Chancellor Dirks sends an update to the campus community

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks sent this message to the UC Berkeley campus community today:

Dear Campus Community,

As the academic year comes to a close, I want to take this opportunity to share an update on our efforts to address the campus’s financial challenges; to improve all that we do when it comes to preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault; to make progress in our fundraising; and to address a number of other critical campus issues.

chancellor dirks

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks

Even as we proceed with our efforts to build a new, sustainable financial foundation for our university, we cannot lose sight of what we are fighting for, and what is at stake: not just our continued position as the best public research university in the country, but the future of public higher education at a time of significant state disinvestment across the country. And yet, despite the fact that today Berkeley only receives 13 percent of its funding from the state, our public mission is more important than ever.  As we adjust to meet major financial challenges, we maintain an undiminished commitment both to academic excellence and to access and affordability. I am optimistic and confident that, together, we can and will succeed in maintaining both our historic greatness in research and our unparalleled educational offerings. There is, however, much hard work ahead of us.

Financial progress

Our ultimate goal is to achieve a balanced budget by 2019-20 and, as of today, we estimate that the cumulative effect of our present efforts, along with the assistance we are receiving from the Office of the President on restructuring our debt, will reduce our deficit by approximately $85 million by June 2017, the end of the next fiscal year. While this is clearly a move in the right direction, there is much more to be done. In that context we have come to the regrettable, but unavoidable conclusion that we must reduce our overall administrative staffing levels over the course of the next two years. I want to assure you that we are looking at every aspect of the university’s operations, and every level of employee, including managers, supervisors and senior leaders.

While our actions are being driven to a large extent by rising expenses and lagging revenues beyond our control, I do want to report encouraging news from the philanthropic front, an arena where we do have a significant ability to make a positive impact on our financial health. Thanks to the generous support of our alumni, Cal parents and friends, last year we set a new record for Berkeley, having raised $462.5 million. Through March of the current 2015-16 fiscal year, we have raised $291 million — the second-highest total ever in a comparable period — and a record number of gifts so far. I am confident that a series of new investments and reforms that we will be instituting in the fundraising realm will lead to even better results, positioning us well as we transition to a new and even more ambitious fundraising model in the years ahead.

Addressing sexual harassment, assault and violence

Executive Dean Carla Hesse has already made significant progress in her assignment to find ways to improve how we prevent, respond to and address sexual harassment and sexual violence involving members of our campus community. Last week we announced a $2.5 million supplemental investment in the key areas that support survivors, manage investigations and conduct training and prevention efforts.  In addition, Carla has completed her recruitment of members for the chancellor’s committee and will now work on the review of our processes and policies and how we support those who come forward with reports of misconduct. She is working with faculty, students, members of my administration and subject-area experts to develop approaches that will assess sanctions in response to confirmed violations of the sexual harassment policy and align with the UC president’s Senate Administration Task Force work underway.

I have also requested that whenever the Office for Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination begins investigations to find whether faculty or administrators have violated university policies, I will be informed. We have made serious mistakes in the past, and we are now working to establish procedures that will ensure that disciplinary steps are meaningful, appropriate, timely and consistently applied. At the same time, I will absolutely support the continued involvement of the Academic Senate when it comes to reviewing and reforming faculty disciplinary procedures.

The path forward

Based on important input I have received from deans, faculty and others, I am adjusting our strategic efforts in several fundamental dimensions.

First, I have dissolved the Office of Strategic Initiatives, the office that we initially envisioned as the central locus of coordination to support our deficit reduction strategies. Instead, I am asking the relevant members of my senior cabinet to work directly with interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ and me, within the usual management structures, and in close concert with our deans and with relevant groups of faculty and staff, in developing and implementing the wide array of budgetary initiatives we are currently working on. We will, of course, continue to provide central administrative support for these efforts, and, in addition to expanding our formal collaboration with the leadership of the Academic Senate, ensure there are ample opportunities for broad staff and student engagement with and participation in the process.

Second, on academic planning, I am continuing, as described in our April 1 message, to rely on the deans and the Academic Senate to move this process forward. This is based on my belief that the ideas, knowledge and experience of deans and faculty in Berkeley’s schools, colleges, departments and programs are necessarily central to success in our endeavor and the best way to ensure that each unit can realize its greatest potential in each respective academic and professional area. Interim EVCP Christ and I look forward to receiving and reviewing the recommendations and ideas of the various working groups comprised of deans and faculty.

Third, I believe that the time has come to acknowledge that Campus Shared Services (CSS), in its current form, has been unable to deliver on some of its promises in terms of both service and savings. We have seen some great success with IT services and the new approach to the provision of some business services, but there is a pressing need for rapid and significant improvement in other areas, especially research administration and Human Resources. This is no fault of the many talented and dedicated individuals who have worked so hard to build and improve CSS. I have asked Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy, Chief Financial Officer Rosemarie Rae and CSS Chief Operating Officer Peggy Huston to immediately begin work to redesign the ways we are delivering administrative services to campus, and quickly move to a more regional, campus-adjacent, integrated service model. Here, too, we will certainly draw on relevant faculty experience and expertise, as well as staff input, to help us move expeditiously towards a more effective model for the efficient and effective provision of administrative services.

Fourth, I am launching immediately a search for a new vice chancellor for administration and finance. In the meantime, I am so pleased that Carol Christ has agreed to serve as interim EVCP until the position is permanently filled, which I expect to happen by next January. As with all senior administrator searches, members of the Academic Senate will be key participants on the search committees.

In the weeks and months ahead, Carol and I will expand and accelerate the effort to engage faculty, staff and students, to listen to your concerns and questions and solicit your ideas and suggestions. I am extraordinarily grateful that Carol has joined my leadership team in this crucial role, at this critical moment. Her deep knowledge of and commitment to Berkeley are invaluable, as is her distinguished administrative experience both here and at Smith College. We will report back you throughout the summer as we make progress on all that I described above.

I am certain that Berkeley will emerge from these challenging times a stronger university, one poised and prepared for a new era of educational opportunity, high level research, and continued public service. My optimism here is anchored in what truly makes us unique: our extraordinary community of faculty, students, staff and alumni who care deeply about the university and share an abiding commitment to sustaining our mission, our values, and our excellence.

Sincerely,

Nicholas Dirks
Chancellor