Claude Steele steps down as campus executive vice chancellor and provost

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Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele has stepped down from his administrative position, citing his wife’s ongoing health problems as the reason for his departure.

Announced Friday afternoon by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, the campus will soon announce Steele’s role on an interim basis, including assuming responsibilities for leading the strategic initiatives process. As soon as the replacement is found, campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said, the transition from Steele’s tenure will begin.

“Two years ago, I joined UC Berkeley — an institution I have long admired — with excitement about its twin missions of excellence and access,” Steele said in a statement. “It has been a privilege to devote my time and energy to growing and supporting the university, and in particular to building a more inclusive community.”

With his resignation, Steele will return to working as a psychologist and writer, positions he held before ascending to the role of executive vice chancellor and provost. Next year, he is set to join the psychology department at UC Berkeley.

As EVCP, Steele oversaw the introduction of the African-American Initiative amid efforts to improve campus climate and aided the administration in its efforts to eliminate an annual campus deficit of more than $150 million.

“I want to thank my colleagues in the central administration mightily for the support they have given me and my family,” Steele said in a statement. “UC-Berkeley is a special place — I am proud of my work as provost, and look forward to continuing to be part of the Berkeley family.”

The announcement comes a month afterSteele was criticized for his punishment of then-dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, Sujit Choudhry, who was found to have violated campus sexual harassment policy. Steele ordered Choudhry to submit a written apology and docked his salary by 10 percent for one year.

In a March 15 survey of law students, 30 percent of survey respondents believed he should resign from his position as EVCP.

After Choudhry’s resignation, Steele was initially responsible for appointing an interim dean but later recused himself from the selection process after student pressure. A group of three administrators later selected campus professor Melissa Murray as interim Berkeley Law dean.

Later the same week, more concerns arose after it was revealed that Choudhry had appointed Steele to the Berkeley Law faculty. Both UC President Janet Napolitano and Dirks defended Steele’s appointment, praising his academic credentials and dismissing allegations of impropriety.

On April 6, the ASUC Senate passed a bill of no confidence in the campus’s disciplinary process regarding cases of faculty sexual violence and harassment. In the bill, the senate expressed no confidence in Steele and called for his resignation.

“In many ways, Steele has brought unique perspectives from his previous experience at private institutions,” said ASUC president-elect William Morrow. “But at times, the former provost’s decisions seemed to be at odds with the character of Berkeley’s public tradition.”

Morrow believes that Steele’s legacy will be the Office of Strategic Initiatives, a department designed to investigate techniques for restructuring in order to address the campus’s deficit.

“How Claude Steele approach financial restructuring has often times been much more numbers-oriented,” Morrow said. “Faculty members have not felt as included in these conversations, as well as students.”

Steele was appointed to the position of EVCP in January 2014 by Dirks, taking over from George Breslauer. Before serving in the role, he was the dean of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education.

Check back for updates.

Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks, Katy Abbott and Austin Weinstein at [email protected].