Campus staff professionals deserve infinite gratitude

Chancellor's Corner

Rachael Garner/File

The month of December on the Berkeley campus is always marked by a flurry of end-of-semester activities: the wrap-up of classes, a retreat to libraries and residence halls to finish projects and prepare for exams, final meetings of student clubs and choruses of heartfelt goodbyes before a well-deserved holiday break.

In attending to all of this, it’s easy to forget that the holiday season is also a time to reflect on and give thanks for the gifts we have received over the past year. This season, while there is much to be thankful for, I’d like you to join me in expressing gratitude for the work of some of the unsung heroes of our campus: UC Berkeley’s staff.

Put simply, UC Berkeley’s staff members are the engine that allows a massively complex institution with a $2.4 billion budget — encompassing hundreds of vastly disparate units spread across a campus that sees tens of thousands of people flow through it every day — to function and even to flourish.

When we think of our university’s tripartite mission of teaching, research and public service, our minds instinctively, and too often, turn only to professors and students in lecture halls and labs. Yet our corps of staff, I believe, plays an equally essential role in allowing the university to realize these three goals.

Examples abound. On the teaching side, our staff enable learning to happen by virtue of everything from managing course registration to ensuring that classrooms are clean, safe and well-maintained. In other cases, staff are themselves on the front line: Though they may not stand at a lectern, I know that many staff who interface with students consider themselves teachers — vital parts of the educational experience — in that they contribute much to the growth and edification of those who pass through UC Berkeley. A member of the residential housing staff helping freshmen adjust to life in Berkeley not only helps students take advantage of the great resources here, but also helps them to form healthy relationships, develop study and social skills and contribute to the larger environment in which our learning and striving takes place. A staffer from the Leadership, Engagement, Advising and Development Center coaching the executives of a student group on how to increase membership, might teach valuable leadership, organizational, communication and marketing skills. Such experiences are both necessary complements to classroom learning and important components of life learning, too.

In the research realm, staff professionals are crucial for navigating grant processes, complex systems of intellectual property rights, compliance and financial accounting laws and so much more. And once our researchers do turn out treatments for malaria, develop robotic prostheses for disabled veterans or publish transportation studies on traffic flows and driverless vehicles, it is Berkeley’s Office of Public Affairs & Communications that ensures such developments don’t remain in the ivory tower. That office is made up of writers and communications professionals who have relationships and experience with journalists around the world, and who relish the opportunity to spread the word about UC Berkeley’s contributions to the greater good, well beyond our walls. This, too, is an integral part of our university’s research mission.

Finally, staff members very often drive UC Berkeley’s efforts in the public interest — and, again, the examples range widely. In pursuit of our goal of providing access to excellence for less privileged Californians, staff play the essential part of reaching out to schools across the state, identifying and recruiting prospective students who may not have the experience, connections, social familiarity and family support of their peers to navigate the application and decision process. When such students enroll at UC Berkeley, staff play similar roles in helping them acclimate to a new environment.

In an entirely different vein, our public service mission is fulfilled in part by the staff who manage the programming of Cal Performances or the exhibitions in our new Berkeley Art Museum, both of which bring cultural vitality to the East Bay. Similarly, our public campus itself is a welcoming destination for residents of the city of Berkeley and for visitors from around the world — and its allure is largely thanks to the work of our excellent grounds crew.

This list is a small and necessarily piecemeal showing of how staff are indispensable to meeting our university’s aims, but I hope it illustrates the point. So even amidst the busy close of the semester, I hope you’ll join me in taking time to more intentionally acknowledge and support the work our staff professionals do. They may often be behind the scenes, but they are crucial to running the show.

Chancellor’s Corner is a monthly opinion piece by UC Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks.

Contact the Opinion Desk at [email protected] and follow us on Twitter at @dailycalopinion.

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  • Norm
  • Norm

    Thank you for the public acknowledgement and reminder of the many ways that staff contribute to the university’s mission.

  • veprik

    wanna know what we aren’t thankful for? the ever increasing legions of vampires you call senior administrators, who add nothing of value to the university, and exist only to contract out tasks that used to be done in house, to increasingly vile corporate operators. how about we start to get rid of those hundred senior admins, and hire more staff people and pay those we have a fair wage, instead of blowing their empty stockings full of the chancellors hollow “gratitude”.

