The following message was sent to the Berkeley campus community on February 10, 2016:

Today, we announce a strategic planning process designed to ensure our excellence in the face of continuing financial challenges.   This process is comprehensive, encompassing academic and administrative realignment, investment in our fundraising and revenue-generating activities, and the reexamination of all our discretionary expenditures, including athletics and capital costs.

Whether in California, Wisconsin, Michigan, or elsewhere, public research universities have been challenged not only by dwindling state support but also by shifting public opinion and momentous social and economic change.  Even without financial challenges, the pursuit of our goals would require that we continually assess the well being of our institution, while simultaneously holding true to our core values.

Now, for a variety of reasons, both internal and external, we face a substantial and growing structural deficit, one that we cannot long sustain. Because this deficit does not reflect a short-term dip in funding, but a “new normal” era of reduced state support, responding to this deficit requires that we take a long-term view. We must focus not only on the immediate challenge, but also on the deeper task of enhancing our institution’s long-term sustainability and self-reliance. This is a moment not just to stabilize our finances, but also to consider our future as a leading institution of higher education. The guide for this effort has to be our core mission: to enhance the educational experience we provide to students while maintaining our commitment to access; to increase the support we provide for ground-breaking research and scholarship; and to align our public outreach with 21st century societal needs.

Accordingly, we are embarking on a comprehensive strategic planning process, the aim of which is to reimagine the fundamental structures and processes of our university. We need to evaluate how best to structure the university so as to maintain, above all, our excellence as an institution. To be sure, ahead of us lie difficult decisions and hard work, but we are fortunate to be taking this on early enough that we have the resources and time necessary to be thoughtful and strategic.

In this effort, we are committed to broad engagement with campus constituencies. Since last June, the senior academic and administrative leadership has been in discussion with the Academic Senate and the deans, the trustees of the UC Berkeley Foundation, our new Board of Visitors, and the Office of the President (which is ready to provide significant financial assistance). Now, as we transition from analysis to comprehensive planning, we want to be sure that Berkeley’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni are well informed. Even as some of the investments we make will be greeted enthusiastically, we also know that some of the changes we will undergo will be painful. Throughout the process, however, it is crucial that everyone work together to ensure both that we make the right decisions and that we make them in the right ways.

Every aspect of Berkeley’s operations and organizational structure will be under consideration.  Our decision-making, however, will be strategic.  We are identifying areas in which new investments will both produce additional resources and enhance our strength; and we are identifying other areas in which the expenditure of resources may be less critical to our overall excellence and core mission.  Some important campus-level initiatives, such as the Berkeley Global Campus and the Undergraduate Initiative, will be entirely supported by philanthropy and external partnerships (aside from small amounts of seed funding).

While our short-term measures – some of which were outlined in our recent budget call letter – are relatively straightforward, our longer-term initiatives will be more complex. These include:

