UC Berkeley student forum convenes for reflection on chancellor search

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Mikaela Raphael/Staff

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At a student forum Tuesday, UC Berkeley students expressed their concerns over how the next chancellor would handle the budget, campus climate and accountability.

Student welfare was found to be a chief concern among students at the forum and in the initial results of an online student survey conducted by ASUC President Will Morrow and Iman Sylvain, the graduate-student representative on the UC advisory committee for the next chancellor.

Morrow and Sylvain, the only two student representatives on the official committee, organized the forum in response to what many have viewed as inadequate student representation in the process.

“(The forum is) not limiting to a topic,” Morrow said. “We … want it to be a place where students can share what they are really feeling.”

Morrow and Sylvain plan to present video from the forum to the search committee to give the other members an understanding of the wide spectrum of student perspectives. According to the early results of the online student survey, primary student concerns were budgetary responsibility as well as attention to student life and inclusion.

At the forum, the lack of student housing was a recurring topic, coupled with perceived irresponsible handling of the budget, such as the amount of funds that have been put into projects such as the fence surrounding the chancellor’s campus residence.

Another point of discussion that students touched on was the necessity for the next chancellor to listen to the particular concerns of the campus’s diverse range of student groups and communities.

“(I) chose Berkeley because it comes among the likes of the Ivies and the best universities to study at in the world,” said freshman Jayesh Kaushik, an international student, at the forum. “(But) when I got here, some of the things I saw in Berkeley made me question if this was really the No. 1 public school in the world.”

Kaushik recounted his living situation on campus — staying in a floor lounge that has been converted into a triple — a problem that resonated with many at the forum.

“In Berkeley, we’re having a severe housing crisis,” Academic Affairs Vice President Frances McGinley said at the forum. “We can’t accommodate the same (amount of) students that other UCs (can).”

The student housing crisis was discussed in light of campus budgetary decisions, including the choice to designate a plot of land in Downtown Berkeley for a hotel rather than more student housing — a decision some students viewed as improperly prioritizing profits over increased housing.

Other students called for an increase in accountability with the budget and in other administrative processes.

“We need a chancellor who will be on the side of students, who will be transparent with how they go through processes,” said ASUC Senator Alyssa Liu at the forum.

At the end of the forum, which ended about 30 minutes early, Morrow added that the online survey will remain open throughout the chancellor search process in order to continually represent students’ opinions.

A 20-student panel will also give its input before the advisory search committee as part of the UC Office of the President-organized Campus Day on Thursday.

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.