Campus & community, Campus news

Chancellor Christ celebrates beginnings — and takes media questions

"You feel the excitement of all the beginnings that surround you — new students embarking on their college or graduate school years, new faculty beginning their Berkeley careers"

Carol Christ
Chancellor Carol Christ (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ opened today’s back-to-school press conference with a warm welcome to students and a vision of what she hopes to accomplish. (UC Berkeley video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally)

It’s back-to-school week at UC Berkeley, and as thousands of students converge on the campus, Chancellor Carol Christ and her team issued a warm welcome and took questions from the media.

This is a time of beginnings, she said — new students embarking on their college or graduate school years, new faculty beginning their Berkeley careers.

She also describes her vision of the campus and lays out her goals for the year, her first as Berkeley’s top leader.

Above, our video by public affairs videographers Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally shows the chancellor’s full welcome.

The text of a similar message from the chancellor — sent Tuesday morning to faculty, staff and students — appears below the slideshow.


The text of the message UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ sent out today:

Dear students, faculty and staff,

The beginning of the school year is always a magical time for me — a blank sheet of paper, the first page of a novel. You feel the excitement of all the beginnings that surround you — new students embarking on their college or graduate school years, new faculty beginning their Berkeley careers. It was in my first year as a faculty member here that I fell in love with Berkeley — a love that still animates me now.

First, I love the students. Each has a different story of how they have come to Berkeley; they are diverse in their life experiences and aspirations, they are smart and quirky and filled with wonder and curiosity. I love the intellectual excitement of Berkeley; no matter what the subject, there is a faculty member who not only knows about it, but is also extending our knowledge of it. And I love the fact that Berkeley is a place where history is happening. Berkeley is a place that matters.

Berkeley has made me who I am; it has shaped me intellectually, and it has enabled me to become the leader that I am. I have a lot of history here, and a deep love of the campus. Berkeley has two lodestars: excellence and access. Berkeley is as much about the transfer student from Hayward or Fremont as it is about its Nobel Prize winners.

This March, Berkeley will celebrate its 150th anniversary. The University of California was the first American university to face west — across the Pacific. And it has always had the pioneering spirit of those who pushed to our country’s western edge.

As I begin this year as your chancellor, I want to share my goals with you.

Building community

The first is to build community, a community in which every individual and group on our campus feels welcome and valued. The past several years have been difficult ones for the campus. We faced financial challenges, a leadership crisis, highly public sexual harassment cases, violence and controversy around the issue of free speech. These have taken their toll on the campus community. We need to rebuild our sense of community — a challenge in a place as large, as urban and as diverse as Berkeley. I will do this, in part, through timely and transparent communications and with shoe leather — coming out to meet and engage directly with students, faculty and staff — and also by creating and participating in occasions in which, together, we can feel that this is our Berkeley.  I also intend to spend more time with government leaders in the cities of Berkeley and Sacramento; they are our most important partners.

Ensuring that students thrive

My second goal is to enhance the undergraduate experience. Too often, Berkeley seems like a place where students survive.  Instead, we want every student to thrive, to have the best chance at the education and university experience to which he or she aspires. Each student should benefit from attending a leading research university by participating in discovery experiences that are the very essence of research.

Critical to our enhancing the undergraduate experience is expanding student housing. By far, we house the lowest percentage of undergraduate students of any other UC campus — only 22 percent. And we house only 9 percent of our graduate students. In a housing market as expensive as the Bay Area, this creates a challenge for students that diminishes the quality of their Berkeley experience. Too often, they live in housing that is too crowded, too expensive, too far away, and their lack of security about basic needs like this distracts them from their studies. We must and will change this situation.

Enhancing diversity and inclusion

My third goal is to make major progress on diversity. In each of our campus populations — undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff — we can and should be more diverse.  And demographics are only one dimension of the challenge; if we cannot build a greater understanding of diversity and a more inclusive climate, gains in numerical diversity alone will have less impact on the campus culture. It is a deeply held principle here at Berkeley that diversity is intrinsically tied to excellence.

Supporting transformative research for the public good

My fourth goal is to enable faculty to continue doing the most critical work for the public good. We have faculty working on every problem fundamental to humankind and to the planet. Their research is one of the most profound and significant benefits that the University of California offers the public. We need to create the conditions that enable faculty to do their best work. Active participation in the most pressing issues facing our world is central to our public mission.

Building a sustainable financial model

My final goal is to develop a new financial model for the campus. This is much more than eliminating our deficit, although we are making excellent progress on that front. We ended fiscal year 2016 with a deficit of $150 million; we will end 2018 with a deficit of $56 million. My strategy has been to address our financial challenges through increasing and diversifying revenue sources; we have met half our goal for 2018 through new revenues.

We at Berkeley will have other challenges, as well. Perhaps most important among them is free speech. Next week, I will be writing to the campus at greater length about free speech. For now, I will say only how critical it is that we protect the right of free speech, that we keep Berkeley a place where people are free to express all points of view and, at the same time, act with honesty, integrity and respect for others. This is not a simple issue, because sometimes a person’s right to say something, or what that person actually says, conflicts with our community values, with what we think is right. We will have many opportunities as the semester begins, and throughout the year, to engage in issues of free speech, to think about their relationship to safe space and inclusive community.

My first year as chancellor has just begun. I look forward to listening to you, working with you and partnering with you in the months and years ahead.


Carol Christ