Chancellor Christ on Berkeley’s future, national admissions scandal

christ speaking from a chair

Christ, pictured here speaking on campus, outlined her vision for UC Berkeley at the Commonwealth Club. (UC Berkeley photo by Stephen McNally)

In a talk that functioned almost as a state-of-the-university address for UC Berkeley, Chancellor Carol Christ recently spoke to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

Christ outlined her vision for Berkeley, took stock of the current state of the campus, discussed the national college admissions scandal and described how she’s seen the student body change since she first joined Berkeley’s faculty in the 1970s.

“They are extraordinary students, it is wonderful to teach them, they are so bright, they are so idealistic, they are so deeply engaged in what they do,” she said. “But they are also much, much more anxious than I remember the students being of my generation, or the students that I first taught in the 1970s and the 1980s.”

Such student stress can come from a variety of sources, including the rising cost of higher education, basic needs insecurity and the incredible pressure to succeed academically.

The last factor, Christ said, relates to the recent national college admissions scandal, in which federal prosecutors accused dozens of parents of buying spots for their teenagers at elite universities.

“Students and their parents place what I think is an exaggerated emphasis on going to a very small number of elite schools,” Christ said. “I think this is a misplaced value. What kids get out of college is so much what they bring to it. It is not that the college has some magic pixie dust that just going through the hallowed gates enables you to change into something else.”

Christ outlined how Berkeley seeks to audit and review admissions procedures and explained that UC policy forbids the use of legacy status in admissions, in which preferential treatment is given by a college or university to applicants whose family members also attended that school.

“The integrity of our admissions process is of paramount importance,” she said. “I think it is of paramount importance for any school or college. People have to believe that decisions are made fairly.”

Christ also talked about her plans to build housing on the site of People’s Park, her work to make Berkeley’s student body better reflect California’s diversity and the future of major public research universities like Berkeley.

Click here to listen to the complete 73-minute talk