Nicholas Dirks of Columbia University selected as next UC Berkeley chancellor

dirks' mustache

Nicholas Dirks has been selected as UC Berkeley’s 10th chancellor, UC President Mark Yudof announced Thursday.

Dirks, an anthropologist and historian by training, is expected to come to UC Berkeley after serving as the executive vice president and dean of the faculty for Arts and Sciences at Columbia University. At Columbia, he led a diversity initiative for Arts and Sciences, expanded programs in international, ethnic, African American and gender studies and  helped rebuild various academic programs, according to a UC Berkeley press release announcing the appointment. His appointment awaits confirmation by the UC Board of Regents in a late November special meeting next week. If confirmed, he will take office June 1, 2013.

“Nicholas Dirks is a highly accomplished leader with the sensibilities and knowledge of a humanist, as well as extensive fundraising, academic and administrative expertise,” Yudof said in the statement. “His global perspective, leadership of diversity efforts at Columbia and experience with both public and private universities will serve him and the campus well.”

Outgoing Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced in March that he would step down at the end of December after more than eight years in the position but has agreed to serve until May 2013. An advisory committee of UC Berkeley students, staff, UC faculty and regents was appointed in April to recommend candidates to Yudof. The committee submitted final recommendations in early October.

“I am fully confident that (Dirks) will uphold Berkeley’s deeply held values of access and excellence,” Birgeneau said in the statement. “I congratulate the search committee for its outstanding work in identifying such a fine candidate.”

Before going to Columbia as chair of the anthropology department in 1997, Dirks taught history and anthropology at the University of Michigan. He taught Asian history at the California Institute of Technology for nine years before moving to Michigan. His late father, J. Edward Dirks, served as the vice chancellor and dean for humanities at UC Santa Cruz in the 1970s, according to the press release.

“This is an opportunity I embrace with both excitement and humility,” Dirks said in the release. “I have immense respect for the countless accomplishments of faculty, students and staff at what I consider to be the premier public research university in the world.”

During Birgeneau’s term, the University of California fell victim to staggering budget cuts from the state, prompting the chancellor to oversee the development and implementation of a campuswide cost-cutting initiative that aims to reorganize the campus’s administrative programs, a large-scale fundraising campaign to raise $3 billion and a new financial aid program for undergraduate students from middle-income families. He also was a strong advocate for the passage of the California DREAM Act last year, which, among other provisions, allows the campus to provide financial aid to undocumented students.

Also under Birgeneau’s tenure, campus officials began efforts to increase the proportion of nonresident students to 20 percent of the total campus undergraduate student body. Reaching this target would generate $60 million in additional revenue per year for the campus, according to a fall 2010 interview with Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer. Nonresident students pay close to $23,000 more in tuition and other fees than in-state students. Some measures taken by administrators to mitigate the effects of budget cuts resulted in large-scale campuswide protests.

In an open letter, Columbia President Lee Bollinger called the chancellor position “ a major role in American higher education, especially at this moment.”

“(Dirks)was centrally important to sustaining and improving our academic excellence … all the while being a friend of us all,” said Bollinger in an open letter to members of the Columbia community. “While we will miss Nick deeply and are extremely grateful for all he has done for Columbia, we also take great pride in his appointment.”

Amruta Trivedi is the assistant university news editor. Contact her [email protected].

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  • Class of 89

    These comments make me embarrassed to call myself an alum. How juvenile and inappropriate.

  • McCoy

    Looks like a NF GDI unibrow

  • Current Student

    anybody know his position on backdoor affirmative action ?

    • Teapot

      He supported the Columbia LGBT center, if that’s what you’re asking.

  • GetOffMyLawn

    First order of business – stop wearing toddler eyeglasses.

  • bp

    he should wisen up and drop the predicate “public”…number one university period

    • Columbia College ’14

      Don’t flatter yourself.

      • bp

        linus pauling thinks so too ;)

  • BearyImpressed

    That man has an extremely impressive unibrow

    • Papa Bear

      And with those specs. What a combo.

  • Guest

    “After graduating from Wesleyan University in 1972 with a bachelor’s
    in African and Asian studies, Dirks earned a master’s in 1974 and a
    Ph.D. in 1981 from the University of Chicago in the Department of
    History, focusing on South Asian history.”

    Who says you can’t be successful if you major in African and Asian studies? He’s going to be a chancellor now!

    • Dan Spitzer

      No wonder Bahar Navab, the Iranian woman who is president of the Graduate Assembly, likes the new choice for UC president. Dirks’ wife, an Indian Muslim, is a strident critic of Israel, a friend of Palestinian Professor Rashid Khalidi, and an unmitigated loony member of the left.

      Here’s what some Columbia students have to say about her:
      It is disturbing that Janaki Bakhle, the wife of a Columbia administrator, was part of the Committee chosen to investigate charges of intimidation and indoctrination at MEALAC. She had signed an anti-Israel petition; she is a close colleague of Massad, one of those under investigation, and her future at Columbia depends, in large part, on the goodwill of three senior professors –the stridently anti-Israel Palestinian Rashid Khalidi, Saliba, and Dabashi, two of whom have been charged with violating standards of conduct. To make matters worse, Khalidi is a friend, colleague, and long-time supporter of Massad’s.

