Richmond Bay Campus to be transformed into Berkeley Global Campus

Sierra Brown/File

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Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced plans to transform the Richmond Bay campus into a globally focused research and education facility at a meeting of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate on Wednesday.

The campus, now known as the Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay, aims to bring leading researchers from around the world to a central campus.

Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, the Richmond Bay campus was an intended extension of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and would have provided a consolidated location for research. Progress on the campus was halted due to federal budget cuts in 2013.

Speaking to the senate, Dirks said part of the mission of the Berkeley Global Campus is to attract researchers from top universities and technology companies to engage in interdisciplinary projects to solve global problems in the fields of energy, personalized medicine, the global economy and the environment.

“The Berkeley Global Campus presents an exciting set of possibilities for research in a global context,” Dirks said at the meeting. “This gives us the opportunity to develop and grow while sustaining what we do on campus.”

According to Dirks, the Berkeley Global Campus would also provide graduate and undergraduate programs with a focus on preparing students for global research and connection. He emphasized plans to create opportunities similar to the Rhodes scholars program, which could include a semester abroad at an affiliated campus as well as a semester at the Berkeley Global Campus.

Another advantage to housing a global campus, according to Dirks, is the ability to ensure “safe harbor,” or the protection of academic and political freedom.

No significant funding will be funneled from campus projects to the Global Campus. Private funding will be needed in order to offset the lack of state funds, according to Dirks.

Dirks mentioned partnering with UCSF to expand interdisciplinary research in global health.

“Students at the UCSF medical school are hungry for what Berkeley has to offer,” said Stephen Hinshaw, campus psychology professor. “We need to shrink the Bay and the Richmond campus will be a great way to do that.”

Some groups have questioned the impact the campus’ proposed development will have on the surrounding Richmond community. On Friday, students and workers called upon Chancellor Dirks to sign a community benefits agreement, a legally binding agreement that would guarantee resources such as affordable housing and health benefits.

According to Dirks, the proposed development falls in line with Richmond’s goals for the development of the South Shoreline area and supports local job creation, focusing on employing women and minorities. Dirks has signed a joint statement of commitment along with Paul Alivisatos, director of the Berkeley Lab, that details plans to partner with the Richmond community throughout the development process.

Contact Sierra Stalcup at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SierraStalcup.

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the Berkeley Global Campus as the Berkeley Global College.

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  • BerkeleyDude

    Keep your eyes on the money folks. This smells like a Real-Estate Scam if not done carefully.

    Does Berkeley need more space? Of course it does. But let’s think about this from a rational point of view. If you wanted to seed a new site for the Berkeley campus, what would be your anchor buildings? Answer: Dorms and faculty housing. Dorms that hold a mix of undergrads of all years and grad students, including some visiting students. Faculty housing that is a mix of among-undergrads (with expectations of regular interaction) and at a slight distance but owned-by-faculty. Make sure the local K-12 schools are good.

    Run regular 24hr bus service to/from main campus and Richmond BART station. Have offices and meeting rooms for faculty, and upgrade spaces on main campus to have robust teleconferencing links with those spaces. (Including real-time lectures, seminars, etc.) Create an extra budget to support local TAs for courses so that there could be additional sections held there. And for the students: lots of study rooms, library delivery service, and workshop spaces for people to do pre-startups and the like… It is students and faculty that establish the culture of a campus, nothing else. That is the seed around which other good things can nucleate.

    With faculty and students in that space, it will be natural to have company participation in the form of startup incubators, research centers and lablets, as well as mini-offices. Talk with Google and Facebook about making it a stop for their respective busses so that students can easily coop from there.

    Have a Crossroads-style dining commons, except subsidize the food strongly for students/faculty and allow the companies to pay into the system so that their local employees and mingle/mix with students there. You basically want to have something that emulates the style that works in SF and Silicon Valley. And there has to be a strong incentive for people to want to shift away from main campus to create a critical mass of local participation.

    Otherwise, nobody is going to want to be at a “Global Campus” that is simply full of visiting international students rotating through with no local culture, and soft-money researchers working on corporate contracts. It would just be a Real-Estate Scam. Some local developers get rich on the contracts and appreciation of neighboring lots. In the next budget crisis, the whole thing goes condo/mall/corporate-park and the university pockets some cash, Richmond gets gentrified, etc.

    It is the lack of conversation about faculty/student spaces there that makes me wonder if this isn’t a scam in disguise.

    • Willliam Wallace

      Don’t forget the Astra-Zeneca acid plant and pesticide factory that was adjacent for decades and has rendered that site uninhabitable! Persistent pesticides and volatile toxic chemicals contaminate that entire site. Documents are online at the RWQCB website “Geotracker”

  • NoCal-Geographer

    Enjoy the mercury contamination from the sites former use as an explosives factory (mercury fulminate). If you want to stay safe, never touch the ground anywhere at that site (PCBs are there too).