Chancellor Dirks

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced his resignation Tuesday, as critics faulted him for his handling of the university’s $150 million budget deficit and a string of sexual harassment cases involving faculty. Most recently, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the campus paid more than $200,000 to improve Dirks’ “strategic profile.” Dirks, a noted historian and author, will join the UC Berkeley faculty full-time once a successor is appointed. We discuss Dirks’ tenure and what lies ahead for the university.

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UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks Resigns Amid Mounting Criticism 30 August,2016Michael Krasny

Katy Murphy, higher education reporter for the Mercury News and East Bay Times
Ana Tintocalis, education reporter, KQED News


    I attended U C Berkeley more than 30 years ago in the physics and nuclear engineering ,then it was about the best university in the world in both fields as well as all other sciences with many Noble prize winners including two of my own professors Owen Champerlian and Emelio Segre who founded the whole field of high energy physics with their proton anti proton collision used at CERN lab today with all of it’s new discoveries we had in the the last several years ,now due to budget cuts and lack of talent and fiances Cal physics department is a faint shadow of it’s old self ,that is very sad,

    • Another Mike

      Thirty years ago, defense spending was at its peak, under Reagan. At that time, California was filled with both defense contractors and military bases. Thus federal tax dollars flowed into the state. But in the early 90s, the official end to the Cold War, and the resulting Peace Dividend, put an end to those windfalls.

      • Robert Thomas

        During the 1980s, once entrée was made into the proper milieu, one could practically hold out one’s hand palm up and have it filled with cash from the largesse of the Strategic Defense Initiative. A friend of mine made a lucrative career out of his labors at Cal on free-electron photonics, working on a “directed energy weapon” that by his own admission was never going to do so much an “warm the back of a gnat’s a$$”.

        In my own modest way, the desperate desire to simulate complex systems controlling “brilliant pebbles” (nevertheless, a much more promising and workable idea than Tom Toles’s cartoon “Particle Board Beams” and derived from the “smart rocks” idea) enriched my own economy sufficiently for me to convince a lender into giving me a mortgage. Since it was obvious that none of the SDI work was ever going to lead to anything (a Ukrainian physicist who I once asked about how seriously the Soviets took the program, laughed and asked “You have sat for freshman physics, yes?”), we could toil away without any guilt about putting anyone into any peril – while not exactly being free from the shade of a giant federal confidence trick. Once Bush 41 was inaugurated, you could actually feel the rumble of the gravy train pulling out of the station.

    • Robert Thomas

      EIDALM, do not fret. Soon, Cal students will soon be able to take up their time attending sections such as “Video Games and the Boundaries of Narrative”, as they now do at Amherst.

      The remaining period seven p-block transactinides have received their IUPAC designations, which will be made official this year. Too late I fear, for one of them to be named linmanuelmirandium. Since the recent overwhelming prominence of the Broadway phenomenon of a piece of historical musical theater based on a book of popular history once skimmed by a charismatic Wesleyan University theater major, no less an institution than Cornell – home of Hans Bethe – now plans a program of study based upon this spectacular.


    I am very glad to see Chancellor Dirks go ,but I wish if he take with him Janet Napolitano who brought nothing to the U C system except higher tuition and poor management , both should go as well as some on the U C board of regent ,specially The Wall Street real estate crook Diane Feinstein’s husband Richard Blum who is busy selling out our landmarks ,post offices ,and others for cash to profit himself without any regard to us all

  • profab

    Robert Reich for next Chancellor……let’s start the “draft robert reich” movement…..!

  • Robert Thomas

    East Bay politics confuses me. Will there now also be another new mayor in Oakland?

  • Another Mike

    I do not know why a personal trainer is such an issue. Would students and staff prefer a flabby chancellor? Top management jobs have perquisites, and if the chancellor is always on the move, he can hardly audit a gym class.

    • kiwiDave

      I know several people who work in support functions at Berkeley, and they have real issues in obtaining resource just to perform basic aspect of their role. It not uncommon that ordinarily staff have to pickup extra job functions because the college has basically a hiring freeze with lots departments not being fully staffed.
      That the very well paid head of the organization diverts university resource to despite what you claim, most people would say is a private benefit, doesn’t help with their confidence in the leadership of the organization. If ordinary staff are expected to sacrifice to help with the Berkeley’s budget issues it would be nice if perhaps the chancellor paid out of his own very deep pocket for his own health and fitness extras.

  • Sam Badger

    The high pay and the perks of these presidents are outrageous. Adjuncts are expected to work at a low wage because they supposedly “love their job”, but Presidents get half a million dollars in pay and they can live in a mansion for free. Public university presidents should be accountable to the professors, staff and students, and this should extend to their pay and benefits.

    • Another Mike

      Both adjuncts and chancellors are subject to the law of supply and demand. Academia pumps out more PhDs than academia can absorb. Ideally adjuncts would have a day job somewhere else.

