Dirks’ New Student Convocation speech praises community, omits campus controversies

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Derek Remsburg/File

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Chancellor Nicholas Dirks showered new students with praise and extolled UC Berkeley’s national reputation but notably omitted any mention of his impending resignation or the numerous issues the campus is struggling to manage during his New Student Convocation speech Monday.

Addressing thousands of new UC Berkeley students at the Greek Theatre, Dirks spoke for about seven minutes, stressing the importance of the public mission of UC Berkeley and providing upward social mobility to those who are less fortunate.

“As you stand out on the cusp of this experience, you need to know that this is going to be a time of formation and transformation,” Dirks said during his speech. “It is my hope that our institution will help to focus and drive all this energy (and) that it will give you experiences like generations before you.”

But some new students were disappointed that Dirks did not take the opportunity to open up conversations about some of the serious issues UC Berkeley will face this year such as addressing the multimillion dollar annual budget deficit or sexual harassment cases.

Sofia Guo, an incoming freshman who was at the convocation, said that while she has heard about the campus controversies and Dirks’ plan to resign, she wished she could learn more from the campus administration’s perspective.

“I thought it was kind of expected (that) he didn’t talk about any issues up front,” Guo said.But I think as a good chancellor or honest chancellor … it would have been a great platform as a first impression, and he was very vague.”

The speech was guided by what Dirks believed was appropriate for the occasion, campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said in an email, adding that it was meaningful for new students and was in line with “the needs and interests of the campus he serves.”

While her respect for UC Berkeley remains unchanged, incoming freshman Katherine Yen said Dirks’ omission does not bode well for a chancellor who had once touted himself as a man of the students just three years ago.

“As he was speaking, there was this voice in my head going, ‘Yeah, but you’re not mentioning all the problems that we are facing,’ ” Yen said. “He definitely could have done a better job there, since the student body knows — we’re an informed group of students.”

Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ayoonhendricks.