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UC Berkeley Chancellor: Bill Maher must speak

More than 2,500 people have singed a petition protesting Bill Maher's appearance at Cal's December commencement. Photo: Bill Maher
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Hours after a student group uninvited Bill Maher to speak at UC Berkeley’s December commencement, Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks invited him back, citing his constitutionally protected right to free speech.

“The UC Berkeley administration cannot and will not accept this decision, which appears to have been based solely on Mr. Maher’s opinions and beliefs, which he conveyed through constitutionally protected speech,” the university said in a prepared statement. Continue reading »

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Photos: Inauguration of UC Berkeley’s chancellor Dirks

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The formal inauguration of Nicholas Dirks, UC Berkeley’s tenth chancellor, took place on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 8. The event comprised a public symposia on the three pillars of Dirks’ administration — undergraduate education, the role of the global university, and research and innovation — a noontime rally on Sproul Plaza and an investiture ceremony.

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UC Berkeley to inaugurate Nicholas Dirks as chancellor

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Nicholas Dirks will be formally inaugurated as UC Berkeley’s tenth chancellor on Friday in a celebratory event on campus that will include a colorful procession, performances and discussions about higher education in the 21st century.

Dirks, who was formerly Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University, took up his new post five months ago, on June 1. He has already had a busy schedule, including handling an explosion which triggered a campus-wide evacuation in September, and appearing last month at Berkeleyside’s inaugural ideas festival Uncharted to talk about the fate of the humanities (as well as chopped liver and Bladerunner).

The inauguration on Friday is the formal welcome for the 61-year-old anthropology and history specialist who succeeded Robert J. Birgeneau as Cal chancellor. … Continue reading »

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Events

Chancellor Dirks, more new speakers for Uncharted

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. Photo: John Blaustein
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New UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks will be one of the speakers at Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas on October 25-26. Dirks, a historian and anthropologist whose work focuses on India, will be in conversation. The subject: “What are the humanities — chopped liver?”

Among the other speakers recently added to the lineup for what promises to be an enthralling new gathering for those wishing to broaden their horizons are Dan Miller from the Roda Group, who will speak about strategies to tackle climate change, and Joshua Bloom, co-founder of big data startup wise.io and a professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley. Bloom plans to demystify the “uncanny valley” of machine intelligence for festival-goers.

What else is happening at Uncharted? Chris Anderson on the new industrial revolution, UC Berkeley’s Ananya Roy on poverty, food pioneer Mollie Katzen on the changes in our eating, Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas on the 2014 midterm elections, Business Insider’s Josh Barro on the future of political parties, io9’s Annalee Newitz on humans and mass extinction… and much, much more, including a lab-style workshop, and a great Friday night party for festival-goers at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Institute. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley

Interview: UC Berkeley’s new Chancellor, Nicholas Dirks

Nicholas Dirks. Photo: UC Berkeley
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The second floor of California Hall is bright and airy, with a hushed air of importance. As Berkeleyside ascended the staircase last week, Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley’s head of communications, alerted us to prepare for a shock: The new chancellor was wearing jeans.

When Nicholas Dirks greeted us in his office, he was indeed in jeans, with a pressed pale pink shirt (he made an unnecessary excuse for the jeans: “It’s the middle of August.”). The tall bookcases in the office were filled with scholarly texts, as well as popular fiction and nonfiction. For a man who oversees the well-being of 36,000 students, more than 1,500 faculty members, 8,477 staff, 130 academic departments, and a $2.2 billion budget, Dirks’ desk was remarkably clutter-free. A large Apple display was crowded with email messages. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley names Columbia dean as new chancellor

Nicholas B. Dirks says of his appointment, “This is an opportunity I embrace with both excitement and humility.” (Eileen Barroso photo / Columbia University)
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Nicholas B. Dirks, Columbia University’s executive vice president and dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences, will succeed Robert J. Birgeneau as UC Berkeley’s 10th chancellor, the university announced Thursday.

Dirks is set to begin at Cal on June 1, 2013. Birgeneau announced in March that he would step down in December, but has agreed to serve through May, according to the university.

Dirks was born in Illinois but grew up in Connecticut, according to a statement released by UC Berkeley. He and his wife, Columbia history professor Janaki Bakhle, have a 13-year-old son, and Dirks has a grown daughter from a prior marriage.

Dirks taught in California earlier on his career and has family connections to the state as well; his late father served as vice chancellor and dean for humanities at UC Santa Cruz in the 1970s, and his mother is a longtime California resident.

