Dirks to be formally inaugurated at Friday ceremony

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Editor’s note: This is part of our wider coverage of the inauguration of Nicholas Dirks as UC Berkeley’s 10th chancellor on Nov. 8, 2013. Click here to see our page documenting the day.

With great fanfare, the UC Berkeley campus community will symbolically usher in the tenure of its new chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, at his inauguration Friday.

Although Dirks has held office since June, his inauguration gives him the opportunity to introduce himself to the campus and further lay out the vision his administration will pursue.

Dirks will formally be sworn in as chancellor at 3 p.m. during the official inauguration ceremony in Zellerbach Auditorium. Campus officials expect a strong turnout of faculty, students and alumni, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

UC President Janet Napolitano will attend the ceremony, making Dirks’ inauguration among the first of the freshman president’s official appearances. Napolitano will present Dirks with the Chancellor’s Medal, a prominent part of the chancellor’s regalia.

This will be Napolitano’s first visit to UC Berkeley as president. Her visits to other UC campuses, including Irvine, Santa Cruz and Davis, have sparked protests by students angered by her role in the deportation of undocumented immigrants while serving as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.

“We will be prepared for people who want their voices to be heard, but I think the day will be mostly positive,” Mogulof said.

As was the case for Chancellor Robert Birgeneau in 2005, Dirks’ inauguration will occur months after he officially took office. According to Mogulof, Dirks wanted to familiarize himself with the campus and its students before formally laying out his plans. Additionally, Mogulof said, the university needed time to allow speakers for the morning symposiums to schedule a visit to the campus.

Speakers for the symposiums — a series of panels that will begin at 9 a.m. at International House — include Hanna Gray, president emerita of the University of Chicago; Saul Perlmutter, a Nobel laureate and a UC Berkeley professor of physics; and Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University.

According to Robert Hass, a professor of English and a former U.S. poet laureate who will introduce the speakers, speeches will address undergraduate education, the role of the global university and basic and applied research. These themes will be central to Dirks’ administration.

He expects speakers at the symposiums to explore balancing a liberal arts education and the increased demand for a “career-focused” education.

Hass described the subjects of a few of the inauguration day speeches. Among other things, Perlmutter will compare the impacts of in-person and online education. Gray will discuss the meaning and preservation of the liberal arts in the face of budget cuts. And Roth will address and attempt to resolve the tension between “instrumental,” or career-minded, education and the liberal arts.

Dirks’ speech, which is not yet complete, will focus on his aspirations and priorities as chancellor, Mogulof said.

Hass said the topics chosen by the symposiums’ speakers might reflect Dirks’ interest in undergraduate education.

As suggested by their speeches, “it appears that Dirks will look at Berkeley as a community — what we do, how we’ve thought about what we’ve done,” Hass said.

As a representative of the undergraduate student body, ASUC President DeeJay Pepito will also be in attendance at the inauguration and is expected to speak, said Austin Pritzkat, Pepito’s chief of staff.

While the symposiums are open to all UC Berkeley faculty, students and alumni, those interested in attending the inauguration must preregister. Tickets are free and can be picked up at the Cal Performances box office at Zellerbach Hall.

Contact Savannah Luschei at [email protected].

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