Robert Reich would be superb leader for this campus

ColorEdited_NishaliNaik_RobertReich
Nishali Naik/Staff

The tide is turning: There is growing consensus across political lines about the imperative of reinvesting in public infrastructure and public education. In no other way is it possible to improve the quality of our public education system and recover its promise of equal opportunity for students and research in the public interest.  

The people of California clearly want a public university that works for them. They have called for an end to tuition hikes, unequal access, skyrocketing student debt, misplaced spending priorities, bloated executive compensation and extensive reliance on donor projects and corporate partnerships that deform the university’s public mission.  

Within the university, faculty, staff and students have suffered severe erosions of local control and local workforces; in their place have emerged expensive and inept experts, inefficient services, temporary managers and outsourcing. Never have university management and provision of services been more expensive; never in recent decades has the university been run more poorly, featured more unequal access and compensation or suffered a worse public reputation.   

It is time for change.

We propose that the new UC Berkeley chancellor demonstrate a commitment to the public university in the following ways:

By making high-quality teaching and research in the public interest the highest priority of UC campuses, a priority that should guide budgets, fund-raising, reward and compensation practices, mission statements and other representations of campus purpose.   

By reducing the number of out-of-state students and ensuring the total cost of attendance does not limit opportunities for California residents.

By increasing the diversity of the student body and faculty so that it better reflects the population of California we hope to serve.  

By reducing the number of senior managers. (Berkeley’s senior management has grown by a factor of five over the last 20 years while the number of faculty has remained stagnant and the number of students increased by 20%.) 

By implementing a salary cap on all senior administrators so as to restore the ethos of public service, earn back the trust of California’s taxpayers and demonstrate respect for the financial circumstances of students, faculty and staff as well as the institution itself.

By committing to budgetary transparency and prioritizing the task of restoring public funding rather than private fundraising and commercial contracts.

By honoring the value of academic freedom, chiefly by respecting the tradition of shared governance with faculty. Faculty consultation is vital to insulate the university from external influences, both political and financial.

By placing a moratorium on non-academic capital projects that often saddle the university with high levels of debt, such as the Memorial Stadium renovation or the redevelopment of Lower Sproul.  

By supporting the ongoing legislative audit of the University of California’s Office of the President and redirecting state subsidies for grants in aid to offset higher tuition to lower tuition fees for all.

By developing new community outreach programs and bringing our teaching and research to the people of California.

Accordingly, the process of choosing the chancellor should be open to the university community:

The short list of candidates selected by the search committee and forwarded to the president should be publicly discussed and not the subject of secret deliberation.

The candidates should be invited to campus for public presentations and questions from the university community faculty, staff and students.  

The final choice should be made by the president and the UC Board of Regents after consultation with the Academic Senate to ensure a candidate supported by the campus community.

We propose Robert Reich as an excellent candidate for chancellor. Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy in the Goldman School at UC Berkeley, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, distinguished public intellectual and commentator, author of best-selling books on the economy, politics and education, inspiration for the film “Inequality for All” and a firm believer in public education and the public interest.     

Wendy Brown, Michael Burawoy, Celeste Langan, Colleen Lye and James Vernon are members of the UC Berkeley Faculty Association.

Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.

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