A fond farewell to the Berkeley Global Campus

CAMPUS ISSUES: Cancellation of Berkeley Global Campus means that members of the Richmond community group wasted more than a year of hard work.

Another week, another humiliation for Dirks’ administration.

It seems only fitting that two weeks removed from the announcement of his resignation, the campus now gets to wave goodbye to Dirks’ prized pet project: the Berkeley Global Campus.

He called for the project in 2014 with considerable fanfare and pomp, claiming it would be a space where researchers from top universities and technology companies could work on interdisciplinary projects to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Yet this administration’s inability to solve pressing problems closer to home meant the project was always doomed to fail. In a Thursday meeting between campus officials and members of the Richmond Bay Community Working Group, Dirks said the campus’s $150 million annual structural deficit made the project impossible to complete.

With a budget crisis and a slew of other hurdles, it’s clear that the administration shouldn’t be prioritizing a campus construction 10 miles away in Richmond. But the delay in decisive action exemplifies a stunning lack of foresight and planning.  

At the meeting, Dirks explained that he hadn’t been aware of UC Berkeley’s budgetary woes when plans for the campus originally started — an administrative communication problem that is concerning in and of itself. Even if Dirks’ ignorance is to believed, fiscal shortfalls became mainstream news back in February, yet he still waited eight months before pulling the plug on the $3 billion project.

The belated demise of the project is most unfair to the members of the Richmond community, who have worked tirelessly since 2014 to craft an agreement to ensure the Berkeley Global Campus would benefit both Richmond residents and UC Berkeley.

When concerns over gentrification and displacement first surfaced, community members rallied and Dirks agreed to hear recommendations from a working group. If only everybody then had known the project was destined for failure, how much wasted time could have been saved? Considering the working group has been at it since last year, lots.

Moreover, claims at the Thursday meeting that UC Berkeley would still attempt to aid the Richmond community seem ambitious without the promise of a new global campus.

In any case, given the fact that a clear vision for the purpose and mission of the Berkeley Global Campus could never quite emerge from a sea of buzzwords, UC Berkeley will barely face negative consequences due to its cancellation.

Top researchers and tech talent will simply have to come to the original Berkeley campus, as they have been for more than 100 years, in order to solve the world’s most pressing issues.
But before they solve the world’s problems, there are plenty festering here at UC Berkeley to address — albeit one fewer now that the Berkeley Global Campus is Dirks’ unrealized dream, not his legacy.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Senior Editorial Board.

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