UC Berkeley's new chancellor Nicholas Dirks firmly renounced the idea that the university is moving toward privatization on Monday despite Cal's shrinking state support and growing reliance on private funding.
At his inaugural back-to-school news conference today, Monday, Dirks was asked whether the gradual shift in funding sources has put the campus on the path to "privatization."
Referring to privatization as "the 'p-word,'" Dirks said, "What is striking to me is that there has been no shift – no shift at all – in the way in which people in this university conceive of both the importance of being a public institution and of the centrality of the public mission in respect to everything that they do."
He acknowledged that state support for the university has gradually eroded and that UC Berkeley is "going to rely even more on philanthropy." He said state funding has shrunk to about 12-14 percent of the campus budget, down from 30 percent nine years ago when his immediate predecessor, Robert Birgeneau, took over as Cal's Chancellor. In previous decades before Birgeneau, state funding was closer to 50 percent, and had been up to 65 percent before that, he said.
But while the campus will need to adjust, he said, "we are not going to privatize in any sense that would relate either to our commitments or fundamental values."
"Our students, our faculty, our staff, all tell me how important it is that the work that goes on here is so often talked about in terms of hoping to make the world a better place, to change the world for good," Dirks said. "There's a real sense that there's a public mission that will transcend and indeed survive any changes in the kinds of financial models that we use to support the university."
Dirks said he welcomed the voters' passage in November ofProposition 30, which raises taxes temporarily and provided an increase of 5 percent in state funding for Cal, a reversal of the long trend of yearly cuts. But, he noted, a 5 percent increase in revenue that represents only 12 percent of the university budget is not large.
The campus Vice Chancellor for finance, John Wilton, told reporters at the gathering that the boost from Prop 30 represents only a 0.6 percent increase in total funding.
"So, 0.6 (percent) doesn't pay for a lot," Wilton said. "It's better than a minus number, but it's not a big positive number."
Several campus officials gave presentations at the news conference outlining new or enhanced programs and grants to help students.
This is "Welcome Week" for new students at Cal. Classes start Thursday.
Dirks officially began as Berkeley's 10th chancellor on June 1. He moved from Columbia University, where he was executive vice president, dean of arts and sciences and a professor of anthropology.