Chancellor Carol Christ calls for 4,000 beds ‘on all the land we have’

Nikhar Arora/Staff

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Campus students pressed Chancellor Carol Christ on issues ranging from the campus’s budget deficit to efforts to increase housing and diversity during an exclusive town hall Wednesday evening.

Students were invited via email to represent a variety of groups — Cal Band, Golden Bear Orientation leaders, UC Berkeley Army ROTC, Cal Athletics, the UC Rally Committee, campus ambassadors and the ASUC, to name a few — and to express concerns from each of their perspectives.

“I hope to gain insight about what students think about what the big issues are,” Christ said in an interview with The Daily Californian.

The chancellor fielded a variety of questions, including concerns about increasing student housing. Students asked whether developing on locations such as People’s Park would be effective.

Despite the current construction of David Blackwell Hall, Christ explained that campus administrators are still considering other locations. She added that the campus needs about 7,000 beds to “double housing capacity.”

“Even if we built on all the land we have, it would be around 4,000 beds,” Christ said during the event. “We have to build on all of them to make a dent on the housing crisis.”

Another recurring issue at the forum was the campus’s budget deficit. The chancellor expressed her plans to balance the budget by 2020 through the creation of a sustainable financial model, and she mentioned that she supports privatization of certain spheres of public university space because it could bring in more revenue without making other sacrifices.

One participant at the town hall, a student athlete, suggested that a better “tailgate atmosphere” could increase campus revenue and also increase school spirit. Christ responded that Cal Athletics recently fielded similar suggestions regarding its financial model — including selling alcohol — to bring “more people to games.”

Engagement with Cal Athletics has traditionally been a source of revenue for the campus, but attendance for football events — which are among the most profitable athletic events — has declined 42 percent collectively in the past 11 seasons. Cal Athletics has also received multiple bailouts from the chancellor’s office because of debt related to the Memorial Stadium renovations.

In response to a student’s question about the tangible solutions to increase diversity on campus, Christ said she wants to “encourage people to apply and then work on higher acceptance.”

Christ was even asked about her feelings toward campus mascot Oski, at which point she humored the crowd by imitating the mascot’s unique way of walking.

Kayna Monette, a campus senior who attended the event, said the forum was interesting because it was her first time meeting the chancellor. She added that she liked the way the forum was set up because the “format made it seem more personal.”

“I liked that, one, the chancellor does seem knowledgeable about the things that are going on, and then two, that she asked the crowd for their input made it seem more productive and like our voices were being heard,” Monette said.

Contact Isabella Sabri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @isabella_sabri.