UC Berkeley community members call for more accessibility in next chancellor

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In an effort to increase involvement in the UC Berkeley campus community during the selection process for the next chancellor, six members of the selection committee heard feedback from students, faculty and staff at a public forum Thursday.

Campus community members expressed concern over the confidential nature of the search process, saying that providing input to the committee should be a more accessible and open process. The trend toward a more accessible campus was a common theme throughout the forum, during which many advocated for a commitment to increased communication between students, faculty and staff and the senior campus administration.

“We should make sure that we value openness and accessibility (of the next chancellor) over perceived boldness or inspiring leadership,” said junior Julia Gettle at the forum. “A lot of the problems we have are structural … so interacting with students, faculty and staff is important. Personal stories and connections help make a lot of headway.”

This view was echoed by the committee’s graduate student representative, Bahar Navab, who said that in addition to being an effective communicator, the next chancellor should be “forward-thinking” and “willing to take risks” to increase the access to and affordability of the campus.

“There was a time that UC Berkeley was at the forefront of experimental policy,” Navab said. “The next chancellor should be someone who understands the value of a Berkeley education and also the affordability and access of education.”

Some emphasized the importance of an ethnically diverse chancellor and said it was time for a woman to lead the campus. Others called on the committee to consider a candidate’s support of student protests and commitment to actively engage with students during protests during the search process.

“Berkeley has a fine tradition of a protest culture,” said incoming Student Action Senator and junior George Kadifa. “But there is a sentiment that decisions were made haphazardly (in the past). The new chancellor has to have a clear understanding of these things.”

The five faculty members on the committee will play a crucial role in the coming months as the committee begins reviewing nominations to select the chancellor’s replacement.

According to Robert Powell, a UC Davis professor and a faculty representative on the committee, all the faculty representatives will initially screen the nominations before creating a list of candidates for the entire committee to consider.

“This is an institution that has exceptionally high academic standards,” said Donald McQuade, a faculty representative and UC Berkeley English professor. “We ask if (the new chancellor) is somebody who could lead this academic community.”

The forum is the first of two events — organized by the ASUC, campus Graduate Assembly, Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate and the Berkeley Staff Assembly —  planned for the committee to receive feedback on what qualifications the next chancellor should hold.

The two student representatives, the one staff representative and three of five faculty representatives were present, but the five official representatives from the UC Board of Regents were not present at the forum. The campus alumni representative and the UC Berkeley Foundation representative were also not present.

Paul Riofski, the committee’s staff representative, said that while the five regents on the committee were informed of the forum, the short notice prevented them from attending. According to Riofski, most were at the committee’s first closed-session meeting on Friday, May 4, where they heard from members of the campus community.

The second planned forum will be held on May 22. The location has yet to be determined.

Amruta Trivedi is the lead academics and administration reporter.