by Fernando Quintero
If his first week on the job is any indication of things to come, the future looks bright for Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl and the campus he is slated to lead into the next millennium.
By midmorning on his first day, Berdahl had unpacked his briefcase, sorted through his mail, met with his immediate staff and held a brief meeting with the press.
"I am delighted to be here. It's a beautiful day-a lot cooler than Texas," said the former president of the University of Texas at Austin.
About 20 reporters and photographers from the local press attended the 20-minute July 7 meeting with Berdahl in his California Hall office. Not surprisingly, most of the reporters' questions centered around cuts in minority enrollment as a result of recent bans on affirmative action in California and Texas.
"There are no easy solutions. We have to reach out (to minority students) more strenuously than in the past, and work hard to assure students that they are welcome here," Berdahl said. "I think it's possible to make progress in turning the numbers around."
Berdahl stressed the importance of early outreach to students from underrepresented groups.
"Getting more people into the pipeline is going to be the key. It will take work in the high schools, junior high and elementary schools," he said.
Berdahl said his top priority will be to maintain Berkeley's pre-eminent position. He said attention must also be given to deferred maintenance of the campus as well as ongoing seismic improvements. Other challenges ahead include restoring funding for the library.
On Tuesday, Berdahl attended a dinner in Sacramento held in recognition of contributions made by students in the Cal in Sacramento program, which places students in legislators' offices and state agencies.
Berdahl welcomed the opportunity to make himself known in the state capital and spoke briefly about how Berkeley students are the campus's best ambassadors.
By Thursday, Berdahl found himself in the auspicious position of accepting a $10 million gift at his second press conference of the week. The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund gave the money to the Graduate School of Public Policy, where the chancellor will have a faculty appointment.
"This has been one of the most spectacular weeks of my life," said the chancellor. He added, however, that he hoped no one would expect him to be accepting $10 million gifts as a matter of routine every week.
Answering a question from a reporter, he said he didn't see fund raising as a burden, but as a necessary and expected part of higher education in today's climate. Earlier in the week, Berdahl praised the success of former Chancellor Tien and said it will be a challenge to match.
"The key to research funding is the quality of the faculty and students," said Berdahl. "Tien has created a wonderful environment to move forward in. I welcome stepping into the wake of a rapidly moving vessel."
Meanwhile, members of the campus are wasting no time checking in with the new chancellor. Before his first week was out, more than 160 people had emailed him to wish him well and offer opinions on issues confronting the campus.
The chancellor's email address is Bigbear@uclink4.