|They look so nice but...|
San Francisco Chronicle, Nanette Asimov, 8-17-16
As UC Berkeley prepared to eliminate hundreds of jobs and take millions of dollars in loans to help balance its flagging budget, the campus also paid more than $200,000 to “improve the chancellor’s strategic profile nationally and internationally,” The Chronicle has learned.
The decision to pay outside consultants over the last year to burnish Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ global image is seen by some faculty as the latest in a series of missteps — including his kid-glove treatment of star employees who sexually harassed students and colleagues and his uneven handling of the campus’ $150 million budget deficit — that led to Dirks’ decision to step down.
The Chronicle broke the news Tuesday that Dirks, 66, will return to teaching next year. He is an India scholar.
It was in July 2015 that the campus hired Williamsworks, a Seattle consulting firm, to identify “fruitful domestic and international opportunities” for Dirks, such as TED talks, the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, and “elite media opportunities,” according to documents obtained by The Chronicle. The company would also provide “high-level staffing” at the events.
The yearlong contract called for UC Berkeley to spend $15,000 a month with Williamsworks and $8,250 a month with a subcontractor, Rosshirt. The companies agreed to “increase exposure and awareness” of Dirks’ vision for higher education, elevate the chancellor “as a key thought leader,” and “form key partnerships” so that potential donors would understand his philosophy. The efforts were part of a “branding strategy” for the campus.
According to the contract, “no in-house personnel could provide this high-level, networking, advisory, and strategic counseling service to the chancellor.”
A statement released by the campus in response to questions about the contract said no tuition or state funds paid for it. Campus officials could not say precisely where the money came from.
“Chancellor Dirks decided that the firm’s services were needed based on his assessment that the university would benefit if he were to have expanded access to and engagement with philanthropists around the world in order to increase philanthropic support for Berkeley,” the statement said.
It’s unclear what donations and speaking opportunities resulted from the arrangement. An Internet search shows that he spoke in May at the Milken Global Conference in Southern California.
Asked to comment on the contract, some faculty members declined, while others reacted with skepticism about the wisdom of the expenditure.
“I doubt he’ll last the year,” said Michael Burawoy, a sociology professor who co-chairs the Berkeley Faculty Association, a group of about 250 dues-paying faculty members.
Burawoy explained his prescient remark, made just days before Dirks submitted his resignation.
“Rather than engaging with the campus — talking to students, having town meetings, recruiting people into his cabinet who are trusted members of the campus — he sees himself flying around the world. He calls on people from the outside and barricades himself in his home,” Burawoy said, referring to the infamous $700,000 fence constructed around Dirks’ campus residence this year.
In May, Dirks narrowly avoided a vote of no confidence in his leadership at a meeting of the Faculty Senate, where several members expressed skepticism over his handling of campus crises.
Dirks’ decision to resign comes as a one-line petition to resurrect that vote has circulated in some faculty circles: “The Academic Senate of the Berkeley Division of the University of California has no confidence in the leadership of Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.”
Dirks became chancellor in June 2013, arriving from Columbia University, where he had served as executive vice president of arts and sciences. In July, the regents gave Dirks a $15,000 raise, increasing his pay 3 percent to $531,939.