UC Berkeley News
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UC Berkeley Web Feature

Letter from Robert M. Berdahl to the San Francisco Chronicle

January 24, 2006

To the editor:
Since the Chronicle has chosen to highlight features of my recent leave, perhaps some facts deserve to be considered:

  1. A year's leave for a university president or chancellor after seven years of service (some institutions, after five) is common practice among major universities throughout the United States.  The University of California is not exceptional in doing so.  This could have been easily ascertained by reporters interested in telling a complete story.
  2. Such leaves are commonly compensated, like those of faculty, at the rate at which they were earned.  This, too, could have been reported.
  3. My leave was scheduled to commence on July 1, 2004; I intended to return to teaching at the beginning of the Fall Semester 2005.  Because the new chancellor had not yet been appointed on July 1, to assist the University by providing continuity, I agreed to remain in office until the new chancellor could replace me.  Chancellor Birgeneau did not arrive until well after the Fall Semester 2004 began, which meant my year's leave would end in the middle of a semester, not an appropriate time to begin teaching.  These facts were known to The Chronicle, but significantly omitted.
  4. Had I been able to begin my leave as scheduled, I would have returned last fall and have completed my obligation to the University at the end of this Spring Semester.
  5. To bridge much of the gap between my departure and my return, 15 months later, I used accumulated vacation time, at the rate it was earned, as is the right of every University employee.
  6. While on sabbatical, my first since 1977, I spent my time, as expected, preparing to return to full-time teaching.  To describe this as "pocketing cash" is outrageous.
That these facts were completely ignored by Chronicle reporters should give readers some sense about the fairness and accuracy of their other stories about the University.
Robert M. Berdahl