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Budget tops list of issues at Senate meeting
Reports on admissions, faculty equity, and IT challenges are also presented to faculty

| 20 November 2003

At the fall meeting of the Berkeley Division of the UC Academic Senate, held in Sibley Auditorium last Thursday, one overarching message stood out: the sheer number of significant matters that the Senate and campus have put in motion to address an equally impressive number of challenges.

After promising that a formal “state of the university report” would be posted online at a later date — in line with a commitment he made earlier this year when the final version of the campus Strategic Academic Plan was published — Chancellor Berdahl gave a brief summary of some of the campus’s most pressing concerns, starting (to no one’s surprise) with the budget.

Berdahl made note of both short-term funding cuts for the current and coming fiscal years, precipitated by California’s current funding crisis, and a longer-term decline in state support for UC (reduced from 7 percent of the state’s general revenue to 4 percent in the past few years, he said). What lies ahead — whether, for example, modest temporary cuts to the instructional budget this year will be made permanent, and what further reductions may be required in other areas — is a subject of “enormous uncertainty,” the chancellor said, in part because “we don’t know what the new governor’s priorities will be regarding education.”

Berdahl next noted that implementation of the Strategic Academic Plan is underway. The campus has “accomplished the lion’s share” of enrollment growth it calls for, he said, and plans to add 200 faculty positions needed to serve those numbers, staff the interdisciplinary academic initiatives recently approved, and improve the quality of existing major programs.

Recent milestones for the campus include completion of the reaccreditation process, a multi-year self-review led by Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Christina Maslach. The final report of the regional accreditation body is pending, but initial feedback on undergraduate education (the focus of the campus’s self-study) “was really glowing,” he reported. Berdahl also mentioned the recent reorganization of campus administrative functions “to make more sense and give us greater accountability,” as well as creation of a search committee to name his replacement when he steps down as chancellor in June 2004.

Following Berdahl’s report, the new Senate chair, Ronald Gronsky, spoke of a long-overdue revision to the Campus Code of Student Conduct, currently in progress; the revised academic calendar for 2004-05; a newly streamlined program for reviewing campus academic programs each seven years; and a pending report by the campuswide working group charged with reviewing how the PATRIOT Act is affecting international students and scholars at Berkeley.

At 4 p.m., exactly midway through the meeting’s allotted time, Gronsky announced that enough faculty had arrived to form a quorum of 50. Following voting on Senate business, the second hour included a report from Professor David Stern, chair of the Senate Committee on Admissions, Enrollment, and Preparatory Education. Stern spoke on various aspects of the undergraduate admissions process, from the training of part-time application readers to such metrics as campus admit rates by academic indicator. He went on to invite faculty members to attend one of the norming sessions at which senior admissions staff score and discuss illustrative applications as part of the reader-training process. (See "An invitation to faculty" sidebar in the Berkeleyan story An admissions briefing for the media)

Professor Ken Goldberg then reported on initial findings of the Senate Committee on Computing and Communications, noting the need for a strategic information-technology plan to complement and inform the Strategic Academic Plan. To name just one looming information technology issue, the next decade will see increasing dependence on wireless communications, he said, and with it greater problems in ensuring network security. When students returned this fall, Goldberg noted, many of them brought wireless connections to the network, which are vulnerable to Internet computer viruses. A slew of infections of the campus network by computer viruses ensued; that problem “is only going to get worse,” he warned.

Giving faculty members a taste of the IT-related issues pending, Goldberg mentioned computing needs related to research, among them document retrieval, database and simulation tools, presentation software and spreadsheets, and electronic-mail applications.
Angelica Stacy, associate vice provost for faculty equity, then gave a brief status report, noting especially the current profile of the faculty (24 percent female and 85 percent white). She stressed, however, the progress being made with regards to new hires of women faculty and “amazing momentum” on faculty- equity issues. With time running short, Gronsky announced that a separate forum would be held on faculty equity, to allow for a more complete treatment of the complex issue.

The next divisional meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 29, 2004.

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