Chancellor’s report details key points of academic year

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A report released by the Office of the Chancellor on Thursday highlighted key initiatives championed by faculty across a range of disciplinesincluding the arts, fundraising, campus climate and research — in the 2015-16 academic year.

The report aims to keep administration accountable and transparent, and emphasizes achievements in areas that the campus administration considers top priorities, according to Associate Chancellor Nils Gilman. He added, however, that the last academic year was “particularly challenging.”

“Sometimes an initiative, which is usually about doing something new, is … about claiming and celebrating what’s already here so we can fortify it for the future,” said Shannon Jackson, the associate vice chancellor for arts and design.

According to Gilman, campus administration focused on improving campus climate and inclusiveness over the last two years — specifically in addressing racial incidents last year and sexual misconduct issues this spring.

Earlier this month, the campus announced plans to invest $2.5 million into preventing sexual violence on campus. Efforts will include expanding resources for the Office for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment and implementing a peer review-based system to determine disciplinary actions against perpetrators, according to the report.

Carla Hesse, the interim campus lead for sexual violence and harassment, said in an email that supplementing pre-existing online training with an in-person element will also encourage “greater depth of understanding” about sexual violence.

Hesse added, however, that the university could further improve response to sexual violence by shortening the time it takes for cases to be resolved and ensuring they “don’t slip through the cracks.”

Efforts to strengthen an inclusive campus environment include an intergroup dialogue series facilitated by students for students, according Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, a campus psychology professor. Mendoza-Denton said speaking “across differences” would be useful to students because of increasing diversity in the campus and across workplaces.

“People don’t think cultural competency is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced in a structured and safe environment,” Mendoza-Denton said.  “We’re trying to make that a goal.”

The campus has also made an effort to strengthen the university’s liberal arts curriculum and emphasize its historic creativity, according to Jackson. The Arts + Design Initiative, established by Jackson, will fortify various campus art hubs, according to the report.

Jackson added that new courses bridging creative disciplines would also reinforce the university’s “artistically and intellectually” collaborative culture.

Despite an outcrop of new initiatives, however, Gilman noted that the university has struggled financially because of state divestment in public higher education over the last academic year.

Reports for the last two academic years show that federal funding for research declined by 10 percent since the 2014-15 academic year and that total research funding decreased by $47 million, which has pressured more researchers to rely on nonprofit organizations for funding.

In a statement, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks outlined future plans to improve conditions on campus, which include finding a new vice chancellor for administration and finance, and expanding collaboration with the academic senate. Dirks added in the report that Berkeley will certainly “emerge from these challenging times a stronger university.”

Contact Kimberly Nielsen at [email protected].