UC Berkeley students oppose renaming of College of Natural Resources

Rausser College of Natural Resources Mulford Hall
Vanessa Lim/Staff

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Zoom backgrounds and Facebook posts touting #RausserCollegeIsNotMyCollege display the sentiment among some campus students against the UC Berkeley Rausser College of Natural Resources being named in honor of Gordon Rausser, former dean of the college, after he made a $50 million donation.

The hashtag accompanies a petition launched Monday to begin a dialogue surrounding the ethicality of private donations to public institutions and the terms of the donation. The petition has, as of press time, gathered 203 student signatures. According to campus sophomore Tess Gauthier, one of the petition’s creators, students believe Rausser is not a good representation of what the college stands for, and students felt left out of the decision-making process.

“A lot of students were uncomfortable with his professional background and his view of what environmentalism was, and found that it clashed with what we really thought environmental activism is — rooted in justice — while we thought his was more based in economics,” Gauthier said.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore cited Rausser’s commitment to the college and the improvements he made after he was appointed dean in 1994.

Under Rausser’s leadership, the college’s budget, the number of graduate applications received and the number of faculty members appointed to chairs and professorships all increased, according to Gilmore. She added that the donation is in the best interest of students, faculty and research endeavors.

“His commitment to the College has remained steadfast, as reflected in not just the size of the gift, but the manner in which it was given — as a largely unrestricted gift, thus empowering current and future deans and college leadership to determine how to use the funds,” Gilmore said in an email.

Satchi Thockchom, a campus sophomore who was involved in the petition’s creation, described feeling “uncomfortable” in Rausser’s learning environment. Thockchom added that some students who have shared their own experiences with Rausser also said they felt unwelcome within his classes.

Sarah Bancroft, another one of the petition’s creators and the environmental community ASUC senator-elect, said the donation is appreciated, but that students are concerned their voices will not be heard in deciding how to allocate the money.

According to Gilmore, a small portion of the gift creates an endowed chair in agricultural and resource economics and an unrestricted endowment for the Master of Development Practice program.

Gilmore said in the email that the college’s leaders are open to meeting with students to discuss their concerns and input on the future of the college. As of press time, no requests have been sent to the dean’s office regarding the naming, she added.

According to Bancroft, petition organizers are working to compile student feedback to bring to campus administration. 

“We would love an explanation for how this happened in the first place, an explanation for why students were not involved and what exactly this means for the college,” Gauthier said.

Contact Dina Katgara at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dinakatgara.