Chancellor hopes to help staff find more community on campus

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ answers questions from David Kim, an administrator with the department of anthropology, during a forum with campus staffers. (UC Berkeley photo by Hulda Nelson)

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ answers questions from David Kim, an administrator with the department of anthropology, during a forum with campus staffers. (UC Berkeley photo by Hulda Nelson)

Chancellor Carol Christ told a group of UC Berkeley staff members on Friday that the school needs to do a better job of making them feel part of a community on campus.

Speaking to members of the Berkeley Staff Assembly during its annual “Chancellor’s Chat” forum, Christ laid out her plans to raise revenue, address a continued budget deficit, improve morale and better connect with the school’s 10,000 staff members.

“We couldn’t do what we do, we couldn’t serve our students, we couldn’t serve our faculty were it not for the extraordinary work you do,” Christ told the group of 50 staffers. “You are so smart, you are so imaginative, you are so inventive; I want to find better ways of harnessing all that extraordinary intelligence, loyalty and imagination.”

Christ compared Berkeley, with its 50,000 students, faculty and staff, to a small city. Everyone at Berkeley is connected to university, she said, but that isn’t always enough to make staff feel at home.

“In the cities, you tend you feel community more by your sense of connection to identity and mission rather than things that involve the whole city,” she said. “You think of New York as that ‘Big Apple,’ but you find your community in your neighborhood, and so I think we all need to get good at creating communities in our neighborhoods here, and finding that community of ‘we.’”

To that end, Christ said, the campus has hired an administrator whose sole job is improving staff morale, expanded employee appreciation week and begun investing in staff organizations. She also said the campus would focus on improving new-employee orientations and being transparent with staff about budget changes.

Christ also faced questions about budget cuts and low wages.

Christ talked to a group of staff about her priorities. (UC Berkeley photo by Hulda Nelson)

Christ talked to a group of staff about her priorities. (UC Berkeley photo by Hulda Nelson)

“When the ‘do more with less’ model expires, might the administration consider making doing ‘less with less’ our model?” asked David Kim, the director of administration in the Department of Anthropology.

“I believe very much in doing less with less,” Christ responded. “I don’t think that you can continually stress people with doing more with less.”

Part of the solution, Christ said, has to be finding new ways for the campus to raise revenue, including increasing the number of self-supporting master’s degree programs, making better use of campus real estate, capitalizing on grants and focusing on philanthropy.

Berkeley must also become more efficient, she said.

“We need think about which procedures can we do away with, which things do we not have to do?” she said. “We’re enormously risk-adverse at Berkeley. We give a $10 or $11 lunch reimbursement the same scrutiny we give a $10,000 equipment purchase. This doesn’t make sense to me.”

Christ said she was eager to hear directly from staff who might have constructive ideas or concerns.

“People who have concerns about athletics don’t seem to have any trouble emailing me!” she said to laughter from the audience. “So, I hope that those of you with concerns about our work processes can also email me because, frankly, I have a lot more control over work processes than I do over our football or basketball teams.”

Staff members said they appreciated hearing from Christ.

“It was great to hear her talk about building a culture of ‘we,’” Ryann Madden, a student adviser in the College of Natural Resources, said, using Christ’s euphemism for community.

Madden, who started work 11 months ago, said that while he’s developed relationships with his close coworkers, he doesn’t feel as connected to the larger campus.

“I think that’s an important one because so far it has been a nebulous one to me,” he said.

Contact Will Kane at willkane@berkeley.edu