      • bp

        that hateful rhetoric is not helpful

        • Dan Spitzer

          Since when is the truth “hateful rhetoric?”

          The hateful rhetoric has been expressed by Dirks’ wife, not me…

          • Brutus

            Since when has copying and pasting garbage from “Campus Watch” considered the truth??

          • Dan Spitzer

            Care to post some facts to refute this, Bruto? You can’t. It’s an honest account of Ms. Bakhle’s manifest biases and what I’ve noted above should give students pause about the possible influence by his wife of our new Chancellor. And her ideological stance may well be that of Dirks as well

          • Brutus

            Of course DannyBoy. Your quote is directly copied from an article published in 2004 on the CampusWatch website: . Last paragraph. The article is written by FrontPage magazine which is a magazine run by David Horowitz. Surprise Surprise! Since you obviously suck at doing research here is the website for the magazine as well. The author of the article is Hugh Fitzgerald, a person that nobody knows anything about. How convenient. Genius Really. How else can you spew endless hate without being accountable for it? You use a figment of someones imagination to pass along thinly disguised hatred as facts which in turn corrupts simple little minds like our poor little DannyBoy. Perhaps our DannyBoy isn’t so innocent, perhaps he has been thinking like that all along and is reinforcing his beliefs with extremely suspect sources. DannyBoy, you little rascal you!! I think you should change your last name to Shitzer, it just seems more appropriate since your head seems to be filled brown matter instead of the usual gray variety. Here is more info on your so called “Columbia Student” source:

          • Dan Spitzer

            Bruto Brain, are you saying that Ms. Bakhle didn’t openly sign and praise pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli petitions? Or that she hasn’t been a strong defender of Professor Massad, who the NY Times took to task for his inappropriate treatment of Israeli students? Or her closeness with the viciously anti-Israeli Palestinian Professor Rashid Khalidi (who believes, like you, in a “One State Solution” with Israel dominated by an Arab majority), or that she was a protege of the late, strident anti-Israeli scumbag Edward Said?

            All the above is easily verified by numerous verifiable sources. Use the Internet, you anti-Semitic ignoramus, if you have sufficient neurons to do so (this appears doubtful). As the late, great NY Yankee Manager Casey Stengel famously said, “You could look it up.”

            Oh and by the way, Hugh Fitzgerald was a student at Columbia who knows all about that university’s disgusting, anti-Semitic Department of Middle East Studies, funded with mega-Saudi money.

          • Dan Spitzer

            BTW, Bruto Brain, let’s hear a condemnation from you of the Palestinian’s brutal treatment of women, gays and dissidents. Has anyone on this site EVER heard a Palestinian supporter criticize this atrocious sexist and dictatorial behavior?

            And Bruto Brain, how about you or any of your JVP, MSU, SJP allies come out and condemn the Palestinian leadership’s covenants calling for Jewish genocide. You won’t. You never have. And this demonstrates conclusively how lacking in integrity you all are.

          • buga

            Are you even a student?

  • Jake The Snake


    • Nunya Beeswax

      The search committee clearly decided that opening up the position to our Neanderthal forebears would increase the campus’ dedication to inclusivity and diversity.

  • ArwenUndomniel

    He is being described as a “humanist” which is a marked improvement over Birgenau, the last Chancellor we finally got rid of.

  • P. McFairchildsman

    Oh good, another rich old white guy. I was sincerely afraid that some new perspective might be brought into the office.

    • diversity.pandering

      b/c people like Katehi and Edley are great administrators, right?

    • Nunya Beeswax

      Yes, because being told you’ll be laid off is ever so much easier to bear when it comes from a person with a brown face or female genitals.

    • AnOski

      Because we’re not racist or sexist enough to suggest that appointing someone of a different race or sex would categorically be better for no apparent reason.

      • libsrclowns

        We don’t need no stinkin’ meritocracy. Just social justice, ethnic, racial, gender bullshit….

        Rage on Libtards

        • Guest

          You have to wonder why this idiot bothers, don’t you? On the other hand, let us hope that right wing extremists of his/her/its ilk never discover how truly odious they appear to true Americans.

          Certainly Obama thanks them because he couldn’t have won re-election without these racist pigs. The amazing thing is that they continue to be too twisted and stupid to understand that concept. Apparently.

    • I_h8_disqus

      Any chancellor is going to be rich and old, because the required experience to be a chancellor will lead to you being rich and old. However, your skin color comment is just racist. When you look at his background and accomplishments, and discount them because he is white, you just show yourself to be too shallow for Cal.

    • Ramon R.

      “. . . rich old white guy.”

      Yes, instead, let’s get a financially inept, inexperienced, [insert any race/gender] person to lead a $2 billion dollar enterprise that is the #1 public university (and/or the #1 of all universities by come counts). Oh, and don’t forget, let’s pay them clerical wages to do it.

    • ArwenUndomniel


  • Cal faculty

    Anybody would be an improvement over the present chancellor.