Berdahl Opens Staff Dialogue
At BSA Meeting

by Fernando Quintero

Chancellor Berdahl got the seal of approval at his first formal meeting with staff at Hertz Hall Oct. 7.

The first gathering of the semester for the campus Staff Assembly featured the new chancellor, who talked about staff issues, principles and values, and his philosophy.

Berdahl, who was graciously introduced by La Dawn DuVall-Davis, Staff Assembly director and assistant director of Public Ceremonies, said his first experience with staff organizations was at the University of Texas, where he was chancellor before coming to Berkeley.

"When I arrived in Texas, there was no formal staff organization. They had little voice," he said.

"It is vital we have dialogue and a structure that provides staff with representation."

"Staff is commonly under appreciated," he added. "We must change that culture.

"Those of us who work in administration have an appreciation for the role staff play in day-to-day operations," he said.

"Our reputation as a university rests on the quality of faculty and of students, the libraries and other facilities-and all of that rests on the quality of staff.

"You can't have excellent libraries without excellent library staff. What staff does is often hidden, yet the key to our excellence."

In Texas, Berdahl launched a number of staff appreciation programs. Outstanding staff were honored in "small ways," such as a day when staff could bring their children to work, a Halloween party for staff and their families, and charitable programs during the holidays that benefited staff who were undergoing financial or medical hardships.

"I want to create a sense of community.

"We have enormous talent and goodwill on our campus, all we have to do is harness that," he said.

Berdahl commended the Staff Assembly on its preparation of a statement of principles and values, and singled out a few.

  • Commitment to diversity: "Despite (Proposition) 209 and the actions of the regents, we must be inclusive. The overriding value must be inclusion. We must maintain excellence through diversity."
  • Training and promotions: "We must promote knowledge and skills and have advancement opportunities. If we're going to be a progressive institution through the 21st century, we must provide these opportunities. We want Berkeley to be a place where people want to work, where you feel like you're contributing and part of a larger whole, and have a degree of job security.
  • Fostering collaborative leadership: "I want to create an environment of trust. In Texas, I spent time with the man who led Motorola through the transition from the '80s to the '90s and through the heavy competition with Japan. They were at the forefront (of Total Quality Management principles). When you create an environment of trust, it's empowering for all employees."
  • Reducing bureaucracy: The law of social science is that all institutions become more bureaucratic with time, creating barriers that dis-enable us. We must reduce duplication and create an environment that is conducive to change."

Berdahl received the loudest applause, which punctuated his remarks throughout the hour-long gathering, during a question-and-answer period.

One staff member asked why there weren't any librarians or library staff on a recently created blue ribbon committee for the library.

"I suggest we augment the committee," said Berdahl, as he took notes on the audience's comments and suggestions.

Another employee asked about compensation opportunities for long-term employees who have not moved out of their classifications.

Berdahl turned the question over to Horace Mitchell, vice chancellor for business and administrative services, who offered to find out the answer and get back to her at a later date.

"When?" asked Berdahl as the audience cheered. "Patience isn't my biggest virtue."

Looking around the room, Berdahl gave a special nod to staff who have devoted many years to serving the university and spoke of the value of their institutional memory.

"We have hundreds of years of experience in this room.

"We need to tap into that. We need to take risks."

Berdahl suggested the establishment of an electronic suggestion box, and in the meantime suggested staff send comments and ideas to him at Bigbear@uclink.

Next week: Chancellor Berdahl speaks to the Academic Senate. n



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