Chancellor Christ speaks at Graduate Assembly meeting

Ireland Wagner/Staff

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UC Berkeley graduate students had the opportunity to ask Chancellor Carol Christ questions and present their concerns, as well as provide input on the campus’s future plans at the Graduate Assembly meeting Thursday.

Christ opened the meeting with updates on the campus’s budget, which she called “precariously balanced,” and upcoming fundraising efforts and goals. The first priority with new funding will go toward creating 100 tenure-track faculty positions, which will be allocated in various departments, according to Christ.

“We have grown the student body very significantly, but we have not grown the faculty,” Christ said at the meeting.

Christ added that diversity is an important initiative for the campus, and it will be continuing its cluster-hire program as well. The program is focusing on Native American and indigenous peoples’ studies this year and is planned for incarceration and criminal justice studies, environmental justice and more in subsequent years.

Christ also addressed campus wellness, especially the mental health situations of the undergraduate student population. She said she considered the high-stress environment of campus to be a cultural problem but added that she felt some faculty members need to change their narratives about work as well.

“We have intensely competitive students here who don’t seem to be able to make the transition often from the intense competitiveness that got them here,” Christ said at the meeting. “I think we need a culture change — I think those of you who are graduate student instructors can help.”

After Christ, campus architect Wendy Hillis and other members of her department addressed the assembly, discussing UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan and Campus Master Plan, which they are currently designing to be implemented over the next 15-20 years.

According to senior planner Marissa Cheng, the primary focus of the plan will be resiliency. She added that priorities will be housing and finding a replacement for the cogeneration plant, which helped power campus during the recent blackout but will need to be replaced within the next 10 years, according to Christ.

“(The blackout) was a huge learning experience for us, very frustrating for — I’m sure — all of you,” Christ said at the meeting, adding that her goal for the campus is to be independent in energy generation. “If you believe PG&E, this is going to keep up for 10 years, so we can’t really operate the university in this way with intermittent power.”

Many graduate students brought up environmental concerns regarding new construction, including carbon neutrality, zero waste and renewable energy. According to Hillis, the university requires that all new buildings be electrified, rather than running on natural gas, and campus is currently exploring about eight sites where it can implement solar panels.

As for housing, both Christ and Hillis said housing units would be built. According to Christ, a graduate student apartment building is currently under construction in Emeryville near the MacArthur BART station, which will be anonymously donated to UC Berkeley and will be in operation in about fall 2020.

Christ added that after this project, transfer housing will be constructed on the corner of Oxford Street and Channing Way, after which People’s Park will be developed.

“I know that many of you won’t be here after your graduate degrees,” Hillis said in terms of the overall plan. “(Providing feedback) is a way for you to pay it forward.”

Kate Finman is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.