UC Berkeley launches ‘Light the Way’ fundraising campaign, aims for $6B

Maya Valluru/File

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UC Berkeley officially launched the “Light the Way” fundraising campaign Feb. 29, with the goal of raising $6 billion by the end of 2023 — one of the largest fundraising campaigns ever taken up by any university in the nation.

Publicly launched at a private event Saturday night, the campaign was partly motivated by the current lack of state funding and the simultaneous increase in the student body. Major goals for the campaign include campus housing for all freshmen, sophomores and first-year transfer students, 100 new tenure-track faculty positions, 300 new graduate fellowships and increasing the number of undergraduate scholarships.

The campaign entered its “quiet phase” at the beginning of 2014 and has since raised $3.4 billion; in comparison, the first comprehensive UC Berkeley fundraising campaign, named “Keeping the Promise,” ran from 1985 to 1990 and raised $466.6 million. At that point in history, though, state funding covered about 50% of UC Berkeley’s budget. Currently, the state only covers about 14%, according to a campus press release.

“We are calling the campaign ‘Light the Way: the Campaign for Berkeley,” said Chancellor Carol Christ in a press conference. “We intend to raise a lot of money and, unlike the campaigns in the past, … this is not a campaign about nice to have (things), this is a campaign to raise money for the very core of the institution.”

Part of the campaign’s goals is to double the number of on-campus beds for students, aiming to house all freshmen, sophomores and first-year transfer students. There are a number of housing developments that are linked to this campaign, including a major housing development on the corner of Oxford Street and University Avenue and an apartment complex that is being constructed in Emeryville.

Many have already contributed to the campaign. Christ said, as of Feb. 24, that the campaign has had 168,437 unique donors.

There have been two large donations already during the campaign’s quiet phase, according to the press release. One was from former campus College of Natural Resources dean Gordon Rausser, who donated $50 million toward the campus’ response to environmental and health challenges. The second donation was from an anonymous donor, who donated $252 million — the largest single gift that campus has ever received — to go toward constructing a home for the campus’ Division of Computing, Data Science and Society on the land where Tolman Hall used to be.

A large part of the campaign’s goal is improving UC Berkeley’s academic experience, which includes goals of adding 100 new tenure-track faculty members and funding their research alongside students.

“The faculty is the definitive factor at Berkeley in enabling our students to become leaders in an astonishingly broad array of fields,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos in the press release. “Philanthropy will allow us not only to hire more professors, but to provide them with the resources they need to make path-breaking discoveries.”

Another goal is to acquire 300 new campus graduate student fellowships, which would greatly assist graduate students’ pay for basic needs requirements and further research.

Part of the campaign’s goal is to expand opportunities for undergraduate research as well, according to Christ. She also said at the press conference that the campaign looks to help with the campus’s financial aid packages, which are constructed with self-help obligations that the campaign will partially buy-down.

Every gift for the campus, including the March 12 Big Give, will count toward the campaign’s fundraising. While Christ has spent time lobbying the state for more funding, she also noted that the campaign was constructed with a “heaven helps those who help themselves” mentality.

“As our students benefit, so does the public we serve at a time when Berkeley’s societal and academic role has never been more important,” Christ said in the press release.

Sakura Cannestra is the managing editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.