Comments from Academic Senate chair Bob Jacobsen

(As delivered by professor Bob Jacobsen May 2, 2012)

My task now is to comment on shared governance over the last year. Senate committees, Divisional Council and individual faculty members have worked to hold up our end of the shared relationship.  I want to stress the breadth and depth of that commitment by many of your colleagues, including many here today.  We’ll hear shortly from the chairs of Admissions and of Faculty Welfare, but there are people actively engaged with the Administration on more than a dozen other committees.  On topics from program and departmental reviews (one of which my own department went through this year) to work with larger initiatives like Operational Excellence, I believe that your colleagues work has helped make this a better place. There are no silver bullets here, no magic words that will suddenly make all the difference to a place as complex and constrained as Berkeley, but I do believe that continued hard work by well-meaning, reasonable faculty members will make all the difference to our future.

Senate chairs come to the office with goals, and leave with experiences. One key set of experiences has been the protests of last November through yesterday (so far).  As a faculty, we met and discussed our views last November 28th, and passed resolutions expressing those.  The Vice Chair and I were charged with expressing those views to the Administration, and more importantly with making the contents of those resolutions come to pass both within the Senate and with the Administration. Later in this meeting, we’ll be taking the next step within our own house when we consider the bylaw change to create a permanent Committee on Demonstrations and Student Actions.  It’s now on the consent calendar. If it stays there, it will pass by consent. Should a member ask to remove it from the calendar for discussion and a vote, it will require a 2/3 vote of those present to pass.  I believe we can have it up and running by Fall semester should it be enacted today, and I hope that the faculty will choose to do so. 

More than just enacting bylaw changes though, we have been working with the Administration as the campus thinks through its approach to disruptive protest.  This is a very difficult question, one that is not given to binary yes/no reactions.  Involving local decision makers and thinking carefully our shared academic values when making decisions has led to better outcomes this Spring.

Protests by members of the campus community, more than just a Constitutional right, are an important part of what we are as an academic community.  Free expression of views, even done in the form of organized or disorganized protest, is a one of the ways we move knowledge forward and play our role in the world.

At the same time, disruption can have a negative impact on our campus and our colleagues.  We’re currently faced with a disruptive protest action at the Gill Tract in Albany that, as it stands today, is inconsistent with the academic freedom of several of our colleagues.  It is a core item of our common academic culture that (quoting the Academic Personnel Manual):

“Academic freedom requires that teaching and scholarship be assessed by reference to the professional standards that sustain the University’s pursuit and achievement of knowledge. The substance and nature of these standards properly lie within the expertise and authority of the faculty as a body.”

Our colleagues have their reviewed and approved research projects at the Gill Tract. Those projects have been usurped by unilateral action from outside our faculty and outside our disciplines. Faculty and administration are engaged in finding a suitable resolution to this undesired situation. I’m hopeful that one can be found. But if there is no way to reach a win-win resolution, then I believe that the faculty’s freedom to do their planned research must be supported as a key principle. As a faculty, I think we must stand by this.

Finally, I turn to the question of the search for a new Chancellor, but first I’d like to personally, and as chair of the Division, thank Chancellor Birgeneau for all his efforts on behalf of the campus over the last seven years. We’ll get the chance to do that again in the Fall, so I’ll just touch on it now, but thank you.

I sent out a CalMessage about the search process, and in the interest of time I won’t repeat all that information here. Initially, the process was being heavily directed by the Office of the President from Oakland. Through effort by a number of people here, we’ve ensured that the nine (six current and three new) faculty who are elected DIVCO members will have time to meet with the search committee.  The Berkeley faculty, staff and student members of the committee are also arranging two open “listening sessions” on campus, with dates and times to be announced shortly. I have confidence that our faculty, staff and student members of that committee really will listen, and that they’ll take into account our shared values of excellence, access, equity and inclusion. Finding the next Chancellor is a tough job. I thank my colleagues for accepting the task.

And with that, I’m happy to answer any questions that colleagues might have…