by Kathleen Scalise
Chancellor Berdahl took his vision for Berkeley to the Bay Area media last week with an in-depth interview at KRON TV and a meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board.
Berdahl has already met with the Daily Californian's editorial board and Sacramento Bee editors, and plans to meet with the Los Angeles Times soon.
The chancellor has used these meetings to put forward his thoughts and respond to questions on topics ranging from diversity to university rankings to K-12 national standards.
Rollin Post, political analyst and host of KRON's "California This Week," which aired Sunday, Sept. 14, introduced Berdahl as "the man in one of the most prestigious academic jobs in the world talks about learning, diversity and the future of higher education."
Panelists on the 30-minute public affairs show included Ryan Tate, editor-in-chief of the Daily Californian, and Pamela Burdman, higher education reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Reporters and editors at the San Francisco Chronicle and KRON questioned the chancellor repeatedly on aspects of affirmative action in admissions.
Berdahl pointed out that although minority enrollment is down in the law school this semester, "graduate enrollment overall doesn't show the kind of sharp decline that we've seen with Boalt Hall."
He added that Berkeley "is still the most diverse campus I've seen and it's one of the most diverse in the nation."
"Most everybody asks all the time about affirmative action, but there are actually other things going on," Berdahl pointed out.
Among the other questions he fielded:
Would UCLA's new chancellor give Berkeley a run for its money as the top UC campus?
"Al Carnesale's going to be pushing us hard from UCLA," replied Berdahl. "He's very ambitious and he wants to see UCLA supplant Berkeley and he's pushing very hard. But we'll be pushing back very hard."
Is Berdahl prepared to fight with the state Legislature for a bigger share of the budget?
"I hope I won't have to fight with them.... I hope I can persuade them this institution means a great deal to the economy of the state."
What does he think of the U.S. News and World Report's recent undergraduate rankings?
He called them "voodoo social science."
How does the quality of Berkeley's faculty stand following several years of early retirements?
"I'll stack this faculty up against any faculty I know," he said. "The good news is the quality of the new faculty that we've brought in."
What does he think about university leaders entering the political arena and taking a stand on policy issues?
"There's a strong history in the U.S. of university presidents taking a stand on public policy issues.... I intend to continue to do this," he said.
What departments and programs does he intend to strengthen? Berdahl said he would focus on those in the capital campaign, including materials sciences, neurosciences and the whole of biological sciences, and The Library. "Overall I want to make sure we're doing right by these very bright undergraduates."
He emphasized small class opportunities, such as freshman seminars, and improving the process of advising and automating a system for analysis of progress to degree. He also called for closer relations with alumni, including support for reunions and providing email accounts.