Berkeley Students Call for Transparency in Chancellor Search


Last week I posted excerpts from an op-ed piece about the search for a new UC Berkeley Chancellor published in the Daily Californian, the campus newspaper, by leaders of the Berkeley Faculty Association.  They endorsed the Statement of Principles enunciated earlier in the week by the Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA) and suggested that Berkeley professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich would be an excellent candidate for the chancellor position.  Now three leaders in the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), the campus student government, have published an Open Letter to the UC Berkeley Chancellor Search Committee calling for greater transparency and student involvement in the search.  Here is the text of that letter:

We, the undersigned student leaders, urge that the Chancellor Search Committee move forward with increased student input and transparency. The undersigned student leaders hold that transparency is inextricably tied with principles of shared governance. A transparent process is defined by the dissemination and open flow of information between each partner in the shared governance model. Further, a good, trusting collaboration with students, particularly in affairs that apply to their interests, is also critical to a transparent process and one that abides by this understanding of shared governance. The search process for the next UC Berkeley chancellor has therefore fallen short of the principles of transparency, open information and shared governance that the search had ought to abide by consistently and dutifully. As such, we ask that the UC Office of the President take the following in consideration as the search moves forward.

To understand the importance of transparent engagement with students in this search process for the chancellor, it is critical to contextualize the search in historical background considering the current UC Regents Policy regarding the search process is dated to a previous time in California history. In the past, the state of California invested a far greater amount of funds than it does today, while in turn, students have had to shoulder an ever-growing proportion of the financial burden for the university through their tuition. According to the 2015-16 UC Budget for Current Operations, as of 2014-15, state general funds support 40 percent of UC core general funds, while tuition and fees support 44 percent. Given this, the clear reality is that students have become the largest financial stakeholder in the university.

The considerable financial stake students are responsible for ought to be reflected in the composition of this search process. According to the Regents Policy 7102: Policy on Appointment of Chancellors, only one graduate and one undergraduate student are invited to participate in the search. While adding additional students to the search committee may require a Constitutional Amendment to the Regents Policy, which may not be feasible in time for this search, it is imperative that the UC Office of the President consider other ways to gather student input that reflects this need for students to have an adequate say, given their investment in the future of this institution.

Beyond the lack of students included in the search committee, there are still larger systemic problems with how the search has thus far conducted engagement with students, which has failed to be open and transparent. An example of this lack of transparency is the Campus Day event scheduled for the search committee this week. Campus Day is a day in which the search committee is scheduled to meet with relevant constituent groups, including students. However, the only information made public in relation to Campus Day is that it will take place Oct. 6 and is a closed session. No public information, however, was released to indicate this event would feature a 20-student panel. No public information was released to explain how those 20 students were selected. No public information was released to reveal that these 20 students would be provided only 45 minutes to speak to the needs of 36,000 students. Even further, the limited public information that was released was so exclusively promoted and so widely obscured that the only conclusion one can reach with good conscience is that critical information has not thus far flowed openly or freely between concerned parties.

At this time, the student body would like to offer suggestions moving forward regarding the search process. The UCOP and the UC Berkeley Chancellor Search Committee ought to have been proactive in the acquisition of student input. The responsibility should have not been that of the ASUC president to be the sole architect of proactive student engagement. Possible options for gathering more holistic student input moving forward could include:

First, that the search committee actively follow the recommendations put forth in the ASUC chancellor survey and during the student forum Oct. 4 when making decisions on “behalf of student interests.”

Second, the chancellor search advisory committee should visit a meeting of the ASUC and the Graduate Assembly for 30 minute listening sessions in order to hear the priorities and concerns of the student body through the democratically elected representatives of the student body.

Third, the search committee should work to ensure there is a longer, larger-scale public event in the coming months for listening to student feedback that will better encourage student opinion rather than just the 20-member student panel for the Campus Day visit for only 45 minutes. Specifically, offering listening sessions with certain underrepresented community groups in a community-based setting could help educate the search committee on community-specific issues. One such example would be if the members of the search committee were to attend the scheduled Latinx Listening Session on Oct. 14 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the ASUC Senate Chambers (on the fifth floor of Eshleman Hall).

Fourth, it is highly encouraged that the search committee invite Student Regent-Designate, Paul Monge (a current UC Berkeley student), to sit in on meetings of the search as a nonvoting member, as he can provide valuable input into discussion as both a student and a participant in regents meetings.

Fifth, the search committee ought to ensure there are tangible recruitment efforts to guarantee leaders in academia and UC administration from traditionally underrepresented community groups and from backgrounds in student affairs feel welcome and encouraged to apply for the chancellor position.

And sixth, the search committee ought to offer transparent reports on the individual finalists being considered for the position. While we recognize that there is a need to respect the privacy of individual applicants (especially those who are currently in other jobs), we feel there are ways to anonymously share the broad plans and platforms of applicants in a way that could solicit general student feedback on these conceptual ideas.

In closing, the lack of transparency thus far in the search process for the next chancellor is in great need of a new arrangement more aligned with transparency, open information and shared governance. It is in the hopes of the students that such requests are reflected upon with the utmost diligence and respect. The aforementioned suggestions reflect the principles of which the students of this university abide by, and as both financial stakeholders and partners in shared governance, students deserve to have their interests meaningfully considered.

Anthony Carrasco is an ASUC senator, Will Morrow is the president of the ASUC and Paul Monge is the UC student regent-designate

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