Berkeley Chancellor Dirks Resigns After Mounting Criticism

(Photo: Youtube, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Youtube, Creative Commons)

Nicolas B. Dirks, the chancellor of the University of California – Berkeley, has resigned his post this week amid a slew of controversies. Allegations involving Dirks using Berkeley’s funds for personal use and his leniency in a sexual misconduct case have been major talking points for critics.

This isn’t the first time Dirks’ resignation has been called for, reports Teresa Watanabe for the LA Times. Several faculty members at Berkeley have been calling for votes to remove Dirks from office, most recently this fall.

“Over the summer I have come to the personal decision that the time is right for me to step aside and allow someone else to take up the financial and institutional challenges ahead of us,” Dirks’ said.

In response to criticisms over his sexual harassment leniency, Dirks instituted a reform plan expand and improve education, training, and services for victims – this on the heels of scandals, Christopher Mele of the New York Times reminds us, such as a law school dean receiving a temporary pay cut after forcefully touching a subordinate.

This is the second major change in leadership this month for the University of California system. The UC Davis chancellor also resigned this month after an outcry over an incident involving students being pepper sprayed by campus police.

“I do so with deep appreciation for Chancellor Dirks’ efforts on behalf of this great institution, its students, faculty, staff, alumni and the larger Berkeley community. We will immediately form a committee to begin a global search for a new chancellor, and Chancellor Dirks intends to stay on until a new successor is named and in place,” said Janet Napolitano, president of the UC system, after accepting Dirks’ resignation.

Berkeley is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s premier research universities. Dirks’ himself, Nick Anderson of the Washington Post discloses, is a historian and anthropologist with a focus on South Asia. Dirks plans to stay on as a teacher in these areas after stepping down as chancellor.

“There was just a complete collapse of faculty confidence in him almost across the board. There was a since he was ill-equipped to deal with the challenges, he was in over his head as CEO and he didn’t really get what Berkeley is all about,” says one UC source.

The criticism of Dirks encompassed more than the sexual harassment scandal, reports ABC News. Dirks spent $9,000 for an emergency exit and $700,000 for a security fence around his home to avoid protestors.

Not everyone in the university system was pushing for Dirks’ resignation. Judith Butler, a professor of comparative literature, believes that the small group that acted in the vote of no confidence to remove Dirks is not representative of the faculty.

Dirks has been in office as chancellor since 2013. He entered office promising to improve undergraduate education. This year Dirks committed $4 million to hire new instructors to better handle the higher student body numbers.

Despite these improvements and strong financial decisions, the call for Dirks to resign included a petition stating a loss of confidence in his leadershiip that was signed by over 45 members of the faculty.

Michael Burawoy, co-chairman of Berkeley faculty, said “There was a whole series of really bad steps which shows he’s cut himself off and is unresponsive to the campus community.”