UC Berkeley Academic Senate discusses reports on UC governance

Katherine Chen/Staff
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer speaks at the meeting of the Berkeley division of the Academic Senate.

Diverging accounts of how to best improve and reform UC governance came up for debate at the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate meeting Wednesday afternoon.

At the meeting, faculty members debated the merits of a minority and majority report submitted by the Senate Special Committee on University Governance and Leadership. The reports presented drastically different views on how to increase faculty voice in UC governance, with the majority report focusing on structure of the senate itself and the minority directly addressing broader concerns about the UC administration.

The report was produced by the committee, which was established by a resolution passed by the senate in April 2010 and charged with formulating reform proposals regarding governance and leadership structure of the UC.

The majority report — published in September and signed by five of the seven members of the committee — proposed to elevate the senate out of its “reactive role” by creating an expert task force to assess the shared governance of the UC between the university administration and faculty senate.

However, professor of political science Wendy Brown and professor of integrative biology Kevin Padian did not believe that the majority report adequately addressed the senate’s charge and co-authored a minority report in response with the support of campus Academic Senate chair and physics professor Bob Jacobsen.

Among other suggestions, the minority report proposes changes to UC leadership by limiting terms of the UC regents to six years, further downsizing the UC Office of the President and capping administrative salaries at no more than twice the average salary paid to College of Letters and Science faculty.

At the meeting, committee chair Alexander Glazer, an author of the majority report and professor in the department of molecular and cell biology, said that a task force would be able to more effectively address highly contentious issues the UC faces.

“Even though the regents have this fear of influence and the president has authorities delegated through governance, you can intervene in activities of the regents,” he said. “The senate tends to be entirely reactive. Many of the reports the senate produces are excellent — however, they are reactive.”

While presenting the minority report, Brown said the committee should have “broadly fielded faculty concerns” about UC leadership issues to incorporate into its report rather than focusing on the senate’s internal structure.

“The intent was that this should be an open process to let faculty share ideas — the committee never held an open meeting and never had any proposals submitted for comment,” said Charles Schwartz, professor emeritus of physics. “There was a really sad display of incompetent scholarship in this (majority) report.”

Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law Christopher Edley, adviser to UC President Mark Yudof, said though he agreed with the minority report’s proposal to campaign more forcefully for state support of the UC, he did not agree with the report’s suggestion to decrease administrators’ salaries.

“I think everybody from custodians to presidents ought to be paid a competitive salary,” he said.

Jacobsen said he will consider both reports in the coming weeks and consult with senate members to try to establish the committee the majority report calls for and ask committee members to address the issues raised in the minority report.