Chancellor Nicholas Dirks under investigation for alleged misuse of funds, athletic services

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Jennifer Tanji/File

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Update 7/13/16: This article has been updated to reflect new information regarding campus responses to the investigation.

The university is investigating claims that UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks allegedly used public funds for travel expenses and that he used campus sports training services without proper payment, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

The allegations were outlined in a letter from the UC system’s chief operating officer, Rachael Nava, to Dirks in April. The letter stated that, if these allegations are proven true, Dirks would be in violation of UC policy.

“I will continue to meet with faculty, staff and students in order to hear and understand their concerns; to explain how these concerns are being addressed; and to build consensus and support for promoting Berkeley’s long-term aspirations,” Dirks said in a statement.

According to the LA Times, Dirks’ wife Janaki Bakhle — who is an associate professor of history at UC Berkeley — took a trip to India in January with a trainer from the campus’s Recreational Sports Facility. While the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the trip was paid for by the Cal Alumni Association, the association declined to confirm this when contacted by The Daily Californian.

Additionally, the investigation will determine whether Dirks violated university policy when he allegedly used the RSF’s facilities and the services of the trainer in question without paying.

“We are aware of the situation and are working with the campus in cooperation surrounding this matter,” said Andy Davis, a spokesperson for the RSF.

Rumors about the investigation had been circulating among campus faculty since April, according to a faculty member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Christopher Kutz, a law professor in UC Berkeley’s Jurisprudence & Social Policy Program and chair of the campus Academic Senate from 2009 to 2010, said that the chancellor’s alleged use of a personal trainer without payment does not immediately stand out as a clear misuse of campus resources.

“The issue of the personal trainer does not sound like a story of personal venality — it sounds like an arrangement between the chancellor and the director of the RSF,” Kutz said. “It may be contrary to campus policy, but it is not obviously contrary to campus policy.”

Campus professor of political science Eric Schickler said that among faculty, news of the investigation has contributed to an already declining trust of top-level administrators. The investigation comes amid ongoing criticism regarding Dirks’ handling of a string of sexual harassment cases involving UC Berkeley faculty.

“Even before these stories, confidence in the Chancellor had been eroded by the mishandling of the budget and multiple sexual harassment cases,” Schickler said in an email.  “And now there are really troubling questions about the Chancellor’s judgment in his use of public resources and treatment of staff. The Chancellor needs to tell faculty, students, and staff what really happened — we shouldn’t have to learn about these stories in the newspapers.”

Until the investigation is concluded, the campus has declined to comment further on the allegations.

Check back for updates.

Contact Cassandra Vogel and Michelle Pitcher at [email protected]

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article misquoted law professor Christopher Kutz as saying the chancellor’s alleged use of an RSF personal trainer without payment did not sound like “a story of personal banality.” In fact, he said it did not sound like “a story of personal venality.”

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  • Jc Flores

    So he DIDN’T use university funds for personal travel expenses, as you state, and what we’re actually talking about here is RSF services, which the Director offered and signed off on.

    Is this a joke? The MUST be actual campus issues to tackle.

    • Gene Nelson

      What do you mean he DIDN’T University funds. He says it was Alumni funds, yet the Alumni Association refuses to confirm that excuse. Try reading the full article, rather than just looking for the parts to support your opinion. That refusal to confirm sounds more like he’s lying than he’s being cleared.

      • J Flores

        CAA is independent and they’re not the ones making claims. The whistle blower even said CAA paid for the trip. So there doesn’t actually seem to be an issue there. Given that, it should be on the ones who believe something wrong happened to prove why.