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Chancellor’s annual ‘summer letter
Communiqué addresses budget woes, new academic initiatives

20 August 2003

With the excitement of a new school year upon us and the challenges of the budget crisis on everyone’s mind, Chancellor Berdahl issued his annual summer letter earlier this month, praising the dedication and hard work of staff and faculty, but acknowledging that with funding shortfalls and fee hikes, the coming year is going to be a challenge for everyone.

Whatever this academic year brings, the Chancellor says, he is certain that “working together we are up to the challenge.”

This is Berdahl’s sixth summer letter, a communication to the campus community, alumni, friends, and donors that reports on the past year’s accomplishments and sets the stage for the year ahead.

In his letter, the Chancellor expresses concern for the “once-inspired vision of public education as a vital public good.” In California, he writes, there is fear that that a continuing budget crisis could jeopardize California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, a promise guaranteeing a college education to any California student who is prepared.

Despite such budget-driven storm clouds for the future, Berdahl highlights an array of achievements and milestones met in the past year. Focusing on Berkeley’s physical space, he notes that ground was broken for the new Stanley Biosciences and Bioengineering Facility, an ambitious research and teaching center set for completion in 2006. He adds that the most critical components of the SAFER seismic-retrofitting program were completed this past year, as well. With the re-opening of Wurster Hall, “all of the large classroom buildings that six years ago were rated very poor — those that posed the greatest threat to life safety — have been strengthened and upgraded,” Berdahl said.

The Chancellor notes further that Berkeley’s faculty continues to advance knowledge in critical areas, ranging from significant contributions to homeland defense and cyber-security to the discovery of the oldest known fossils of modern humans.

He also announces the five “New Ideas Initiatives,” emerging areas of inquiry selected as the most important to advance through research and teaching. They are computational biology; nanosciences and nanoengineering; regional and metropolitan studies; new media; and an initiative called “The Future of the Planet.”

In his letter the Chancellor also reports on how, over the past 12 months, the campus engaged with and shed light on complex world issues; notes campus improvements that enhance the student experience; and lauds the achievements of student-athletes that made it a very good year for Cal sports fans.

Circling back to the difficult financial picture, Berdahl reports on the cutbacks that are affecting campus programs and employees, including some staff layoffs and stagnant salaries. He sympathizes with students and families who are struggling to meet the increased costs of this year at Berkeley — now more than $20,000 when fees, campus housing, books, and living expenses are computed.

However, he tells families, “I assure you, there is no greater investment in your children’s future, or in our own, than a university education.”

This year, distribution of the printed letter was greatly reduced to save costs. The full text is, however, available at www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/08/13_berdahl.shtml.