Undergraduate, graduate students give input on UC Berkeley chancellor selection

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Alice Langford/Staff

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At the two listening sessions Wednesday night, students expressed their desire for a chancellor who is more attentive to students’ needs.

The listening sessions were attended by UC President Janet Napolitano and several members of the chancellor search committee and were split between undergraduate students and graduate students. Both groups echoed the updated results of the online survey created by ASUC President Will Morrow and graduate representative Iman Sylvain, which emphasized the need for a chancellor who would prioritize student wellness.

“The number one thing to look for in the chancellor is someone who is willing to listen to us,” said campus sophomore Melany Amarikwa in the meeting.

Amarikwa’s statements summarized the largest concerns that arose from both undergraduate and graduate students. The undergraduate student listening session, which took place first, was attended by approximately 30 students.

Students expressed a variety of concerns, including how the new chancellor would address campus safety and a desire for the new chancellor to prevent tuition and admission increases.

“What I’m looking for in a chancellor is someone who shares the progressive values of our institution,” said freshman Anna Whitney at the meeting. “We are in a unique position to be a leader for the world and set an amazing example.”

Sophomore Garima Raheja noted that Chancellor Nicholas Dirks is not visible or accessible to students and is more recognized by students as a meme than as their chancellor.

“Chancellor Dirks, on this campus, has been recognized because he has been a meme sometimes when people see him randomly and have taken selfies with him, like it’s a rare occurrence to see your chancellor,” Raheja said during the meeting.

ASUC Senators Rosa Kwak and Helen Yuan emphasized the need for a chancellor who will prioritize student safety while on campus and expressed concern about how the new chancellor would address sexual harassment.

The graduate students’ meeting followed, and, though it was scheduled to last 90 minutes, it finished after only 40 minutes because of low turnout — only three students spoke and six attended.

“We’re looking to engage in a more meaningful way,” said doctoral student Andrew Stevens during the meeting. “When we talk about transparency it’s so that we can step up to the table and have more substantive conversations than what an ideal candidate would look like.”

Stevens, who is the rules officer for the Graduate Assembly, invited the members of the search committee to “come meet us where we are” at the GA’s delegate assembly meeting. He also noted that the listening session took place during the GA’s executive board meeting, which could account for the low turnout.

Concerns were also voiced about Isaacson, Miller, the private search firm that is assisting the committee with the chancellor search. One of the firm’s vice presidents, David Bellshaw, was at the listening sessions with two associates and assured the graduate students of the firm’s experience in assisting with search processes.

Morrow and Napolitano said the search committee has been meeting with a number of UC Berkeley student groups. They also emphasized that there are other ways for people to communicate their concerns regarding the new chancellor, including the online survey and direct contact with the search committee.

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