In a new video message to the campus community, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau reflects on the Nov. 20 protest at Wheeler Hall — and on how to transform understandable anger and frustration over budget cuts into constructive action to reverse the state’s disinvestment in public higher education.
“I want to express my deepest regret to all members of our community at the turn of events that escalated into police action,” says Birgeneau, vowing to take steps to work together with students, staff, and faculty to protect and strengthen Berkeley’s “longstanding tradition of civil discourse, free speech, and freedom to assemble and protest peacefully.”
While the chancellor says that he understands and sympathizes with students’ concerns about fee increases, he promises that the campus Financial Aid office “will deal as urgently and effectively as possible with all those in immediate need of financial aid.” His top priority in responding to recent fee hikes, he adds, is finding ways to support students from middle-class families who don’t qualify for the UC system’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Program — which covers all fees for students from families with annual incomes under $70,000.
Birgeneau observes that “our challenges are not just about money,” but include ongoing threats to diversity from Proposition 209 (affirmative action) and Prop. 8 (same-sex marriage). He does, meanwhile, hold out hope for achieving a balanced budget next year, thanks to a combination of increased revenues and savings to be realized through Operational Excellence.
“Further cuts are unacceptable,” Birgeneau declares. Urging everyone in the campus community “to direct all our energies to ensuring that this does not happen,” he offers some suggestions on how to get involved — constructively, peacefully, and effectively.