  • Evaluating our workforce in relationship to our changing needs and resources. This will also entail a new mechanism for the monitoring and control of staffing levels – mirroring the discipline we have long applied to hiring of faculty. We will also review our senior administrative functions, including central units, to reduce redundancy and create new forms of collaboration. We will complete the assessment and analysis of Berkeley’s workforce and its future needs by the end of the current academic year.
  • Improving support for our teaching and research while also redesigning many of our work processes in order to achieve greater efficiency. For example, to better support our faculty’s ability to compete for research grants, we have begun an end-to-end review that includes research support activities in academic units, the Sponsored Projects Office, Campus Shared Services (CSS), and Contracts and Grants Accounting.  The shortcomings in CSS, which we have already begun to address, will continue to be evaluated; we will make all necessary changes.
  • Making new investments to expand our fundraising capacity along with other new areas for external support. In order to achieve the best results in this domain, we are also designing a campus-wide approach to philanthropy – one that will increase our endowment, expand our fundraising abilities, improve donor relations and reach out more effectively to supporters. 
  • Achieving additional revenues through our “brand,” land, and other assets.  This initiative will ensure that we are earning maximum revenues from licensing and other financial agreements, while protecting our image and being true to our values.  It will also explore ways in which the wise use of our real estate and other assets can both yield revenues and help to address the ever-pressing housing needs of our faculty, staff, and students.
  • Working with the Academic Senate leadership and the deans of the schools, colleges, and Letters & Sciences divisions on the redesign of some of our academic structures. Realignment will ensure that we are excellent in all we choose to do, in our research and in our educational mission.  In some instances, this means strengthening units as is; in others, it means narrowing the focus to specific areas of excellence; and in some instances it means combining and rearranging to capture intellectual synergies and to ensure sufficient scale academically, administratively, and financially.  Even if our financial situation were better, these changes make academic sense, ensuring that all our units have a scale, and sufficient support, to mount the strongest programs. This initiative will involve extensive consultation, consideration, and testing.
  • Expanding online offerings and enrollments in University Extension, as well as professional and other master’s programs that earn revenue. In addition, over the course of the next few years, financial support for our admitted doctoral students will be improved, while some enrollments will be reduced and brought into alignment with those at peer universities in order to better support the quality of these programs.
  • Re-examining the gap between Intercollegiate Athletics’ revenue and expenses, which has widened in recent years.  To reverse this, we are pursuing major opportunities to increase revenues and donor support for scholarships, while looking at ways to reduce administrative costs and other team expenses.

Leadership and Engagement

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost (EVCP) Claude Steele is leading this effort, with Vice Provost for Strategic Academic and Facilities Planning Andrew Szeri and Associate Vice Chancellor-Chief Financial Officer Rosemarie Rae serving as the implementation leads.

EVCP Steele has overseen the design and establishment of a structure that will provide for engagement and consultation with faculty, staff, students, and alumni, as well as effective leadership of and coordination between the various initiatives. An Advisory Council, to be co-led by Academic Senate Chair Ben Hermalin and Andrew Szeri will provide guidance and input. Final decisions will rest with the Chancellor and a body convened for this express purpose. To support the design and implementation of the individual initiatives, we are also establishing an Office of Strategic Initiatives, which will provide analytical support and coordination to the working teams and leaders of the various initiatives.

We realize that many of you will want to know more, and have many good ideas to offer for our consideration. In the months ahead, we will be engaging with faculty, staff and students in order to share more detailed information, answer questions and solicit suggestions. You will also hear more from the leadership of your school, college, or administrative unit as work on the initiatives broadens and deepens across the campus. We have already briefed and will continue to engage with the leadership of both the ASUC and the Graduate Assembly, as well as Chancellor’s Staff Advisory Committee and the Berkeley Staff Assembly, to ensure that staff and student perspectives, ideas and concerns are well represented and incorporated throughout the planning and implementation process.

The phased implementation of changes and new policies will commence in summer 2016. While we will take some steps quickly, others, such as any significant academic and administrative realignment, will take longer.   To learn more and read regular updates, please visit osi.berkeley.edu.

The Future of Public Higher Education

This endeavor must not be interpreted as an abandonment of our commitment to a public mission nor to our efforts to advocate for increased public funding for higher education.  We are fighting to maintain our excellence against those who might equate “public” with mediocrity, against those who have lost faith in the need for higher education to serve as an engine of social mobility, and against those who no longer believe that university-based inquiry and research have the power to shape our society and economy for the better.  What we are engaged in here is a fundamental defense of the concept of the public university, a concept that we must reinvent in order to preserve.

Berkeley draws strength from its faculty, staff, and students that are second to none – doing excellent and innovative work in research, teaching, and public service.  We rely on a tradition of shared governance with the faculty that will be the basis for the decisions we make and the changes we implement in the months and years ahead.  Even now, we plan to do what we have always done at Berkeley: lead the way, and continue to serve as a beacon for the state, the nation, and the world. Fiat Lux.