“This is an opportunity I embrace with both excitement and humility,” Dirks said, via the university statement. “I have immense respect for the countless accomplishments of faculty, students and staff at what I consider to be the premier public research university in the world. I look forward to becoming part of the UC community and to contributing all that I can to the further evolution of a campus that is a beacon of excellence, innovation and aspiration for California, the nation and the world.”

The university’s Board of Regents will vote on the terms of the appointment at a special meeting in late November. … Continue reading »

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Cal Chancellor Birgeneau to step down by year end

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UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced today that he will step down from the chancellorship at the end of this calendar year. Birgeneau has been chancellor since September, 2004.

His term was dominated by both financial struggles, as state funding of the University of California system was steadily squeezed, and controversy over the handling of campus protests in recent years.

Birgeneau plans to return to his academic post in the Departments of Physics and Material Sciences and Engineering. In his message to the UC Berkeley community, he wrote that he hopes he has “at least one more truly significant physics/materials science experiment still to come in my academic career”. … Continue reading »

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Chancellor apologizes for Occupy Cal police response

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Chancellor Robert Birgeneau issued an apology today for police tactics during Occupy Cal protests on November 9 on campus.

In a recording made while en route to spending Thanksgiving with his children and grandchildren on the East Coast, Birgeneau said he took full responsibility for the events that day and would do “his very best to ensure that this does not happen again.”

The manner in which the police handled Occupy Cal protesters on that November night has come under scrutiny and attracted attention. … Continue reading »

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Shaken Cal Chancellor recalls Kent State, Virginia Tech

Chancellor Robert Birgenau and UC Police Chief Mitch Celaya at today's press conference. Photo: Lance Knobel
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[See update at foot of story.]

“Now we’re there along with Kent State and Virginia Tech,” said a visibly upset Chancellor Robert Birgeneau at the end of a press conference today about the shooting at the Haas School of Business. No students, faculty or staff were injured in the incident — the only injury was to the unidentified suspect.

The chancellor received news of the incident at his home, following a lunchtime meeting there. He had thought the main focus of the day would be the Occupy Cal protests. “We’re very pleased with the way the students have conducted themselves today,” Birgeneau told the press conference. “I have confidence in our students that they’ll stay focused on the important issues, which are disinvestment in higher education by our state and higher tuitions.”

But the first shooting on the Cal campus for over 20 years changed the tenor of the day.

According to UC Police Chief Mitch Celaya, there is no evidence that the suspect had any connection to the protests. Throughout his description of the events leading to the shooting, he cautioned that his department was at a “very preliminary stage” of the investigation. The press conference was held at 4:00pm, less than two hours after the incident. … Continue reading »

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Cal Chancellor calls on Silicon Valley to help with funding

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau (center) flanked by xxx and xxx at a press conference today on campus
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UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said it’s time for corporate California to step up to the plate and help fund the university.

In light of the severe shortfall in state funding that UC Berkeley is dealing with, the Chancellor said he would like to see companies from Silicon Valley and beyond contributing $100 million to UC Berkeley — money that would be slated for students, such as for financial aid, not the university’s bottom line.

“Companies in Silicon Valley tell us we … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley Chancellor declares it a “difficult year”

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau
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UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau is telling his staff that this has been ‘the single most difficult year I personally have experienced.”

Birgeneau, who has served as chancellor since 2004, had to deal with severe fiscal constraints, staff furloughs, large-scale protests, vandalism and violence on and near the campus, hunger strikes, and lots of criticism.

The most difficult time may have been in December, when a group of students and local residents carrying torches stormed his house while … Continue reading »

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Hunger strike ends, students meet with chancellor

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According to Hungry for Justice, the UC Berkeley hunger strike protesting Arizona’s immigration law will be suspended. Activists involved in the strike are meeting with Chancellor Robert Birgeneau in California Hall now. The meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m., but the students didn’t actually enter until 4:15.

Here’s the statement from Hungry for Justice:

After much pressure from students, workers, and faculty and lengthy discussions with California Hall, the administration has agreed to enter negotiations over our … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley

Views from the Chancellor’s

Protest at University House
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ReclaimUC took some excellent photos at yesterday evening’s protest in front of Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s official residence. As the ReclaimUC blog notes, every East Bay police organization seems to have been mobilized: Berkeley PD, UCPD, Oakland PD and the Alameda County Sheriffs.

No resolution has been reached in the stand-off between the protesters and the university administration. Last night, the administration proposed meeting with activists provided the hunger strike ended. The hunger strikers said … Continue reading »

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