  • JOHN J. (aka Jonathan) WINTERS

    Actually was pleased there’s acknowledgement of the nuanced, skilled work that staff do. Such an article doesn’t get written overnight, so this isn’t directed at a demonstration 24 hours earlier or a ‘cover up’.

  • Michele

    Thank you for this acknowledgement of all the vital work staff members perform on campus, in direct support of students, faculty, and the surrounding community.

  • Dale Masterson

    Thank you Chancellor for acknowledging all of the hard work that staff members contribute toward the success of the university!

  • Some UC Berkeley staff play a key role on campus, others contribute to bureacratic bloat and strain on taxpayer finances. honestly, just fire the useless vice chancellor of diversity and
    equality and her useless 150 employees. cut the bureaucratic quagmire
    and we’ll have a much leaner system with a much leaner budget and
    lighter demands on tuition and taxpayers

    • JOHN J. (aka Jonathan) WINTERS

      Oh right…E&I is ‘useless’ and is responsible for tuition increases? puh-lease…!!

      • are you blind to the bureaucratic bloat on campus?

        • JOHN J. (aka Jonathan) WINTERS

          If you’re going to point the finger to the Equity & Inclusion Division, then just let me know your address for the protesters to come to YOUR doorstep.

          • lol no, I’m a taxpaying citizen of california. I actually pay taxes rather than sucking from state coffers.

          • lspanker

            You might have to explain that “taxpaying” part to these petulant children, given that most of them apparently have NO idea how public higher education is funded in the state of California…

          • Ken Geis

            10% of the University of California’s funds come from the state.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            Fourteen percent, actually, at least based on 2014’s numbers. The problem is not so much that the state is cutting its support as that the state has frozen tuition and capped out-of-state admissions at 25 percent.

            Expect cuts to be made, of a surety–but don’t expect that they’ll be made from the ranks of the administrators. As is usual, it will be the lowest-paid workers on campus who will bear the brunt of the cull.

          • JOHN J. (aka Jonathan) WINTERS

            And you’re the only one paying taxes!? Even you are a citizen receiving services then. …smh. Even students on work-study pay taxes. But I see the part you play here is just a right-wing troll, so I’ll just move on here. Bye!

          • lspanker

            Please explain what value the so-called “Equity and Inclusion Division” provides to the UC system and the taxpayers. As far as most of us are concerned, all it does is advocate for the admission of students who really aren’t qualified for UC admission in the first place.

          • lspanker

            just let me know your address for the protesters to come to YOUR doorstep.

            How about those protesters get real jobs and pay the type of taxes necessary to support the level of bureaucracy (and funding) they deem so necessary to the functioning of the UC system? Seems that protesting and demanding that somebody ELSE do something about a problem is a lot easier than doing something constructive yourself…

      • lspanker

        Get a clue… academically unqualified students are a huge drain on the UC system. Students who drop out because they are academically over their head, or graduate from dumbed-down degree programs because they can’t handle a genuine university level major don’t wind up getting the type of decent paying jobs necessary to pay back their student loans, much less make it to a tax bracket where they will pay anything back to the system close to what they took out of it.

        • JOHN J. (aka Jonathan) WINTERS

          Oh interesting…who are you labeling “unqualified” when you’re co-signing attacks on the Equity & Inclusion section?

          • lspanker

            I’m referring to people who could not be accepted based on their grades and SAT scores alone, and require someone to game the system for their admission, usually using some factor such as race, which the California voters explicitly opposed when they passed Prop 209 some years back…

          • JOHN J. (aka Jonathan) WINTERS

            Thanks for confirming you’re a racist…which is what I suspected.

          • lspanker

            Thanks for confirming you’re a racist…

            I advocate that college admissions be on a merit-only, race-blind basis. You apparently advocate the opposite. That makes YOU the racist, not me.

          • JOHN J. (aka Jonathan) WINTERS

            No, I think de-constructing some of the assumptions you’re asserting [that if a brown or black face is at a UC, they couldn’t possibly be there because they had competitive grades + test scores; that they or someone is illegally “gaming the system” on their behalf; that ‘Equity & Inclusion’ “advocates for admission of students who really aren’t qualified in the first place…”] seems to demonstrate that you’re far from being the race-blind goody two-shoes you claim to be. And your nearly 3100+ comments to posts on the Daily Cal, Berkeleyside and other outlets reveals you have a lot of time –let alone an axe to grind– in peddling this vitriol against students of color on our campus. Some friend you are.

