Oldham Takes Up the Senate Reins

EECS Professor Wants to See More Faculty Involved

by Fernando Quintero

On William Oldham's web page, links hook up to his email, a map of Cory Hall, where his office is located, and a "finger file" that lists his office hours and personal travel information.

"When all high tech routes to catch me fail," he writes, "perhaps a look at Dilbert will convince you that it's endemic."

Click on the word "Dilbert" and the popular comic strip character's own web site appears.

As the incoming chair of the Academic Senate, Oldham is certain to benefit from a little cartoon humor every now and then.

With a new chancellor on board and continuing controversy over such issues as affirmative action and the alleged violation of shared governance principles by the Board of Regents, this year will prove especially challenging for the head of the Berkeley division.

While the list of campus concerns is a familiar one, the electrical engineering and computer sciences professor says his top priority will be to get more faculty involved in senate matters.

"Participation in shared governance is more important than ever," said Oldham from his Academic Senate office in Stephens Hall.

"We have the full intention of continuing our role as advisers to the administration. It is important for faculty members to be heard in this process."

Concerns from faculty as well as staff over shared governance stem from the regents' July 1995 decision to end campus affirmative action policies, despite opposition from the UC president, Council of Chancellors, Academic Council and Associated Students.

The vote also led to accusations that the board failed to protect the university from partisan politics after Gov. Wilson used the elimination of affirmative action as a major platform issue last year in his failed attempt at the presidency.

In the spring of 1996, the senate voted to conduct a mail ballot on a proposal to censure the regents in response to their decision on affirmative action. Last November, it was decided to hold off on the ballot until after the regents had been given "reasonable opportunity" to respond to concerns raised by the Academic Council's Task Force on Shared Governance.

Oldham said the ballot measure would be further delayed pending a statewide senate committee report on shared governance.

Oldham said that in a recent meeting with Chancellor Berdahl, the chancellor expressed his support of the principles of shared governance and said he was impressed with "the way faculty participate in the advancement of campus goals."

"Although he is new to the campus, he has already voiced several priorities including helping build morale among faculty and staff, maintaining our ability to hire quality faculty and paying more attention to our infrastructure," said Oldham.

The new senate chair echoed Berdahl's concerns, adding his desire for increased levels of staffing to match expanded teaching loads.

He also said library funding was a major issue that needs to be addressed.

"The library comes up in practically every conversation with colleagues," Oldham said.

"There is much concern that our library is being badly compromised."

Oldham stressed the importance of library support, saying it is not only vital to campus research and scholarship, but also is crucial in attracting faculty.

On the topic of recruitment, Oldham said the campus is "by and large getting the number one choice. We're doing well, but we can't rest on our laurels."

As professor and holder of the Robert S. Pepper Chair in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, Oldham himself is among the ranks of stellar recruits.

The former National Science Foundation and Guggenheim fellow has specialized in the research of semiconductor materials at Berkeley since 1961.

His current research focuses on integrated circuit process technology, helping make computer chips smaller, faster and more functional.

The strengths Oldham brings to the senate chair position are the same ones he brings to his profession.

"I'm an engineer. Engineers are often liked because they can make decisions.

"They find a way to solve problems," Oldham said.

"My research deals with technology for manufacturing integrative circuits.

"I'm dealing with complex issues. How do you make a computer chip? How so you deal with the complexity of faculty here at Berkeley.

"I basically approach them the same way."



Copyright 1997, The Regents of the University of California.
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