Campus & community

Chancellor Carol Christ: In new year, strengthen the ties that bind us together

By Public Affairs

Chancellor Carol Christ sent the following message to the campus community on Wednesday:

As the new academic year begins, I want to warmly welcome one and all, as well as offer a few updates about matters of importance and interest to the campus community.

I have spent my entire professional life in higher education, yet I never cease to marvel at the wonderful, rhythmic ebb and flow of university life. This time of year, in particular, has always been a special time as our campus shifts gears, and fully reanimates. New arrivals are joining the Cal family, bringing with them new ideas, interests and energy. There is a renewed sense of amazing possibility and purpose as some 60,000 people come together again in support of Berkeley’s mission, character and each other.

Renewed sense of community

Yet, this year feels particularly special for we are, after two and a half years, fully returning to in-person learning, exploration and extracurricular activities. Now, after an extended period when it was so difficult to gather and connect, to engage in and benefit from all that a university and its community have to offer, we more deeply understand and appreciate the power and purpose of community. A strong, supportive campus community is what allows us to take intellectual risks, to continuously challenge the status quo, to learn from one another, to model and embody our values, to thrive amidst an amazing diversity of origins and identities. I shall never again take our community for granted, and I look forward to working with you to strengthen and renew the ties that bind us together.

A campus that reflects California

We are today more committed than ever to continuing our comprehensive efforts to ensure that the community of the world’s leading public university truly represents and reflects the state and the people it serves. This year’s cohort of admitted, first-year students continues our progress towards a more diverse student population and I am thrilled to report that we remain on track to become a Hispanic Serving Institution by 2027. We also have an unwavering commitment to our African American Initiative and a wide range of similar efforts to enroll more students from under-represented communities, and then do all that we can to ensure they enjoy a true sense of belonging and equity of experience on our campus.

COVID and community

The strength of our community has also played an essential role in how the campus has responded and adapted to the continued uncertainties born of the pandemic’s ever-changing contours and impacts. Given that there is still cause for care and caution, I urge you to help us continue our communal efforts to protect ourselves and each other. We continue to strongly recommend the wearing of masks indoors, and require everyone to be up to date with COVID-19 vaccine and boosters. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, everything we do is contingent upon public health conditions and thus is subject to change. We have an excellent campus coronavirus website and I urge you to refer to it for the latest news and policies. Come what may, I can assure you that we will respond in the future as we have in the past: with your health and well-being front and center; with communications both timely and accurate; and with compassion and support for all who are in need.

Ways and means

It was not easy, and I know it required sacrifice and frugality across the campus, but we will have a balanced budget this year. The good news is that our improved financial health is due, in no small measure, to increased funding from the State of California. We welcome and appreciate the state’s ongoing return to the levels of support and partnership that have helped to fuel Berkeley’s access and excellence. At the same time, our improved bottom line comes at the expense of funding critical investments in our infrastructure, such as deferred maintenance and seismic retrofitting — two challenges that, I believe, pose a threat to our excellence as an institution. While state funding has improved, it remains below historic levels, leaving us with a growing gap between the cost of instruction and relevant revenues. Berkeley spends over $33,000 per undergraduate student in instructional costs; more than any other campus in the UC system. When you average out resident and nonresident tuition, we receive only $25,000 in tuition, fees and state funding for each student, leaving an average per capita annual gap of $8,000 that we must fill through other means. This does not make for a sustainable financial model, and I can assure you we are working diligently, on campus and off, to marshal the support, ideas and initiatives we will need to meet the university’s long- and short-term budgetary needs.

Generosity and appreciation

The power and purpose of our community extends far beyond the confines of the campus. As members of our extended family, Berkeley’s alumni continue to be an invaluable source of moral and financial support. They serve the university as advocates for our interests, mentors for our students, advisors for the administration, and donors to our programs. This past fiscal year, more than 63,000 donors contributed more than $1 billion in gifts and pledges to support the Light the Way campaign — making 2022 a record-breaking year in fundraising. While the numbers are impressive, I am particularly struck by the audacity of this campaign’s goals and by the range of projects that have been advanced and sustained. We have, for example, raised over $400 million for undergraduate scholarships, including support provided through the aforementioned African American Initiative . Our alumni have given us so much to celebrate and to look forward to as we move ever closer toward reaching our $6 billion campaign goal.

Building and construction

Next month we will be breaking ground on a donor-funded project destined to have a huge and beneficial impact on our university and our community. Located on the north edge of campus, The Gateway building will be the new home of our Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) — a collaborative and collegial space for some 1,600 faculty, students, researchers and staff drawn from different disciplines, united by their shared interest in utilizing computing, data science and artificial intelligence to advance the greater good.

Another donor funded project — Anchor House — representing the largest single gift in the university’s history — is already beginning to rise on the west side of campus. Once completed, this new residential facility will provide new residential space for more than 700 transfer students, with a design and location intended to help them thrive academically, socially and culturally. The building is also a gift that will keep on giving: net income generated by the property will fund scholarships for undergraduates from underrepresented communities.

Beyond that project our efforts to address the urgent student housing crisis continue. Later this month construction will begin on the Albany Village Graduate Student Apartments , a project that will offer housing to 761 graduate students — all in single-occupancy bedrooms at below-market rental rates. And, if you have not already, I invite you to read my recent message providing updated information about our construction plans at the People’s Park site . While there is much more work to be done, we are making progress towards our goal of providing 8,000 new beds for Berkeley students so that every first-year student is guaranteed two years of university housing, and all graduate and transfer students are assured of at least one year.

Principles and community

I urge everyone, in their own way, to find avenues and activities that will enable you to connect with the Cal community. We need, and benefit from, your participation, and this community has so much to offer in return for all who dive in. When you do, be prepared for passionate debate and differences of opinion about controversial issues. With that in mind, we are fortunate to have our foundational Principles of Community , which provide for the coexistence of a strong, supportive campus community and strongly held beliefs. Developed through an extraordinary collaboration among students, faculty and staff, the principles enshrine essential values — such as respect, civility, and honesty — that enable all of us to feel heard and accepted, to explore new ideas, to advocate for our beliefs, to feel safe and to thrive amidst a wonderful diversity of origins, identities and beliefs. And, so, please take a moment to read and embrace Berkeley’s Principles of Community .

Have a wonderful semester. Fiat Lux and Go Bears!