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Surveying with concern and alarm the continuing erosion in the landscape of higher education in California and beyond, the deans of the graduate and professional schools at Berkeley got together and concluded that something had to be done. What they came up with was a series of four events to explore aspects of the large and complex problems, under the banner Campus Forum on the Future of Public Universities, with thoughts from individuals with perspective on how the difficulties came about, and feedback from anyone who cared to ask questions.

Each of the four parts has a lengthy title, but at the two events held so far, the talk has been blunt and plain, and the tone has been ominous but hopeful.

The first gathering, in Pauley Ballroom on October 25 — shortly before the Occupy Cal protests — was labelled “Social Inequality and Social Opportunity.” The speakers there were Angela Glover Blackwell, a Berkeley Law alumna who is founder and CEO of the national research and action institute PolicyLink; Robert Reich, public policy professor here and former U.S. Secretary of Labor; and journalist Peter Schrag, a former editor and columnist for the Sacramento Bee.

The second event, held in Wheeler Auditorium, had a larger cast and a slightly longer title, “Taxation, Citizenship, Protest, and the Future of UC.” Its panel consisted of two students, both charged with representing the student voice on the University’s governing board (current student regent Alfredo Mireles, who graduated from Berkeley as an undergrad and is now a grad student at UCSF, and incoming student regent Jonathan Stein, a Cal law and public policy grad student); two Berkeley professors (Catherine Cole of the Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies department, and Henry Brady, who teaches public policy and is dean of the Goldman School), plus one former university president (biologist Donald Kennedy, who headed Stanford for a dozen years from 1980 to 1992).

In his November message to students, Graduate Dean Andrew Szeri commented on the first forum and commended the remaining three as useful in forming, and acting on, perspective on the major and long-term issues facing the University and society.

The first two fora were covered by the campus NewsCenter (see links above).  Full video coverage is also available on YouTube.

The remaining events will cover the economics of higher education (early February in Pauley Ballroom) and the public character of public universities (early April, also in Pauley Ballroom).

More information on the series is available on the forum website.

These events are endorsed by The Offices of the Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor & ProvostThe Academic SenateThe Associated Students of the University of California,The Berkeley Staff Assembly and The Graduate Assembly.