Something happening here

The faculty senate meeting passed all four resolutions en bloc about 10:1,  336-34. The resolutions are here, here, here, and here. This morning, specific language of no confidence in the administration was removed from one of the resolutions by its sponsors so it wouldn’t appear to be a demand for resignation.

I think the attendance, 370 recorded as voting, was a record, about a quarter of the faculty.  One could think the other two thirds would have voted no, but one would then probably also believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and be bidding for a bridge I am offering, [email me off-line on that].  It was not a good day for Chancellor Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Breslauer, or  Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande.  I recall an observation by Mark, possibly here, that more people are fired by their subordinates than by their bosses. That would be a fair characterization of the event; “no-confidence” language or not, it’s hard to imagine a more complete rejection of this team’s leadership, including their attempts to justify their decisions post facto.  They may go on doing executive things and drawing pay for a while, but they will be doing it with nothing but the trappings of formal authority. Let us hope they at least understand this no longer includes the authority to sic armored police on students.

The meeting put itself into committee of the whole for an hour, after the resolutions were moved as a group, to allow discussion without having to fuss about Robert’s Rules, with another hour afterwards for voting and amending.  The first 25 minutes of the discussion hour was granted to the three above-named to address the group; then they left. Not one clap.  I interpret not staying for the meeting as some combination of cowardice or a constructive resignation, or maybe both. It was extremely painful to watch, worse because this plan was announced by the chair with the insulting justification that it would “allow us to speak freely,” – do they think we don’t dare say what we think in front of them?  Really: they acted out, in front of everyone, their worst management habit, which is to talk instead of listening, and not ever visibly go into input mode or engage with the people who nominally work for them.  Which, I guess, explains how they could so completely misread the mood of their troops. Someone mentioned that Birgeneau has lunch with a dozen faculty every month, which would have him encounter each of us every fifteen years. I don’t know who does the talking at those lunches.

A couple of dozen speakers lined up at the microphones for two-minute remarks, each to applause, and to my real surprise, not a single person spoke against the resolutions. No-one wanted to debate them formally or offer amendments: the issue was obviously settled already in all important respects. After the vote, there was another on whether to have a mail (web) ballot, which was defeated 216-165.  Perhaps this should have gone the other way, but I have the sense that the no’s were not trying to protect the formal outcome of the meeting from being diluted or overturned (see fairy, tooth above), but just felt the message was so clear already, and the whole exercise so painful and embarrassing, that there was simply no point in bothering people who didn’t care enough to show up, or had to be in class.

Now we’re effectively rudderless.  It will be interesting to see if there’s a way for the faculty to take on some authority. (A promising ray of sunshine: mirabile dictu, I was buttonholed by the chair of the Committee on Teaching, who had come upon this post and asked if I wanted to chat with the committee about things they could do beyond choosing the annual teaching award winners.)

Or we can just wait for Zeusdof to throw a new log in our pond.  I don’t think we will sit still for a stork now, at least I hope not.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

4 thoughts on “Something happening here”

  1. The “Not one clap”, which you mention followed the Chancellor’s speech, was made apparent by the major clapping that followed the speech by the student who is president of the Graduate Assembly.

    Overall, I was impressed by the fact that dominant leadership among the faculty came from women.

    In addition, I was at the regents’ meeting yesterday morning; and was impressed by the quality of students’ Public Comment speeches.

    Maybe the lack of official leadership is not a bad thing.


  2. @ Michael O’Hare,

    I think it remains to be seen whether the vicious gumming he received from the toothless sheep of the Berkeley faculty will cause Chancellor Birgeneau to find new respect for his flock. Probably was not a pleasant day for him but overall I guess that viewed the removal of the “no confidence” language as a significant victory and he went home feeling that he’d faced down the faculty and was past the worst of the crisis. Obviously, I wasn’t there and I actually do hope your interpretation of events proves correct but I have my doubts.

  3. Hmm. Good thing the UCs still have plenty of money to give lawyers and administrators big raises. Though in fairness, Drown, the chief campus counsel, is going to be busy handling all the lawsuits from beaten and pepper-sprayed students, so maybe he deserves a big raise.

    “The regents also approved salary raises for 10 administrators and managers, including a 9.9 percent increase for Meredith Michaels, vice chancellor of planning and budget at UC Irvine, whose annual salary will increase to $247,275 from $225,000.

    Six campus attorneys also received salary increases. The largest increase, 21.9 percent, went to Steven A. Drown, chief campus counsel and associate general counsel at UC Davis. His yearly salary will rise to $250,000 from $205,045.

    Mark G. Yudof, the university system president and a regent, said the raises were necessary to attract and retain talented employees.”

    Source: The Bay Citizen (

  4. “…….specific language of no confidence in the administration was removed from one of the resolutions by its sponsors so it wouldn’t appear to be a demand for resignation.”

    What a bunch castrati.

    “Now we’re effectively rudderless. It will be interesting to see if there’s a way for the faculty to take on some authority. ”

    Michael, my ragging on you about your criticism of OWS is being justified with every post you make.

    Did you not just notice that the faculty abdicated authority, at a perfect time to seize some?

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