The UC Board of Regents' decision on July 20 to end the use of race, ethnicity and gender in student admissions, hiring and contracts poses a serious challenge. Their action has exposed a depth of feeling and a wide range of views. Yet on one aspect of this issue our campus community is unified: We must preserve and enhance the diversity that is essential to our campus.
Five years ago, when I was appointed chancellor, I stated my firm belief that excellence and diversity go hand in hand. The Regents' decision has not changed that belief. Diversity on our campus and in all of higher education is more important than ever before. Our work force and student population must reflect the ethnic, racial and gender composition of the world around us.
The Regents' action should not greatly affect affirmative action efforts in hiring and contracting. Our goal will continue to be the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty and staff members who represent California's population.
In the area of student admissions, the Regents' decision could have a significant effect on the composition of our student body. I am just as concerned as you are that we continue to educate a student population that encompasses the heterogeneity of our state and has the potential to succeed on our campus.
As educators, we prepare leaders for the global village of the 21st century by giving students opportunities to interact with people from different backgrounds in classes, study groups, laboratories, administrative offices and playing fields.
As the late University President Daniel Coit Gilman said 123 years ago, we are a university "of the people and for the people." Our campus is not discharging our responsibility to California unless we teach students who represent the diversity of the state.
Today, the fate of youngsters in California's elementary schools is in our hands. We must be sure to send a clear message to the next generation of undergraduates that our doors will be open to them if they are committed to their studies and excel academically. We must convince them they will be welcome at Berkeley and other first-rate campuses to pursue higher learning.
Although the obstacles ahead of us are considerable, they are not insurmountable. We are determined to face them in a principled way.
Although no one knows for sure the best way to proceed, it is clear that we must be creative to meet the challenge of preserving diversity. We must devise new strategies so our campus can continue to reflect our state. We must strengthen the most promising programs that are already in place. Finally, we must monitor and evaluate our progress to determine what works and what falls short so we can fine tune and advance our efforts over time.
Meanwhile, in the coming weeks and months, the debate over affirmative action is sure to continue. People care about this issue because so much is at stake. Yet even though our views may diverge, all of us share a concern for the future of our campus and state. So let each one of us make sure the dialogue on affirmative action is characterized by our respect for the free and open exchange of ideas. In this way, we can preserve the academic freedom and tradition of free speech that distinguishes our campus.
At this critical juncture, I pledge to you that I will do everything to meet the difficult goal of preserving diversity. I call on each one of you--the faculty, students and staff--to commit yourself as well and to help us strengthen the programs that bring a highly qualified, diverse student population to our campus.
The first step is to become more informed about the Regents' action and what it means for our campus. This special edition of Berkeleyan launches the informational campaign. We are providing information about the impact on contracts, hiring and student admissions. We are publishing the wording of the actual Regents' resolutions. We are including an events listing on affirmative action. Throughout the year, Berkeleyan will continue to follow closely the efforts and dialogue on this important issue.
Second, my administration is making outreach a top priority. I am establishing a task force to review outreach efforts here, recommend new programs and make suggestions on the link between outreach programs, the admissions process and the success of students who might be enrolled through this process. Professor Martin Sanchez-Jankowski, faculty assistant to the vice chancellor--academic affirmative action, has agreed to serve as the chair of this task force.
Third, I want to hear your comments and questions. We have set up a special email address, Discussion_Box @maillink.berkeley.edu. You can find information on our home page on the World Wide Web under Campus News and Events.
Finally, in the coming weeks, I plan to talk directly with faculty, students and staff about the impact of the Regents' decision. I will remain actively involved with this issue, working closely with our campus community throughout the year.
Preserving diversity is critical to the future of our campus and all of California. Students and employees benefit from learning and working on campuses that reflect the world around them. Despite the gravity of the challenge ahead, I urge you to get involved, join the debate and help shape strategies. We have confronted challenges successfully before and we can do it again. In 1990, when I took office, many predicted that declining state support for higher education would erode Berkeley's academic stature. Although UC did suffer severe funding cuts, our campus remains a world-class institution because of the extraordinary efforts by you, the faculty, staff and students.
I believe the same level of creativity, persistence and dedication that you committed to preserving our academic mission in this belt- tightening era will triumph once again. By pulling together, we will build diversity and excellence.
The eyes of the world are on us. Berkeley has been called "the great experiment in diversity." Now it is up to us to prove the great experiment will continue to be an unqualified success.