Appointment of Carol Christ good for campus

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Willow Yang/Senior Staff

UC Berkeley has narrowly avoided an apocalypse. With the appointment of Carol Christ to the position of chancellor, the campus has positioned itself to overcome the fiscal and administrative challenges that have afflicted public perception for years now.

She is the most qualified person entering this job in recent memory. Unlike the two previous chancellors — Nicholas Dirks and Robert Birgeneau — Christ is an insider well-versed in the intricacies of this large public research institution. She joined the UC Berkeley faculty as an assistant English professor in 1970, when only 3 percent of her colleagues were women.

Now, she undertakes a daunting role as the first female chancellor in UC Berkeley’s 149-year history. As the interim executive vice chancellor and provost, she will definitely be expected to hit the ground running.

Faculty and student leaders who have worked with Christ extol her accessibility and transparency. After years of scandals that have tainted the reputation of the nation’s preeminent public university, those qualities will be more critical than ever as Christ strives to avoid the ghosts of UC Berkeley’s past.

Plans to increase tuition and student housing — potentially building on People’s Park — will introduce Christ to controversial decisions. Student input will be critical moving forward. For Dirks, student engagement began and died with fireside chats. With an opportunity to start fresh, Christ must not lose momentum when the going gets even rougher.

Dirks struggled to fill many vacant administrative positions as the campus landed itself in disgrace after disgrace. A new leader and a promise of a fresh start will attract new talent to the campus — a step toward bringing it back into a favorable light.

With her former position as EVCP now open, we hope that Christ picks a successor who will represent the student body. While her appointment as a woman is a historical milestone, we still expect that she will curate an administration that is accessible to other marginalized communities.

Perhaps the most inexcusable problem that plagued Dirks’ tenure as chancellor was his failure to properly handle cases of sexual misconduct. He and his second-in-command, Claude Steele, swept numerous incidents of harassment and assault under the rug. The mishandlings and justified outcry boiled to the point where UC President Janet Napolitano was forced to step in and propose solutions — a complete slap in the face for UC Berkeley’s administration.

We hope that Christ’s incoming administration takes Title IX violations much more seriously. The campus will have to get creative with its employment practices and prevention trainings if it wants to weed out perpetrators for good.

UC Berkeley is lucky to have found Christ. She has dedicated her life to higher education. While we may have lost a world-renowned fundraiser, we have gained someone even more valuable — a competent leader, and the face of our campus’s future.

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  • Douglas Bonham

    She’s the only one they could persuade to take the job. As such, yes a placeholder, but with no real prospect of anybody important stepping up to assert leadership. She’s essentially irrelevant to the remaining valuable parts of Berkeley campus, namely the College of Engineering and the hard science departments and institutes.

  • im not optimistic on her appointment. seems like a diversity pick to me

    • flashsteve

      At her age, she is a ‘placeholder’ appointment, designed to appease the angry mob, such as the writers of this piece. I’m betting she has an ‘agreement’ with the board that she will stay two, three years max. Just puts Cal in longer limbo.

    • Nunya Beeswax

      Not a diversity pick. She has a long record of working in the Cal administration.

      I think she’ll do fine as long as she’s here, but I think flashsteve is correct; she’s going to be a stopgap chancellor until the Regents find someone more long-term.

  • jim hoch

    Interesting article. Not one word about research, education, or other boring topics.

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