UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, administrators discuss campus updates as school year starts

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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Chancellor Carol Christ and multiple campus administrators held a press conference Monday morning on updates pertaining to the campus, such as the budget deficit, the housing crisis and the Commission on Free Speech.

The press conference’s main topics, which were sent in a campuswide email later that morning, included the campus’s progress toward Christ’s financial and housing goals as well as an update on the implementation of recommendations from the Chancellor’s Commission on Free Speech.

Christ was joined by the recently appointed Cal Athletics director Jim Knowlton, Vice Chancellor for Research Randy Katz, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton, Vice Provost for Academic Planning Lisa Alvarez-Cohen, Vice Chancellor of Finance and Chief Financial Officer Rosemarie Rae, and Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion Oscar Dubón Jr.

In her opening remarks, Christ noted progress she has made in five of her goals as chancellor. One such goal was to improve the campus’s financial model, a goal toward which she said she has made “significant progress.”

“Two years ago, we closed the fiscal year with a deficit of $150 million,” Christ said at the press conference. “Our target this year, two years later, was $57 million, but we think we’ve got that done considerably better than that. We don’t have the final figures yet, but we think our deficit stands at $30 or $40 million.”

She added that the financial office is aiming to decrease the operating deficit to $20 million by June 30, 2019. Rae later mentioned that the target is to have a balanced budget by 2020.

Rae and Christ both mentioned that the progress toward a balanced budget was aided greatly by the funding boost from California’s state budget, which allocated $25 million in one-time funding toward UC Berkeley’s operating deficit.

While more than $20 million in expenditures were cut in summer 2017, Christ said the administration has “tried to protect everything that is student-facing” so students would not feel the burden of these cuts. Rae echoed this sentiment, saying in the press conference that the campus has “focused on creating sustainable efficiencies.”

Christ also mentioned the campus’s progress toward doubling the amount of student housing, including the latest addition to the campus’s housing portfolio, David Blackwell Hall, which opened this fall. Along with additions from multiple long-term lease agreements with housing developers, the campus’s bed count increased by 836 for this fall.

Sutton later mentioned that the campus is beginning stage two of finding a master developer to build on the nine sites listed in the housing task force report.

“We’re going to do interviews (soon). Sometime in mid- to late October, we’ll have the master developer identified,” Sutton said at the press conference.

He also mentioned that the master developer selection committee will have one representative from the Graduate Assembly and one from the ASUC.

Christ also said the campus will release plans to follow through with the recommendations from the Commission on Free Speech in the coming weeks, in response to the commission’s final report, which was released in April. The recommendations included changing the campus’s major events policy and designating West Crescent Lawn as a “free speech zone.”

She also gave statistics about the incoming class of freshmen and transfer students — about 8,800 new undergraduate students will be on campus this fall, the youngest of whom is 15 years old and the oldest of whom is 63 years old. Christ noted that this time has been a busy “but really exciting time of the year.”

“I’m feeling really great,” Christ said. “It’s not just (that) we can see the light at the end of the tunnel; we can see the end of the tunnel.”

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