Birgeneau's Post Made Official

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UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau used his official inauguration Friday to once again call on UC officials to prioritize diversity on campus, cementing inclusion as one of the ninth chancellor's top goals.

More than 1,500 UC officials, faculty, delegates from other universities and alumni packed into Zellerbach Hall for the two-hour event, which fell on the campus's annual Charter Day celebrations.

Birgeneau spoke adamantly on the necessity of an inclusive atmosphere, citing the plummet in underrepresented minorities on campus since the state's 1997 ban on using affirmative action in the admissions process.

"I fear inclusion is greatly threatened. Minority representation in the Cal student body has been dropping since the passage of Proposition 209," he said. "The situation for African Americans is truly at the crisis point."

Since arriving on campus in September, Birgeneau has focused on minority enrollment by reviving diversity research and publicly addressing inclusion numerous times, including a recent Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times.

"(The people of California) do not see what I see every day on campus, that an effort at nondiscrimination has resulted in creating an environment that many students of color see as explicitly discriminatory," he said.

Birgeneau's inaugural speech was his latest move in his effort to publicize the issue, which he said threatens "the soul of this institution."

But before the audience could even file into the auditorium to hear Birgeneau's "call to action," attendees faced a delay just before the 2 p.m. ceremony, when FBI officials informed UC Police Department that there had been a bomb threat.

UCPD Lt. Douglas Wing said the police conducted multiple searches of Zellerbach Hall before the ceremony started, delaying the celebration about 30 minutes.

The ceremony was still nearly full despite the threat.

ASUC President Misha Leybovich spoke highly of the new chancellor, but said he felt overwhelmed addressing all of Birgeneau's distinguished guests in the "Harry Potter" robes.

"We all know he only came to California because hockey season was cancelled this year," Leybovich joked about the Toronto native.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Gray and Vice Chancellor for University Affairs Donald McQuade helped Birgeneau remove his Yale hood, which he received when he earned his doctorate degree there, and don the chancellor's elaborate blue and gold robe. UC President Robert Dynes joked that it took 100 years of combined education to change the gown properly.

Former Chancellor Robert Berdahl welcomed Birgeneau to the position and said the challenges a chancellor faces cannot be fully understood by someone outside of the position.

"Chancellors share a very strong common bond. However lonely you feel," he said to Birgeneau, "you can be assured those whom you follow stand in full support of you, confident of your ability to lead."

Dynes, who officially inaugurated Birgeneau, also voiced his support.

"The best is still in front of us, and Bob Birgeneau is the guy to help us get us closer to that," he said.


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