New Chair to Focus on Inclusion, Equity Issues

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A $5 million gift to UC Berkeley will soon lead to the University of California's first multidisciplinary faculty chair aimed at studying equity and inclusion issues, campus officials announced yesterday.

The Robert D. Haas Chancellor's Chair in Equity and Inclusion is the first endowed faculty chair entirely under the chancellor's supervision, to be funded largely by a $3.5 million donation from the Levi Strauss Foundation.

An additional $1.5 million will come from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which donated a record-breaking $113 million last September towards founding 100 new UC Berkeley faculty chairs, said campus spokesperson Jose Rodriguez.

Altogether, the money for the new chair position will fund the chairholder's salary, support graduate students and promote equity and inclusion research in disciplines like political science, public health and education policy, Rodriguez said.

Gibor Basri, who became the campus' first vice-chancellor for equity and inclusion last year, will work with the eventual chairholder.

"I hope it'll act as a catalyst to move not just the chair forward but ... the general effort to increase the amount and quality of diversity research on campus," Basri said.

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau will ultimately be responsible for appointing the chairholder, who could come from on or off-campus, Rodriguez said. Birgeneau would also determine the length of the chairholder's term, possibly rotating different faculty members in and out.

Rodriguez said the new chair stems from the Berkeley Diversity Research Initiative, a cross-disciplinary faculty effort that began studying multicultural societies in 2005.

The new chair is named after Robert D. Haas, a 1964 UC Berkeley alumnus who stepped down as chairperson from Levi Strauss & Co. in December, said Theresa Fay-Bustillos, executive director of the Levi Strauss Foundation. Haas promoted equity practices in the workplace, leading the anti-racism initiative Project Change, which earned him an award from President Bill Clinton in 1998. Robert Haas is the grandson of Walter Haas Sr., for whom the Haas School of Business is named.

"We know that above all else, he was so proud of being a Cal grad and the university-we knew we had to do something that related to Cal," Fay-Bustillos said. "Bob ... focused his work on how do you create real change that happens today, not tomorrow."

Eric Brown, communications director for the Hewlett Foundation, said the new chair helps put UC Berkeley in a position to direct its intellectual resources toward social advancement.

"It's obviously an incredibly important goal, particularly in California, which has a diverse population and diverse student body," Brown said.

While the details of the new chair have yet to be finalized, Basri said he is looking forward to the results of what he called a "tremendous opportunity."

"(It) will hopefully act as a kind of nucleus for much more activity in this area," Basri said.


Stephanie M. Lee covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected]

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