New: Op-Ed on UC Berkeley housing contains errors (Public Comment)

Dan Mogulof, Asst. Vice Chancellor, Office of Communications and Public Affairs, UC Berkeley
Monday July 17, 2017 - 05:55:00 PM

Harry Brill’s recent column on UC Berkeley and our housing challenges is so rife with errors that it’s hard to know whether the author was misinformed, confused, or intentionally inaccurate. 

Let us count the ways: 

The article states that the University now has “larger classes” without providing substantiation. In fact, average class sizes at Berkeley are slightly down as per the most recent data, 50.21 in 2015 versus 49.81 in 2016. 

Brill claims that, “the University made no real effort to obtain sufficient funds to hire more faculty to adequately accommodate the incoming students.” First, it is not the campus, but the UC system that leads the interaction with the State of California when it comes to funding. Second, as it happens substantial efforts were in fact made on this front and the State provided $20 million to the UC System in fiscal year 2015-16 for enrolling an additional 5,000 additional resident undergraduate students in 2016-17. The Berkeley campus received nearly $3.8 million from UC in State funds to enroll our share of additional students. Our campus also provided over $2.2 million of additional funds to address the immediate instructional costs related to the increased enrollment. One result of that investment was that we had approximately 50 more faculty members during the last academic year, as compared to the prior, despite Brill’s claims to the contrary. 

Brill writes that, “UC Berkeley's decision to increase admission is quite different than what the other nine UC campuses decided. Responding to limited budgets, their administrators instead reduced by 1.7 percent the number of students who will be accepted for the coming academic year.” First, enrollment and admission policy is also largely the purview of the system wide Office of the President, not the individual campuses. Second, there has been no reduction whatsoever in the number of students admitted to or enrolled on other UC campuses. Rather, it appears that the figure he cites refers to the system wide 1.7 percent decrease in California resident freshmen admitted to UC for fall 2017, as compared to fall 2016, when a historically large class was admitted in keeping with the three-year goal of enrolling 10,000 additional California undergraduates by fall 2018. Or, maybe Brill was confused because, coincidentally, this year the system wide admission rate dropped by 1.7 percent to 61.7 percent from last year’s 63.4 percent. This data point obviously has nothing to do with the number of students admitted, only the percentage of applicants accepted. See here: 




Then, Mr. Brill points to a statement I made as a supposed explanation for the University’s “neglect” of student housing needs, one where I stated that, "UC Berkeley has no plans to build student housing.” As it happens I most certainly did say that in 2015, but as Brill surely must know, that statement referred solely and exclusively to what was at the time planning for University-owned property in Richmond, and had nothing what so ever to do with planning for housing around the core campus in Berkeley. See here: 



To be clear, planning was already underway in 2015 for student housing construction that has been completed, or is currently underway, with more to follow in the years ahead. 

Finally, the long litany of errors in Brill’s column is topped off with a series of false and thoroughly unsubstantiated statements about our future housing plans. Yes, it is true that the University will likely rely on public/private partnerships for the construction of student housing, as is common practice on campuses across the country. This is, in part, made necessary by an utter lack of other funding sources for projects of this sort. However, Brill’s claims that these partnerships will result in housing that won’t be “affordable”, and will put students on the “highway to poverty” are without foundation, and raise serious concerns about the author’s credibility and responsibility. Here is the truth: Any residential facilities for university students constructed in the context of a public-private partnership with the campus will have the exact same fees as those currently available. We do not, and will not, charge differential fees based on how construction was financed. 

In sum, UC Berkeley did not ask for an enrollment increase, but we are doing what we must to accommodate it. The University is deeply concerned about the availability and affordability of student housing, and Chancellor Christ has put the issue at the top of her priority list. No matter what financial models are used to fund construction, students will pay the same fees for university housing. We are committed to working in close concert with the city and community on the development of a detailed housing plan. We invite and welcome comments on the University’s recently housing master plan report. See here: