Senate hears from outgoing Chancellor Nicholas Dirks

Catherine Wallin/Staff

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Outgoing Chancellor Nicholas Dirks spoke with the ASUC Senate for more than an hour and a half at the senate’s weekly Wednesday meeting.

Dirks spent most of this time answering questions from all but four senators, looking back on his four-year career as UC Berkeley chancellor. After hearing from Dirks, the senate passed three resolutions, one of which called for the reallocation of the space previously intended to become a campus-run hotel toward potential student housing.

Head administrators have attended two senate meetings this semester, the first being when Associate Chancellor Nils Gilman met with the senate Feb. 15. Dirks indicated that he would “like to come more often.”

“(Communicating with students is) a big problem because there’s so many students and I’m not an avid (user) of social media because I’m an old guy,” Dirks said.  “And I don’t think there’s any substitute for person-to-person conversation.”

Among the topics that senators asked Dirks about were basic-needs security for students, including student safety, housing and mental and physical health. Multiple senators asked Dirks how these needs will be met by incoming chancellor Carol Christ.

Senators also asked Dirks to reflect on how he has achieved certain goals that he set for himself prior to taking office, such as prioritizing students over profit.

ASUC Senator Zaynab AbdulQadir asked Dirks during the meeting to identify his biggest regret during his time as chancellor, emphasizing that he be as candid as possible.

“The big regret is that you’re spending so much of your time learning about the different parts of campus that you’re in a reactive mode, and so a lot of the crises that come are things that you respond to rather than anticipate,” Dirks said during the meeting.

ASUC President Will Morrow affirmed that it is important for administration to stay in contact with students for the benefit of both. He added that administration can learn from the on-the-ground experience that students have with campus and that students can learn about the thought that goes into administrative decisions.

“It’s imperative to me that this tradition of student and administration engagement continues not just in the short term, but continues to be deep rooted in the fundamental values of UC Berkeley,” Morrow said.

Both Morrow and Dirks emphasized the importance of maintaining channels of communication between administrators and the student body.

During his brief opening statement, Dirks mentioned that the plan to create a hotel in Downtown Berkeley had fallen through and cited the space as a candidate for potential student housing. After Dirks left, the senate passed three resolutions, one of which supported the conversion of the space previously allocated toward the campus-owned hotel into student housing.

No senate meeting will take place over spring break, and the senate will reconvene Wednesday of the week after break.

Sakura Cannestra is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.