Town hall hosted at UC Berkeley to discuss search for next UC president

Sunny Shen/Staff

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The Berkeley Faculty Association, or BFA; the Latinx Faculty Association; the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, the union representing lecturers and librarians; and the UC Berkeley Academic Senate sponsored a town hall that met Wednesday to discuss important qualifications for the next UC president.

UC Board of Regents chair John Pérez has appointed the Special Committee to Consider the Selection of a President, according to the UC website. UC Berkeley’s town hall served as a vehicle for inputting campus preferences into the selection process, according to campus mechanical engineering professor and Berkeley Divisional Chair for the Academic Council Oliver O’Reilly.

Members of campus faculty and associations, however, expressed concerns for their lack of jurisdiction over selecting the next UC president.

“(When it comes to candidate qualifications), it’s not only just knowing something about higher education, it’s about public higher education,” said campus sociology lecturer Joanna Reed. We need to articulate this vision of why the state needs to contribute more, and to be able to do that in a way that can communicate those prioritizes and the shared public good and not just education as an investment that I can make more money in the future.”

Multiple town hall attendees expressed hopes that their goals for the future of the UC system will align with the next president. Reed said the next president needs to invest in all faculty — both tenure and nontenure track — in order to ensure “teaching excellence.”

The BFA has published a nine-point agenda that proposes criteria for the selection process, including that the president should be someone who will make high-quality teaching and research a priority of all UC campuses and will increase the diversity of the student body.

“(The next president) will have thought about thinking in today’s society, she will have had direct contact with today’s students, she will know — not only abstractly — that our students are not majority middle class and not majority white, but will also know from contact what that actually means — the debt burden, the financial anxiety, the temptation always to replace study with more hours of paid job and the remarkable background knowledge and the highest levels of engagement of any students in recent generations,” said UC Santa Barbara English professor Christopher Newfield.

Some town hall attendees expressed concerns about the search method for the next UC president, noting they would like to have more of a say in the selection process.

Attendees proposed a parallel campaign that would put forward candidates with qualities UC Berkeley and other campuses support. The goal would be to increase public engagement in and publicity of the selection process and articulate individual campus demands for a certain kind of president.

“The next president will be able to reverse the slowed down rating of the University of California, start the uprating, because she will understand the combined social and intellectual missions of the university from the inside,” Newfield said. “The regents need our strongest encouragement to find this person.”

Contact Skylar Schoemig at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sschoemig_dc.