Can Berkeley ever get back to the ‘good old days’ when it comes to state funding?

Christine Treadway, UC Berkeley’s leader of Government and Community Relations, took questions from faculty, staff and students on Wednesday. (UC Berkeley video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally)

At $350 million a year, the state of California is UC Berkeley’s largest financial backer, and it’s Christine Treadway’s job to make sure the university has a good relationship with what she calls “our largest donor.”

Treadway is assistant chancellor for Government and Community Relations, a section of the Office of Communications and Public Affairs that’s responsible for maintaining Berkeley’s relationship with elected leaders and bureaucrats at the state, local and federal level. She spoke Thursday to staff, faculty and students during the latest installment of Campus Conversations.

“The whole mission of our office is to demonstrate the value and importance of UC Berkeley in front of elected officials, governments agencies, the local community and the general public,” Treadway said.

To that end, Treadway said her staff of eight devote their time to an array of issues, including federal immigration policy, state budget negotiations, government funding for scientific research and local community issues, such as housing and construction.

Her office also administers the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund, which has given out $3 million in grants to local nonprofits since 2007.

Asked often at her talk if there is any hope of returning to the “good old days,” when the state covered most of UC Berkeley’s budget, Treadway said she was “very hopeful” Sacramento would start to increase support for higher education.

“Governor Gavin Newsom really understands and appreciates the research mission of UC,” she said. “He has a lot of interest in several research areas, and I think he understands the economic impact the UC system has on the state.”

“I’m pretty hopeful we can get to a place where there will be more funding for UC,” she said.

But Treadway also noted that there are many competing interests in California and not enough money to go around.

“So, what ends up happening is that health care is a big priority, prison funding competes with the UCs, and so there is a pretty small piece of the pie” left for the UC system, she said.

Treadway said recent efforts by students and Chancellor Carol Christ to build relationships with Sacramento legislators have helped legislators and Newsom’s staff understand what an increase in funding would mean for UC Berkeley.

She said staff, students, parents, alumni and faculty shouldn’t hesitate to lobby for the UC system with their elected leaders.

“Everyone always says, ‘Oh what should our messages be? What is UC trying to do?,’” she said. “At the end of the day, tell your story, tell them why you care about UC and why it is important to you, because that resonated the most with legislators.”

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