn’t yet defined his position in terms of  the protesters who have been charged recently, but who weren’t arrested the day-of the protest? 

            In my opinion, Birgeneau is driven by self-interest and not the interest of the public. He has a hard time truly recognizing his fault in the November 9th events, which is demonstrated in his not being consistent with his apologies and his opinions (not defining his position on later arrests). He advocated for the reform of Prop 13 but in the end he doesn’t  recognize what happens on his own grounds (UC Administration) by typically shifting the focus to the state’s faults. This shows us that he isn’t perfect and should be held accountable.

          • ChrisM

            “If Birgeneau supports a reform of Prop 13, then why didn’t he allow protesters to assemble under the cause of Occupy at least for a period of time and allow them to put their message across with some decency?”
            Uh, because those are separate things?  Agreeing with a message is not the same as agreeing with somebody’s choice of tactics to express it.  Even Occupy Oakland says that!

            Further, they weren’t “assembling”, they had announced an intention to _occupy_, to _camp_.  On this campus, which has spend _years_ and millions of $ dealing with tree sitters and People’s Park residents, that’s going to provoke a reaction.

            Trying again, “Also, why is it that he hasn’t yet defined his position in terms of  the protesters who have been charged recently, but who weren’t arrested the day-of the protest? ”

            He has defined his position, you just don’t like it.  His position on the Berkeley new page.  

    • Calipenguin

       No email condemning BSU’s invitation to Farrakhan either.

    • You did not think he was going to admit it?

  • Katakechicen

    GURL, fucking BYE.

    • Jkrowling

      he tried it

  • Current student

    Uh oh, if he knows he’s done at the end of the year, he may decide to really turn the UCPD loose

    • Adsahjh

       If only.

    • LAWLS

      Yeah…for some reason I doubt that. Just some more fanciful word slinging with no meaning to back it up