UC Berkeley professor emeritus suggests ‘occupying’ chancellor search

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A general assembly of UC Berkeley campus members and the surrounding community should “occupy the process” of searching for the next chancellor, according to a blog post published Thursday by physics professor emeritus Charles Schwartz.

In the aftermath of Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s Tuesday announcement that he will step down at the end of the calendar year, Schwartz suggested an alternative to the university policy of forming a committee appointed by UC President Mark Yudof to search for the chancellor’s successor. Rather, the general assembly would openly discuss the process of selecting the new chancellor and collectively evaluate available candidates, the blog post states.

“The main point of my article was to encourage faculty to get involved with their own campus Occupy movement and see what they might contribute,” Schwartz said in an email. “I have been an advocate for ‘democratizing the regents’ and this particular proposal suggests how people might begin to act on that without waiting for some formal legalistic evolution.”

The search committee appointed by Yudof — comprised of members of the UC Board of Regents, top administrators and representatives of faculty, staff, alumni, students and the campus foundation — will evaluate potential candidates and advise Yudof, according to the regents’ website. Yudof will then make his recommendation to the regents for consideration and approval.

“The President will make the final choice and the Board of Regents will ratify that,” Schwartz wrote in the blog post. “And all of that will proceed in secrecy.”

Schwartz’s selection suggestion draws inspiration from the Occupy movement. While not engaged in the Occupy movement on campus, his recent involvement with Occupy Education California stimulated his thinking, Schwartz said in an email.

The blog post suggested an open selection process in replacing vacancies on the UC Board of Regents as well.

“What a marvelous tension: Democracy vs. Monarchy,” he wrote. “The 99% vs the 1%.”

According to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein, the search committee will begin to be assembled immediately, but finding a candidate typically takes at least six months.

“The University of California is in the idea business; we always welcome new thinking,” Klein said in an email. “However, we would have to study this (idea) in greater detail before making any comment. Selecting chancellors is serious business.”

James Chang, an Occupy Cal participant and candidate for ASUC executive vice president on the Students for a Democratic University slate, said he supports a “democratic process” for selecting the next chancellor.

“It’s kind of hard for students to accept a leader who is dictated on us, especially one chosen by the Regents, who have shown over and over that they are out of touch with our reality,” he said.