UC Berkeley Chancellor Announces Resignation Amid Criticism

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UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks speaks during a vigil in honor of Nicolas Leslie, a student killed in an attack in Nice, France, on July 18, 2016 at Sproul Plaza in Berkeley, California. (Credit: Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

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Embattled UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has announced his intent to resign after enduring months of escalating criticism surrounding his handling of a variety of issues facing one of the nation’s most prestigious public schools.

University of California President Janet Napolitano accepted the resignation “with deep appreciation for Chancellor Dirks’ efforts” and said he would remain at the helm of the school until a newly formed committee completes a global search to find a replacement.

While Dirks on Tuesday did not cite a specific reason for his resignation, saying only that “the time is right for me to step aside,” he had faced escalating dissatisfaction recently over his handling of campus sexual misconduct cases, some involving well-known faculty members.

Dirks, in the top job at UC Berkeley for just over three years, also battled persistent staff, faculty and student-body criticism regarding financial decision-making and budgetary shortfall issues.

His resignation comes on the cusp of a new school year and on the heels of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s resignation announcement just two weeks earlier. Katehi’s resignation came amid allegations that she misused her office and misled Napolitano’s office, in addition to the school community. Katehi’s resignation also came just prior to the assembly of a University of California Board of Regents meeting to determine her fate.

Though a relatively short tenure at the helm of UC Berkeley, Dirks’ stint there did not lack for both promises of change and admitted shortcomings.

Dirks basked in the success of record levels of fundraising the past two years, and noted in a statement released Tuesday that “we have made important progress, substantially reducing our deficit for the coming year.” Touting success in initiatives undertaken to strengthen the undergraduate education experience, Dirks referred to the chancellor position as the “opportunity of a lifetime.”

But for any focus on successes, Dirks faced plenty of criticism.

His handling of three high-profile sexual misconduct cases dogged Dirks for months. Noting that “we have begun to address growing concerns around sexual assault, violence and harassment on campus,” Dirks never seemed able to attain the community’s satisfaction in dealing with these issues.

In more recent weeks, Dirks faced outrage over a fence project being erected around the University House residence, begun under a predecessor, but the cost for which had swelled 2.5 times beyond its original budget to $699,000.

Dirks said he looked forward to joining the “distinguished faculty that was my primary reason for moving to Berkeley.”

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