After nine years atop one of the world’s best universities, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau will be ending his reign in just about a month. His resignation, largely overshadowed by the now-infamous and now-nonexistent unibrow of Chancellor-Elect Nicholas Dirks, is now a looming inevitability. Yet, the physics professor appears to be intent in his decision, and we think we know why.
1. His increasingly croaky voice has made it hard to give speeches. Though he is certainly eloquent in his words and impeccable in his demeanor, it would be undoubtedly difficult for anyone to command the attention and respect of thousands of 20-year-olds — unless that someone has the light-tempered voice of Morgan Freeman.
2. He’d like to move to a house that isn’t prone to being attacked. Back in 2009, a number of protesters made the upward trek to the University House and attempted to reenact a scene from Game of Thrones, laying siege to the house — albeit, for a matter of minutes — by attempting to torch it and break windows and lights. For whatever reason, the aggressors included students from UC Davis, and we’re sure that the Chancellor is excited to spend more time in his physics office — where he might have some particle accelerator beams to protect himself.
3. He is no longer rolling in green. No, not the usual type of green that’s associated with the Cal campus. Think state funding, of which he has lost over 58% over his tenure. Birgeneau referred to this massive drop as a “disinvestment by the state” in the UC system.
4. He’d like to enjoy his time at Berkeley without being questioned or interrupted. At the end of 2011, his speech to the ASUC senate was cut off by protesters in the crowd, to which Birgeneau responded with folded arms and a sarcastic smile. Following his handling of a series of protests, a petition that had garnered thousands of signatures was brought to the ASUC, calling for Birgeneau’s resignation. Thick skin and a favorable vote from Student Action kept him in power Why Chancellor Birgeneau is ready to step down — for a while, at least.
5. He was supposed to be liberated from his job five freaking months ago! The original plan was for him to step down at the end of the 2012 calendar year, something he announced close to his birthday. Instead of going through with his plan as a 70th birthday present to himself, he extended his stay even further — a stay that was originally supposed to be seven years will now end at nine and a half.
It’s probably true that the tumult of Birgeneau’s life will decrease dramatically once he’s officially replaced as Cal’s Chancellor. But it won’t be gone completely — he may be a retired Chancellor, but he’ll still be a member of three departments on campus, a far cry from the lives of old men retiring from pristine positions like the papacy. But don’t expect him to stop making headlines: he claims he still has “one more truly significant… experiment to come” in his academic career.
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