by Fernando Quintero
Boalt Hall professor Harry Scheiber has dedicated much of his academic career to studying the law of the land as well as the laws of the sea.
As new chair of the Berkeley Academic Senate, Scheiber enters a world where an entirely new set of rules apply. As former associate dean of law, a department chair and vice chair at three universities, and vice chair of the senate, Scheiber is well-suited for his current task.
Consisting of faculty and academic administrative officers, the senate represents the faculty in the process of shared governance. It also makes such key policy decisions as authorizing and supervising courses and curricula, advising the University administration on faculty appointments and promotions, and determining the conditions for admission and degrees--subject to the approval of the UC Board of Regents.
At times, the senate can be a contentious group. But Scheiber believes the campus is entering a new era of cooperation. He applauds the efforts of his predecessors and colleagues for "what has evolved into shared governance."
"If we're going to retain faculty and keep morale up, we have to be able to communicate in a milieu of continued cooperation," said Scheiber.
A former professor of history at Dartmouth and UC San Diego, Scheiber came to Berkeley in 1980. He is the Stefan Riesenfeld Professor of Law and History, and has made scholarly contributions in three distinct fields: economic history, American legal and constitutional history, and ocean resources law and policy.
Scheiber has served as Fulbright Distinguished Senior Lecturer in Australia, and was twice awarded Guggenheim Fellowships. He has also twice been a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.
In his 14-year tenure at Berkeley, Scheiber has witnessed the devastating erosion of state financial support. For Scheiber, the top priority is maintaining the University's excellence during such trying fiscal times.
"The tough questions are where will the scarce resources go, (and) how can new sources of funds be tapped. My job is to try to advance the concerns of the various senate committees, striving to represent those concerns as effectively as I can," said Scheiber. "The overall major concern is sustaining our excellent teaching and research environment."
Sustaining important programs is the area Scheiber sees as most challenging.
"There is the inevitable process of triage, something none of us wants to do, and something none of us is well trained for," said Scheiber.
Scheiber's wish list includes rebuilding faculty ranks lost through early retirements and maintaining a salary structure that is competitive both internationally and nationally. Also, keeping student fees affordable is another goal.
"These are often competing goals," said Scheiber. "A sense of fiscal priority and private fundraising will help achieve these goals."
One solution Scheiber supports is the concept of intercampus cooperation.
"I've been very confident that my colleagues can work out efficient and economically sustainable intercampus cooperation programs where, for instance, we could exchange graduate students with other campuses for seminars in certain fields of study," he said.
Scheiber added it was critical that the coming capital campaign succeed in raising funds for endowed chairs such as his, the Senate Committee on Research programs, and support for the top students to maintain Berkeley as a place for top scholars to make their academic careers.
In the long run, Scheiber believes the solution to the University's fiscal problems is a return to a "sense of public responsibility."
"The people in California are going to have to recognize the hard fact that the state's cultural, economic, and political future depends on increased public support," he said.
"We are a rare genus of distinguished and elite public universities. There are only a few universities in the world like ours and we're too precious a gem to lose. Achieving a public understanding of that is critical."