by Fernando Quintero
In a candid presentation before the Berkeley Academic Senate, UC President Richard Atkinson responded to several faculty concerns ranging from perceived violations of shared governance principles by the UC Regents to the search for a new chancellor.
In the senate's first meeting of the semester held Nov. 4 at the Haas School of Business, Atkinson outlined several goals for the coming years before answering questions from faculty members.
Also at the meeting, Chancellor Tien announced he will provide an additional $800,000 for the Committee on Research this year.
Tien provided the same amount of funding to the committee last year along with other Bridge Initiatives designed to enrich faculty resources. The new money will be used for additional support for computer hardware and software for the humanities as well as competitive and non-competitive faculty research grant programs.
The meeting took on an unusually serious and pointed tone during the session with Atkinson.
Russell Ellis, emeritus vice chancellor for undergraduate affairs, questioned the UC president about the "intrusion of raw politics" by the regents with their July 1995 decision to eliminate the university's affirmative action policies and the subsequent leadership role taken by Regent Ward Connerly in the California Civil Rights Initiative, Proposition 209.
"The governor, in his failed attempt at the presidency, manipulated the regents," Ellis said. "Please, let us talk straight. The old civil mode of discourse is in a shambles. We are here trying our best to have civil discussion over what has transpired."
Atkinson conceded that outside influences likely affected the regents' July 20, 1995, decision. He added that although he does not defend the regents' actions, these were "tough times for the regents."
"The last five years have been the bleakest years in the university's history in terms of budgetary considerations," Atkinson said.
"Historically, the regents have served us well. But along with a period during the '50s and the '60s," he said, this is a more troublesome time. "However, I am not discouraged by the situation we find ourselves in now."
Atkinson also said that during recent meetings of two committees to recommend new chancellors for Berkeley and UCLA, there were no questions asked about their positions on affirmative action. "It will not be a litmus test for the new Berkeley chancellor," Atkinson said.
In response to a question about the faculty role in the search for the campus's new chancellor, he said there was a strict selection process that will be carefully adhered to.
Earlier in the meeting, Tien thanked the faculty for its help during his tenure and said he was positive Berkeley would continue as a world-class institution.
"People are the constants at Cal," said Tien. "No matter what the political climate, no matter what technological change may bring, and no matter who is lucky enough to next lead this great institution, Berkeley will remain at the forefront."
In other action, the senate voted to amend a motion to conduct a mail ballot that had been ordered at a special April 23 meeting of the senate. The ballot will occur after the regents have had a reasonable opportunity to respond to concerns raised by the Task Force on Shared Governance, established by the Academic Council Oct. 23.
The senate voted last spring to conduct a mail ballot on a proposal to censure the regents in response to the fact that the board made its decision on affirmative action despite opposition from then-UC president Jack Peltason, the Council of Chancellors, the Academic Council and the Associated Students.
The amendment states: "If the Academic Council chooses not to present these concerns on governance to the president by the end of the coming spring semester, the mail ballot shall be conducted forthwith."
Atkinson reaffirmed his commitment to shared governance, and said every member of the regents agrees with the concept. "The senate will provide a basis with their report for a thorough discussion of shared governance principles," he said.
Atkinson outlined seven goals and initiatives for the university in coming years, including increasing quality of instruction; maintaining diversity of student body; re-establishing in the public mind the critical role the university plays in research programs; more K-12 outreach; advancing a university digital "cyberlibrary"; playing a more pro-active role in extended education; and restructuring the university's business practices.