UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Chancellor's chair in equity and inclusion announced

– A new faculty chair at the University of California, Berkeley, dedicated to leading-edge research and teaching on equity and inclusion in society was announced today (Tuesday, Feb. 19) by campus officials. The chair will form part of a campus-wide initiative for equity and inclusion launched by Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau and is considered unprecedented in the UC system because it will launch research and teaching across UC Berkeley on these issues.

The Robert D. Haas Chancellor's Chair in Equity and Inclusion is being established in large part through a gift from the Levi Strauss Foundation. It honors Haas, a UC Berkeley alumnus who recently stepped down as chief executive officer and chairman of San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co., where he built on the company's tradition of progressive workplace practices.

"Bob Haas has been an extremely valuable advisor to me, especially in the areas of equity and inclusion, and it is most appropriate that he be honored in this way," said Birgeneau. "This chair will bring to the campus a world-class scholar who can work in partnership with Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri to ensure that equity and inclusion are defining and enduring elements of UC Berkeley's institutional fabric. The Haas chairholder will carry out teaching and research in equity and inclusion that will impact California, the nation and the world."

In addition to research and teaching, the new chair will aim to generate specific policy prescriptions in California and nationwide for business, government and communities that will draw on the strengths of diverse demographics and reduce ethnic and racial disparities in areas including education, the workplace and health.

Leaders in government and business see diversity and equity as key factors in the health of California and the nation. The new chair will complement the campus-wide Berkeley Diversity Research Initiative, which Birgeneau established in 2005. The effort currently focuses on three critical areas involving research collaboration among campus experts from a broad range of disciplines: diversity and democracy, educational policy, and diversity and health disparities.

The campus last year appointed Gibor Basri, a UC Berkeley professor of astronomy, as its first-ever vice chancellor for equity and inclusion. His charge is to oversee the campus's numerous efforts to recruit, retain, promote - and provide a welcoming environment for - a broad diversity of faculty, students and staff.

"This new chair will be vital to helping the Berkeley campus act effectively in its mission as a resource for all the people of California and our increasingly diverse nation," said Basri. "Through the Berkeley Diversity Research Initiative, for example, we have explicitly valued precisely the sort of multi-disciplinary, socially-conscious work the chairholder is likely to embody, and which Robert Haas holds in high esteem."

The new chair is the first in a select group of multidisciplinary chairs to be established at UC Berkeley by the chancellor, and the first to be officially named a chancellor's chair. A chancellor's chair is bestowed upon tenured faculty who have made extraordinary contributions in their fields. Since it is funded at the highest endowment level, the chancellor's chair can be an important tool for recruiting world-class scholars to UC Berkeley.

In addition to $3.5 million from the Levi Strauss Foundation to establish the chair, $1.5 million is being provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, bringing the total for the new chair to $5 million. The Hewlett Foundation's contribution is part of a $113 million challenge grant announced last September to provide UC Berkeley with a major new source of endowment funds to attract and support world-class faculty and graduate students and to allow the campus to compete with the nation's best private schools. The challenge grant will match other private donations to UC Berkeley for 100 faculty chairs, and the ultimate result will be a minimum of $220 million in new endowment funds for the campus.

During his tenure as CEO and chairman at Levi Strauss & Co., Robert Haas demonstrated an unwavering commitment to corporate citizenship trough progressive workplace practices, generous philanthropy and numerous initiatives designed to drive positive social change. Under his leadership, Levi Strauss & Co. became the first company in the United States to enforce labor and environmental protection standards with its contractors overseas, and the first to offer health care benefits to the unmarried partners of its employees.

The company pioneered efforts to address HIV/AIDS in the workplace and took up the issue of institutional racism in communities in the American South through Project Change, a program for which Haas received from President Bill Clinton the first Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership.

"Bob's leadership has made an indelible impression on Levi Strauss & Co. and on the global business community as a whole," said Theresa Fay-Bustillos, executive director of the Levi Strauss Foundation.

Haas earned his undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley in 1964 as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.