At the UC Berkeley back-to-school media briefing on Wednesday, Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau made the announcement of a new position in the UC system—vice chancellor for equity and inclusion—deemed to be one of the first such cabinet level positions in the country.
Chancellor Birgeneau said that the new post would “enhance significantly” his administrative goal. He added that unlike high-level equity advisers at other colleges and universities who often have no staff or authority, Berkeley’s new vice chancellor would have minorities, people with disabilities and the LGBT community as “tools to enhance access, climate, and inclusion.”
“We need to prize our diversity and learn from it and to appreciate people for being part of the whole but also for what they as individuals bring to Berkeley.” Birgeneau said.
The chancellor is currently in the process of putting together a committee to begin a national search for the vice-chancellor position after Labor Day. No candidates have been short-listed so far, according to Janet Gilmore, UC Media Relations.
The chancellor also announced a consortium, led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), that will respond to the U.S. Department of Energy’s call for bio-energy proposals.
According to Lynn Arris, spokeperson for LBNL, the project is called the Joint Bio-Energy Initiative (JBEI).
“The Joint BioEnergy Institute is a proposal in response to the U.S. Department of Energy’s announcement that it will provide $250 million in funding for two new Bioenergy Research Centers,” he said. “The goals of JBEI are two-fold. First is to develop the science and technology needed to convert cellulose into fuels, especially ethanol for transportation; the second goal is to explore and develop other means of producing biofuels. The lead institute for JBEI is Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Other partners will include UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and UC Davis, Stanford University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratory.”
The JBEI proposal is led by Jay Keasling, director of Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, and a professor of chemical engineering with UC Berkeley’s Chemical Engineering Department. Keasling is regarded as a pioneer and one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of synthetic biology.
Chancellor Birgeneau also announced that the campus had raised just under $348 million in gifts and pledges in the past year. It is “by far the largest amount ever raised at Berkeley” and “at or very near the top” among public universities (excluding medical-school contributions), he said. He described this accomplishment as “frankly extraordinary.”
The chancellor, however, added a caveat with respect to the increasing burden that financially disadvantaged students have to bear, which is usually more than $30,000, supplied through work and loans by the time they earn their bachelor’s degree.
He said that he was hoping that the state would come up with a new financial-aid program that looks at a mix of private and public funds and added that he was holding discussions about this with interested parties in Sacramento.
The chancellor also talked about a “slow but sure” rise in under-represented minorities in the incoming class of 2010; he explained that over the past several years the percentage of under-represented minorities had been “creeping up” from 12 to 16 percent in incoming classes.