UC Berkeley students seek increased role in selection of next chancellor

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In order to encourage broader student participation in the selection of a new UC Berkeley chancellor, Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab and ASUC President Vishalli Loomba will choose about 25 students to participate in a May 4 stakeholder meeting with the formal chancellor search committee.

Navab and Loomba, who sit on the committee, wrote in an April 9 letter to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande that they felt that his process of choosing student representatives for the stakeholder meeting — which Le Grande told them in an email included outreach to “several formal student advisory groups across the campus” — was not representative of the campus community. The search committee is tasked with nominating a replacement for UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who announced in March that he will step down at the end of this calendar year.

Navab and Loomba suggested in the letter that Le Grande open up applications in order to select three undergraduate ASUC and three Graduate Assembly representatives, six to eight representatives from campus advisory committees and 10 students from the general student body to participate in the stakeholder meeting — a suggestion Le Grande approved.

“The Vice Chancellor understood the desire from ASUC and GA leaders to include more student names for the meeting with the Chancellor Search Committee,” said Felicia Lee, Le Grande’s chief of staff, in an email.

Applications for students to participate in the meeting were due Monday, according to the application web page. Among other questions, applicants were asked to name something concrete the new chancellor could do to improve the student experience and the qualities they would like to see in a new chancellor. The names of the students selected by Navab and Loomba will be submitted to Le Grande by Thursday, Lee said in the email.

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said in an email that the UC Office of the President was not aware of the role students — other than the graduate and undergraduate representatives chosen by the Graduate Assembly and the ASUC to sit on the search committee, in this case Navab and Loomba — have played in past chancellor searches.

Navab and Loomba’s efforts are another indication of a desire some students have to give greater input into the process of selecting Birgeneau’s successor.

At an April 4 town hall meeting organized by Students for a Democratic University — a student political party inspired by the Occupy Cal movement — a group of about 25 students and faculty brainstormed ways to democratize the process of choosing a new chancellor.

In their letter to Le Grande, Navab and Loomba emphasized the importance of having a town hall meeting for campus members to attend so the committee can “hear from a larger cross section of the campus community” and insure a “more transparent and inclusive” process.

Per university policy, the chancellor search committee will consist of UC President Mark Yudof, UC Board of Regents chair Sherry Lansing and five other members of the board, as well as top administrators and representatives of campus faculty, staff, alumni, students and the campus foundation. The committee will also include a faculty member from a UC campus other than UC Berkeley.

The committee will be presented with a minimum 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.

The full committee membership is not finalized yet and unlikely to be before Thursday, according to Klein. Membership is not announced until the entire committee is appointed, and the faculty nomination process takes the longest, said Marsha Kelman, chief of staff and secretary to the regents, in an email.

“At this juncture, nobody knows when the new chancellor will be chosen,” Klein said.

Betsy Vincent covers academics and administration.