Faculty to draft academic vision for New Century Plan

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs

16 AUGUST 00 | A campus-wide faculty committee will convene this fall to draft an academic vision to guide Berkeley's research and instructional activities as the next phase of work on the university's New Century Plan gets under way.

Approximately 16 faculty members and administrative staff will begin meetings semimonthly to draw up a comprehensive statement of Berkeley's primary research and instructional goals, which will form the foundation of the New Century Plan. The plan is a strategic framework for advancing the university's long-term physical and cultural development over the next half-century.

"The academic vision for this campus is a key component of the New Century Plan and will be a beacon for our intellectual and physical growth well into the future," said Chancellor Robert Berdahl. "The research directions defined by this faculty subcommittee will become the basis of a strategic vision for our facilities that will allow us to optimize available space, both on campus and at other university-owned properties in the region, and create a vibrant campus environment."

Programmatic priorities, expected to be defined by December, will help the campus determine how to proceed with seismic retrofitting of existing buildings and plans for new buildings. The faculty subcommittee, co-chaired by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Gray and Professor David Dowall, Academic Senate vice chairman, will design a road map for the campus's academic aspirations, to help frame recommendations for new buildings, state-of-the-art labs, infrastructure and landscape projects necessary to achieve those goals.

"The first wave of Federal Emergency Management Agency-funded construction has already begun and it would be a tremendous lost opportunity to carry out these projects without taking into account the larger context of improving the campus environment as a whole," said Thomas Lollini, director of Physical and Environmental Planning in the Office of Capital Projects. "This is an ideal time to draft a strategic vision for our facilities that will allow us to make the best use of all available land and building resources and make wise decisions about reinvesting in existing facilities."

Capital Projects staff and a team of San Francisco-based consultants are presently focusing on the central campus and adjacent blocks, said Kerry O'Banion, project manager of the New Century Plan. "Over the next several months, we'll be developing both a design vision for the central campus and a strategy for aligning new capital investments with that vision.

"Our first step was to assess the resources we have now in terms of their physical condition and potential for improvement," he said. "This includes identifying sites that might be redeveloped in ways that enhance their value to the campus, as well as investments to improve the experience of campus life."

In the spring, that work will be integrated with the academic vision to produce a strategic facilities plan for both the central campus and outlying properties.

"Life safety improvements are obviously a primary driver for capital investment," O'Banion said, "but our goal for the New Century Plan is to create a decision-making framework that also includes our other strategic priorities, such as facility renewal, disaster recovery and the quality of the campus environment. We will also address strategic problems that are regional in scope, such as housing and transportation, but in ways that support our academic vision."

Specific strategies for renewing the physical environment will include proposals for new ways of using existing buildings and laboratories that are functionally obsolete.

"Half of the campus space is over 40 years old and both instruction and research has changed a lot in that time," O'Banion said. "This is an advantageous time, while we are in the midst of an aggressive program of seismic modifications, to evaluate the uses of buildings and come up with ways to manage campus space and services to support academic excellence."

One way to accomplish that is to design "generic" buildings that can support a wide range of functions and become long-term campus resources. "We want to optimize our ability to grow, change and react quickly to breakthroughs in scientific research, while making sure that we are building new buildings that will last a hundred years," Lollini said.

Research facilities such as the new Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, which will take the place of Warren Hall, and the new Molecular Engineering Complex, to replace Stanley Hall, will be essential to Berkeley's continued preeminence in the interdisciplinary fields of chemistry, biology, bioengineering and physics. Cutting-edge research in other fields such as computer sciences, astronomy, the social sciences and humanities will also require a retooling of existing buildings and labs, as well as new facilities, said Dowall, a professor of city and regional planning.

Among the top concerns are the shortage of lecture halls and large classrooms to accommodate typical introductory courses, a problem that will be magnified with the tidal wave of 4,000 new students entering Berkeley in the next several years. Other concerns center on outdated laboratories that can no longer keep pace with the latest research and outdated teaching tools and technologies.

"We're still in the Stone Age with respect to current instructional facilities," said Dowall. "An obvious example of that is that we're still using blackboards and chalk instead of providing instructional hardware to facilitate multimedia presentations."



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