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Education

UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry spared

Realignment of the college is no longer on the table for dealing with campus’s structural deficit

by Celia Henry Arnaud
March 31, 2016

Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Realignment of UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry is no longer being considered for budget fix.

A petition to block dissolving the College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, has had the desired effect.

On March 25, Douglas S. Clark, dean of Berkeley’s College of Chemistry, informed the college community that realignment of the college was no longer under consideration as a way to address the university’s campus-wide budget woes.

The possibility of disbanding the college became widely known on Feb. 24 when Jonathan F. (Jo) Melville, a senior undergraduate, posted a petition to Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks on the Change.org website, asking Dirks not to shutter the college and fold parts of it into the College of Letters & Science and College of Engineering.

In Clark’s letter to the community last week, he wrote, “I am certain that the outpouring of support from the CoC [College of Chemistry] community was crucial in persuading campus that the unique structure of the College of Chemistry is integral to its worldwide reputation, to the outstanding productivity of its renowned faculty, and to its strength as a fundraising and revenue-generating enterprise.”

That outpouring of support included more than 4,500 signatures on the Change.org petition; letters from the college’s five living Nobel laureate alumni and four of its National Medal of Science recipients; and e-mails, calls, and letters from numerous alumni and colleagues.

“I’m incredibly humbled by the immense support we gathered in such a short amount of time, and every day I feel privileged to work and learn here,” Melville says. “The overwhelming influx of communication from students, faculty, and alumni just goes to show the incredible support that the College of Chemistry has across the world, and the unique place it holds in the chemistry community.”

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Comments
Robert E. Buntrock (April 1, 2016 3:15 PM)
Thanks goodness wisdom prevailed.
Herb Skovronek, (April 6, 2016 5:34 PM)
What is the history of the original plan to move Chemistry into another College? I wonder why Chemistry was selected. Is Chemistry showing a decline in enrollment; are graduates having problems finding jobs; has some University bureaucrat decided that Chemistry has too high a liability, etc.? Does anyone have factual info on the reasoning?
Celia Arnaud (April 11, 2016 7:24 AM)
The issue was that Chemistry and Chemical Engineering are the only departments in their own freestanding college, so they have the administrative structure of a college for only two departments. The college itself is very successful, both academically and in terms of fundraising. The underlying problem is the UC Berkeley is facing a persistent structural budget deficit caused by state disinvestment. This was just one of many options being considered to deal with that deficit.
Vince Calder (April 8, 2016 6:40 PM)
It is reaffirming to read that Professor Dirks et.al. In the UC Berkeley administration showed some modicum of wisdom in ditching the proposed dissolution of the College of Chemistry. That such a dumb mindless proposal could have even made it "to the table" is a warning that anything bad is possible without vigilance. For generations the College of Chemistry has been one of the flagship Colleges of U. C. Berkeley. Since 1900 to 2000 researchers in that College have about 30 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry. The academic progeny of G. N. Lewis, and others, catapulted the College of Chemistry U.C. Berkeley into center stage of chemical research. My concern is that Professor Dirk and the money changers in the University have no grasp of how a University works. It is not a business model, which recent events seem to support.

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