      • Sam Badger

        I think there are plenty of people willing and able to do the kind of work Dirks did. It’s not only an issue of supply and demand, but an issue of power (plenty of workers have historically achieved higher wages despite a huge “supply” of potential employees with the assistance of active unions, for instance)

    • John

      It is outrageous, but that’s the world we live in. UC does not exist outside the marketplace. It has to compete for the best and brightest like any institution.

      • Sam Badger

        I am sure that there are plenty of people who could have done a better job for less than Dirks or Katehi. It’s not like university presidents are some rare and exceptional breed of talented geniuses who, if they left their jobs for higher paying ones, the whole system would fall apart.

        By that argument, universities should be paying academics and staff more, too. After all, their job is to teach, and universities exist to educate people. Presumably, we want our best talent to stay in education, not grow the expanding body of ex-academics.

    • Mitch Turitz

      Sam – but a major part of the presidents’ duties is to raise money for the university, and must bring in much more than their own salaries. Obviously bringing in enough money for the university to fulfill it’s mission is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars by bringing in millions of dollars that are not available from the state budget alone.

      • Sam Badger

        There are so many problems with this line of argument though.

        (1) Why do we think these people have some special skills that make only them competent enough to raise this kind of money?

        (2) Have we thought about how the actions of these leaders actually harm fundraising, including their high salaries? I don’t want to donate money to Chancellor Dirk’s retirement fund. Chancellor Katehi’s tenure was a real embarrassment too.

        (3) I think it is morally absurd for someone to ask people for charitable donations when they demand a half-a-million dollar income while the institution they lead pays adjuncts and staff/maintenance a poverty wage and while students race relentless tuition hikes.

        (4) The answer to low state spending is political organizing, not trying to hustle rich people for money.

        (5) Wining and dining rich people to convince them to fork over money is a luxury job compared to what a vast number of lesser paid employees do, which is the gritty job of actually teaching.

  • Noelle

    Totally agree with what Dr. Stan Glantz said. We need more public (tax support) for UC. It was seen as an investment in California’s future. I’m a Cal alumna.

  • Ben Rawner

    I’m an 08 graduate and I can’t believe that they have raised the tuition so much. I am not trying to turn back the clock, but how come CAL was basically free in the 70’s and how come we don’t have that system now?

    • Another Mike

      California was once a net recipient of federal tax dollars and now we are a net donor. Cal’s hard times began with the end of the Cold War.

    • Mitch Turitz

      Prop 13 in the late 70’s was responsible for taking millions of dollars away from public education. The result is the end of “free” higher education. The UC was not only affected but so is the CSU (California State University) with 23 campuses (more than twice the number of campuses and students than UC) but also only receives less than half of what the UC gets annually from the state. The CSU is the poor step-sister to UC and professors with PhDs are barely able to live off of their salaries in the Bay Area. If you want to go back to how higher education was in the 70’s then convince the legislature to remove prop 13 from the state and raise taxes. You can’t cut tuition without finding additional resources to make up for that money. It’s all about money.

  • kiwiDave

    Having friends who work in support functions at both Berkeley and Davis the stories of inept management aren’t uncommon. The ones which make the press are the tip of the iceberg. I support public funding of higher education but the UC system and the wider American higher education system all seem to have major systematic in management culture. Perhaps it about time that a public administration professional was considered to head a very large public institutions rather than someone who has come up from the academic promotion system and doesn’t have the skills to make the changes.

  • Another Mike

    Do Cal alumni really donate to their alma mater? I had always heard that Cal alumni were notably stingy compared to private school grads.

    • Garet Marling

      Historically, that’s true of public schools in general, though public schools’ continual decline in state government appropriations means they’re beginning to ramp up development efforts among alumni. But… those types of changes take decades.


    I am frankly confused about the argument that the chancellor huge perks and outrageous salaries don’t matter, they do, as it erodes our confidence in the University’s capacity to make strategic decisions. It is very difficult for alumni like myself to want to donate to UC when it’s priorities appear to be skewed and not about improving and sustaining public education.
    I can imagine many ways in which the chancellor’s salary and perks would still be enticing ($220,000 annual salary instead of $440,000) and that $220,000 remainder could be much more strategically spent. For example, one can imagine two administrative, fundraising, and media positions for smaller departments that could raise significant funds, awareness of the work of the faculty, and support the prestige of the university that would exceed their salary and benefits. Or it could pay tuition for eight promising graduate students.
    And, if, as the professor caller on the budget committee indicated, a $40 per California family per year would restore funding to not just UCB but the State University system as well, perhaps these kind of changes in the University would promote Californians to opt-in on their tax forms to support the University and Cal State systems. And that, along with greater public accountability would rebuild public support for Cal. If Cal creates an agenda that people will support, the people will support Cal’s agenda.

    • kiwiDave

      Great comment, matches my feelings exactly. The best way to improve Cal’s image isn’t by spending hundreds of thousands on “image” consultants but senior management being prepared to make the same leave of sacrifice that they expect from the people who work under them currently make.


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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