by Jesús Mena
At a crowded news conference in an East Oakland high school, Chancellor Tien on Sept. 7 signed a pledge vowing to use the resources of the campus to do "everything possible" to ensure that California students receive a first-rate education, regardless of their race, ethnicity or gender.
Flanked by superintendents of four Bay Area School districts, Tien committed $1 million to launch the Berkeley Pledge, a statewide effort to revitalize the partnership between Berkeley and the California school system.
"As a public university, our campus has a historic responsibility to serve all of California," Tien told an audience of journalists and journalism students at Fremont High School's nationally recognized Media Academy. "Our commitment has made Berkeley an international model for 'excellence through diversity.' We do not intend to retreat from our deep commitment."
Berkeley's initiative, lauded as "visionary" by the superintendents in attendance, followed the UC Regents' action in July, eliminating race, ethnicity and gender from consideration in student admissions by 1997. The regents also called on UC campuses to "take relevant actions to develop and support programs that increase "the eligibility rate of groups which are "underrepresented in the university's pool of applicants."
Suggesting that Tien should rename the "Berkeley Pledge" the "Berkeley Challenge," Berkeley Public Schools Superintendent Jack McLaughlin said, "I would like to see all the universities take on the leadership raised by the chancellor today."
"The road that they've taken is the high road," said Herbert M. Cole Jr., superintendent of West Contra Costa County Unified School District. Also endorsing Berkeley's pledge were Waldemar Rojas, superintendent of San Francisco Unified School District, and Terry Mazany, representing Carolyn Getridge, superintendent of Oakland Unified School District.
The four superintendents are the first of the K-12 administrators in the state who will be asked to sign the pledge in the coming months.
The Berkeley Pledge has three basic components:
First, the Berkeley campus will work to ensure that all students who show potential, yet face major obstacles, are linked to outreach programs that can help them build their academic records. The K-12 school superintendents agree to help identify these students. Furthermore, school administrators will enhance their collaboration with UC on issues of teacher training and curricula development.
Second, the campus will work to ensure that students who are admitted can afford to attend Berkeley. The campus has already pledged to raise $60 million in student scholarships over the next five years and is committed to developing financial aid packages to make Berkeley affordable.
Third, students recruited to the campus will receive the academic support they need to ensure they succeed. This includes faculty and graduate student mentoring and intensive discussion sessions to address specific needs of these recruited students. Advanced campus programs will help motivate exceptionally talented students to attend graduate school.
The Berkeley Pledge enhances the coordination of existing programs, expands the scope of others and creates new ones as resources permit. Outreach services already provided by the campus are extensive. In 1994-95, these programs reached thousands of students in more than 300 California schools.
Tien has appointed a faculty task force to review current programs and recommend improved coordination as well the possible creation of new ones. Martin Sanchez-Jankowski, professor of sociology, will chair the Outreach Task Force.
The Berkeley campus also has created the Berkeley Recruitment Corps, which will step up efforts to recruit the state's very best students. The effort will be headed by Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Affairs Genaro Padilla and Rick Russell Jr., president of the California Alumni Association and a UC Regent.
Among the most innovative and vital components of the Berkeley Pledge is the proposed Berkeley Academy, an intensive summer program that will draw young people from throughout the state.
It will offer advanced courses, providing academic skills that will be essential for college entry.
The Berkeley Academy will also work in collaboration with high school teachers, offering opportunities to participate in summer institutes at Berkeley and increasing teacher interaction with campus faculty.
Tien emphasized that he, along with other top campus leaders, plans to visit students and schools throughout the state as the campus strengthens its partnership with the California school system.
For brochures detailing the Berkeley Pledge, call the Public Affairs Office at 642-6436.
Jacqueline Frost contributed to this report.