Tag Archives: Robert Birgeneau

Berkeley homeless activist Frances Townes celebrates her 100th birthday and a day named in her honor

Frances Townes blows out the candles on her birthday cake. Townes turned 100 and Berkeley named Feb. 13 Frances Townes Day in honor of her community involvement.
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At age 70, most people are looking forward to retiring, traveling, or enjoying a slower pace of life. When Frances Townes reached that milestone, she founded the Berkeley Ecumenical Chaplaincy to the Homeless and opened a new chapter in what continues to be a life of activism and advocacy for people who are homeless in Berkeley.

Thirty years later, dozens of people packed into the First Congregational Church in Berkeley on Feb. 13 to celebrate Towne’s 100th birthday, as well as the first-ever official Frances Townes Day in the City of Berkeley. Friends, family, and community members shared memories from different chapters of Townes’ life of social justice work, as Townes laughed and listened alongside on stage. And, fittingly for a life of 10 decades devoted to helping people, her 100th birthday party doubled as fundraiser and silent auction for Youth Spirit Artworks, an arts and job training program for homeless and low-income youth.

“With more activists like Frances, we’d have a stronger, more stable Berkeley,” said Angel Peréz, a senior artist and print-tech at Youth Spirit Artworks, adding that he was inspired by Towne’s determination in her activism throughout her life — even at difficult times. … 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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Community arts, education projects get boost from Cal

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A UC Berkeley fund run by the chancellor’s office and designed to build partnerships throughout the city recently named 11 community projects that will receive $252,000 in 2013-14.

The Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund selected a range of education, arts, math and sciences programs to support. The fund has awarded $1.65 million since 2006.

This year’s winning projects were selected from a pool of 66 proposals totaling over $2 million in requests. Some of the winners include the Berkeley schools Garden Education Collaborative; a new project to create art installations on San Pablo Avenue; a conflict resolution program at Rosa Parks Elementary; and a math tutoring program at several Berkeley schools. … Continue reading »

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The most important stories in Berkeley in 2012

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Berkeley in 2012 was filled with drama — a contested election, a failed nomination for a new school superintendent, a few missteps by the Chief of Police, and major changes at the University of California, among other events. Here’s a recap of the issues that had the deepest impact on Berkeley, plus a few fun ones thrown in.

City Government

The year got off to a tragic start with the untimely death of 37-year-old City Clerk Deanna Despain. She fell down the stairs of her Oakland home on Jan. 8. Her husband discovered her body when he returned from a late-night meeting. Their daughter was soundly asleep upstairs. Since then, Mark Numainville has been filling in as acting city clerk. In May, after serving as interim city manager for six months, the City Council appointed Christine Daniel permanently to the job. She replaced Phil Kamlarz, who had held the city’s top job for eight years. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley

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 Memorial Stadium unveiled after 21-month renovation

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On Friday, the great and the good of UC Berkeley unveiled the newly renovated Memorial Stadium, the result of more than 30 years of planning, $321 million in pledged funding, many feats of seismic engineering, and 21 months of construction.

The project encountered some unexpected obstacles along the way, not least the presence of a group of protesters who spent 19 months perched in trees on the university property in a bid to prevent their removal. “Very colorful, as only Berkeley can produce,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau recalling the episode. He stressed, however, that he was confident everyone will be nothing less than awed with the revamped shrine to Cal football. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley

‘Remarkable job’ helps Cal navigate through tough times

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Chancellor Robert Birgeneau lauded UC Berkeley’s continued excellence at the annual state-of-the-university press conference yesterday, citing its top five position in a leading ranking of global universities, the continued flood of applications from highly qualified students, the leading number of National Science Foundation fellows in graduate programs, and a flurry of other statistics.

But Birgeneau’s exuberance was tempered at his last start-of-term press conference (he announced he’ll step down as Chancellor at the end of December) by talk of the “unprecedented” disinvestment in higher education in California, and the threat of further dramatic cuts if Proposition 30, Governor Jerry Brown’s ballot measure to raise taxes, fails on November 6.

“The progressive disinvestment [in higher education] has not had as large an impact on Berkeley as we had feared, but it has had an enormous impact on the higher education system,” Birgeneau said. “It’s the obligation of the state and its people to support its public institutions. Education is a public good, not a private good.”  … 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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Criminal charges filed against four Occupy Cal protesters

A November 9, 2011 Occupy Cal rally - before the confrontation with police
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Three UC Berkeley students and one professor have been charged with resisting arrest and other charges in connection with their participation in a Nov. 9 Occupy Cal protest.

Professor Celeste Langan, who became well-known after a video was posted on You Tube showing a UC Berkeley police officer grabbing her hair and yanking her to the ground, has been charged with resisting arrest and remaining on the scene of a riot, according to Assistant District Attorney Teresa Drenick.

Ricardo Gomez, Zakary Habash and Ramon Quintero have also been charged with resisting arrest and some other misdemeanors, said Drenick.

Langan, a professor of English, is scheduled to be arraigned on March 16 and the others are scheduled to be arraigned on March 21. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley students march to protest public education cuts

Occupy eduction on campus
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Hundreds of students in Berkeley took part in protests Thursday against cuts to public education.

On campus, a Day of Action at UC Berkeley began with teach-outs and protesters wrapping California Hall in caution tape. Many Cal students marched to Oakland to join other protesters at Frank Ogawa Plaza from where a march on Sacramento is set to depart.

Several hundred Berkeley High students left campus at 2:40 pm and converged on Old City Hall on MLK Jr Way. There they listened to performers and speakers. There were chants, including ones calling for money for schools and against wars. Some students were dancing.

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Lab choice may prove beneficial to Berkeley in long term

Officials ready for the press conference announcing Richmond as the new site for the second campus of LBNL. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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By Lance Knobel and Frances Dinkelspiel

In late September and early October, Dr. Jeff Ritterman, a member of the Richmond City Council, went down to Berkeley West Biocenter on Potter Street, one of the divisions of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Both times, Dr. Ritterman arrived before 8 am and staked out a spot in front of the entrance. As scientists came to work, Dr. Ritterman handed them a 4×6 postcard with a picture of the Richmond shoreline, signed by a resident of that city. It was a pitch for placing LBNL’s second campus in Richmond.

“I knew the decision would be important to (lab) employees,” said Dr. Ritterman, who served as head of cardiology at Kaiser Richmond for 30 years and became a city councilman in 2009. “I knew people had some concerns about Richmond and I wanted to reassure them and make an extra effort.” … 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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