Students discuss selection of new chancellor at town hall

Sarina Kernberg/Staff
Students and community members attended a forum to democratically elect the next chancellor.

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Students and faculty brainstormed feasible ways to democratize the selection process for UC Berkeley’s new chancellor Wednesday night.

Although the event was titled “Town Hall to Democratically Elect a New Chancellor,” the group of 25 people discussed ways the campus can change the UC’s selection process to replace Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who will step down in December.

The event was organized by Students for a Democratic University, a student political party composed of Occupy Cal protesters and other students.

University policy states that the selection committee will consist of UC President Mark Yudof, five members of the UC Board of Regents, five campus faculty members, one graduate student representative and one undergraduate student representative — likely Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab and ASUC President Vishalli Loomba.

Bob Jacobsen, chair of the campus division of the Academic Senate, said the selection committee should be established in the coming weeks.

The committee will be presented with a maximum of five candidates — chosen by Yudof and the five faculty members on the selection committee — and will recommend one for Yudof to present to the regents for approval. But Yudof is not bound by the recommendation, Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen said the process is inherently undemocratic because the committee serves an advisory role.

“In an election with one candidate, it’s not a democracy, no matter how people feel,” Jacobsen said.

Students proposed to recall the incoming chancellor, ask the ASUC, Graduate Assembly and faculty organizations to demand a democratic process and demand that students, faculty and staff select regents and the chancellor.

Campus physics professor emeritus Charles Schwartz pointed out that the selection committee meetings are closed and suggested that the group demand they be open to the public.

Ultimately, the group agreed that it will still select its own candidates in order to illustrate how it believes the process should be carried out.

“This isn’t about going against authority,” said James Chang, Students for a Democratic University candidate for ASUC executive vice president. “It’s about working with students and faculty to have a dialogue about what we want this university to be.”

Christopher Yee covers Berkeley communities.