          • lspanker

            No, I think de-constructing some of the assumptions you’re asserting [that if a brown or black face is at a UC, they couldn’t possibly be there because they had competitive grades + test scores

            Nice of you to try to put words in my mouth, you bloviating jerk. Sure, there are black and brown students who made it into Cal on their own merits – I never claimed there were not. However, there are clearly “diversity” policies in place that are responsible for SOME of those students being there, which is quite apparent when they can’t graduate in 5 years, or have to major in dumbed-down humanities and race/class/gender grievance courses of studies because they can’t handle the academically rigorous programs chosen by those who got in due to their own merits. Now you can sit there and call other people “racists” to try to silence them, but it’s a known fact that there’s a strong correlation between students who got to Cal on various and sundry “diversity” schemes, and those who drop out because they are academically and intellectually over their heads. As far as the rest of your blathering, I really don’t care. You studiously avoided explaining what those E&I types did to earn their paychecks, making it clear you really couldn’t defend their existence in the first place.

          • JOHN J. (aka Jonathan) WINTERS

            I’m the bloviator, and you’re the one with 3100 comments with the same axe to grind about the conspiracy of Equity & Inclusion, so obviously anything I say isn’t “silencing” you. Nonetheless, I’m rubber, you’re glue…

          • lspanker

            I’m the bloviator, and your the one with 3100 comments with the same axe to grind about the conspiracy of Equity & Inclusion

            I made a total of 4 comments about the subject, and I noted that despite all your feigned indignation, you still can’t tell us what they do to justify their salaries. Figures…

          • JOHN J. (aka Jonathan) WINTERS

            Comments 3119

          • lspanker

            3119 comments over SEVERAL YEARS on a wide variety of subjects, a few a day here or there. I certainly didn’t make all those comments about your particular hot-button issue, so you can stop playing silly games.

          • JOHN J. (aka Jonathan) WINTERS

            You say you made 4 comments here, but actually it’s approaching 10, just to show me how far right you are…as I imagine you’ll follow onto this one. Most people who aren’t trolls don’t have the time to make that many comments online, no matter over how much time. Interestingly your focus is narrow –perhaps of late– picking fights with anti-racist activists and repeating a number of tired old anti-affirmative action arguments on here and Berkeleyside. From recent interviews, I’m wondering if your handle is a cover for Antonin Scalia.

  • CSM

    I want to thank Chancellor Dirks for choosing to write this column on staff. It’s nice to have our contributions to the mission recognized and acknowledged!

  • Anastacia

    Thank you for acknowledging all of the many ways staff support the mission of the University!

  • Sticky Nicky

    Cheers to layoffs, right before the holidays! Best wishes to you and yours Dirks!

  • John Penilla

    Outrageous! Kyle is right this is a response to yesterday’s occupation, and it demonstrates that Dirk’s is absolutely committed to neglecting the exploitation of the workers on this campus who are not “staff professionals”. The professionals on this campus are not the ones makes making poverty wages without healthcare, pensions, sick-days, holiday leave, or a union! They are not the ones breaking their backs to make the campus run, putting in 80-90 hour/per week without overtime pay at the stadium; they are not the ones staffing the parking-lots in freezing weather to facilitate campus activities; they are also not the ones who are working 12 hours a day for 3 days out of the week in retaliation for organizing! What about these workers? Throwing them $15 per/hour over the next two years is an ineffective means of addressing their exploitation since they still do not receive the same benefits and WAGE as the UC employees. Students, workers, and the union will not stop organizing until they are directly hired by the UC as “staff professionals” and receive infinite gratitude.

  • #Justice4UCWorkers

    What about the custodial workers of this institution? Do they not deserve a raise in pay to be able to spend time with their families during this magnificent holiday season?

  • Kyle Butts

    Clearly in direct response to the occupation of your office yesterday where you had 22 students arrested. Disappointed in your shameful attempt at covering up that story Chancellor Dirks. You have to do much better with your “$2.4 Billion budget” for the workers who make your campus “flourish”.

    • Dan Spitzer

      Protest within the law and no harm will come to you. But when protesters break the law, they deserve to be busted…

  • Nunya Beeswax

    Chancellor, you could keep your infinite gratitude if you’d just give us 5% raises without concurrently raising the cost of medical insurance (or some other takeback).

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