Update 4/27/16: This article has been updated to reflect additional interviews with Carol Christ and faculty members.
Carol Christ will become the interim executive vice chancellor and provost May 1, replacing Claude Steele, who resigned from the position April 15 amid concerns over his handling of sexual misconduct complaints.
Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced the appointment in a campuswide email Tuesday. Christ has served as the director of the campus Center for Studies in Higher Education since 2015. She previously held the EVCP position from 1994 to 2000 but returned to teaching full-time in 2000. In 2002, she became president of Smith College.
“I am honored to serve the campus again in the capacity of executive vice chancellor and provost,” Christ said in a Tuesday statement. “I love Berkeley, and am ready to do whatever I can at this crucial moment in the university’s life.”
Steele’s resignation, citing his wife’s health, came after criticism from students and faculty regarding his discipline of former Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry after a campus investigation found Choudhry had violated university sexual harassment policies.
Dirks described Christ’s “well-established reputation as a champion of women’s issues” in his statement. During her time at UC Berkeley, Christ taught the first women’s studies course on campus in 1972, served as Title IX compliance coordinator and helped create the campus’s sexual harassment complaint procedure, she said.
Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the decision process for the interim EVCP involved “broad consultation and engagement with people across the campus,” including vice chancellors, deans and faculty members.
“I think this is an excellent choice, based on my personal experience and what the campus needs right now,” said Margaret Conkey in an email. Conkey, campus professor emerita of archeology, signed a statement March 28 criticizing the campus’s handling of sexual misconduct.
Conkey said that although Christ will face many challenges, her experience with the campus has given her “the confidence of a lot of faculty members.”
While the EVCP position encompasses many responsibilities — including overseeing academic personnel matters and managing the academic restructuring process in light of the campus’s annual $150 million deficit — Christ said the campus’s financial situation is the most pressing challenge facing the campus.
“I think the most important issue right now is developing a plan for Berkeley’s long-range budget plan for Berkeley’s financial stability,” Christ said.
She stressed the importance of involving different ideas and perspectives while creating the campus’s financial plan, adding that an administrator’s effectiveness relates to their ability to listen to others’ advice.
“No single person has all the good ideas,” Christ said. “Decisions are better if you get lots of advice.”
According to Christ, the budgetary challenges facing the campus involve more than expenditures and revenues but also raise questions of the institution’s priorities and vision of the future. She added that she values the university’s commitment to access with a “public identity at its very heart.”
“She’s got a lot of stuff on the plate in front of her,” Conkey said. “But she’s solid, well-grounded, thoughtful … and is motivated.”