UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, 66, announced Tuesday that once a successor is chosen to replace him, he will step down from his post.
The announcement arrived following months of mounting criticism of Dirk’s leadership and handling of several sexual harassment cases involving high-profile faculty, the alleged misuse of campus funds, and the school’s $150 million budget deficit (which resulted in the announcement of layoffs and protests in response).
In a letter he published on the UC Berkeley website Tuesday, Dirks wrote: “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.”
He added, “We need fresh approaches and new ideas as Berkeley forges a path to maintain its excellence, along with its full commitment to a public mission in the current funding environment.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, UC Berkeley President Janet Napolitano said she accepted Dirks’ resignation “with deep appreciation for Chancellor Dirks’ efforts on behalf of this great institution, its students, faculty, staff, alumni and the larger Berkeley community.”
Dirks, who has served at Berkeley since 2013, reportedly indicated to the Chronicle several months ago that he had intended to stay at the school for 10 years.
One of the incidents that sparked criticism against him was his lenient punishment for Law School Dean Sujit Choudhry, who only received only a temporary pay cut and was told to undergo counseling following sexual harassment claims. Choudhury resigned from his position in March, making him the second Berkeley law dean to leave the campus over sexual harassment claims since 2002.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a petition “signed by more than 45 distinguished professors, including former Academic Senate leaders, members of the National Academy of Sciences, department chairs and heads of research units” had been circulating the campus in recent months. However, Judith Butler, a professor of comparative literature, expressed concern to the Times that the signatories were just a “small group working in the summer” and questioned whether they “really represent the faculty” as a whole. She added, “I’m not convinced.”
The Times notes that Dirks had privately blamed his predecessors for leaving him with high costs, which resulted in fewer resources, and which in turn prompted him to ask nearly every department in the school to make budget cuts.
Dirks, who made $531,939 annually, will reportedly return to teaching at Berkeley as a full-time professor once a replacement has been found.
The Chronicle points out that his resignation announcement arrives “just one week after UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi resigned amid allegations that she had misused her office.” Napolitano said that Katehi “had exercised poor judgment and violated multiple university policies,” the Chronicle reports.
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