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Letter from Berkeley’s Chancellor

Rebuilding and renewing the university’s infrastructure

December 1, 2022
by Chancellor Carol T. Christ
Image of the future The Gateway Coming Soon: The Gateway, future home to Computing, Data Science, and Society. (Weiss/Manfredi)

Our university’s return to the full range of in-person research, teaching, learning, and extracurricular activities has helped to confirm what we have long believed: All that we do, and all that we are, is supported and enhanced by the thousands of daily collaborations and interactions among members of our community. On our campus, there is now a heightened feeling of positive energy and unity of purpose arising from the simple, essential fact that we are back together. “Virtual” has its virtues, but, as the song goes, “There ain’t nothing like the real thing!”

My appreciation of these communal connections is consistent with the role our campus community plays in supporting and making manifest our institutional mission and values. It is a strong, supportive campus community that allows us to take intellectual risks, to continuously challenge the status quo, to learn from one another, and to thrive amidst an amazing diversity of interests, origins, and perspectives. 

Yet, there is another parallel truth that must be acknowledged: Now, as we work to rebuild and renew our community, we must also confront an attendant need to rebuild and renew Berkeley’s infrastructure. Simply put, our ability to recruit, enroll, and retain the very best faculty, students, and staff is dependent on the quality and capacity of our facilities, particularly insofar as the sciences are concerned—the disciplines at the very heart of our academic preeminence. 

The challenge is complex and comprehensive. We are the oldest campus in the University of California, and our student population has grown without a commensurate expansion in physical capacity. All told, we have identified $14.6 billion worth of capital needs, including more than $6.2 billion to address seismic safety in more than 200 buildings, at least $1.35 billion for urgently needed student housing, and nearly $1 billion for deferred maintenance.

Given that we have identified a funding strategy for less than $2.6 billion of that total, we have our work cut out for us—even as we make the most of the resources currently available. New student housing has come online, and more is on the way. We have set aside funds for the most urgently needed deferred maintenance even as we seek new approaches to funding that work. On the seismic front, we have already invested more than $1 billion to improve the safety of our buildings, and the campus is in the advanced stages of planning for three new replacement buildings, with a combined cost of nearly $740 million. And, with the help of a state grant, work is underway on the largest infrastructure renewal project in campus history, a new clean energy system that will reduce campus carbon emissions by 80 percent. 

I am particularly excited about two projects in the offing, made possible by generous philanthropy and made necessary by the needs of our scientific enterprise for new facilities that can support a strong collaborative community. In late September, we broke ground for the new Gateway academic building, the future home for the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society, and a building that will be purpose-built to support and facilitate the essential, multidisciplinary interactions and collaborations that are the stuff great science and powerful learning communities are made of.

We are also moving ahead with Heathcock Hall, a much-needed new home for our stellar College of Chemistry. There is perhaps no better example of how modern teaching and research facilities are essential to fully realize and sustain the capacity of this academic community and its global partners to expand knowledge and advance the greater good.

The intersection between the intangible benefits of a strong community, and the tangible contributions of a strong infrastructure, is perhaps best illuminated by how we are thinking about the needs and interests of our graduate students. Given their roles as GSIs and mentors, they serve as the vital bridge connecting research to teaching. Graduate students work alongside faculty to develop new knowledge through research, and in the front of classrooms to share knowledge and guidance with our undergraduates. It should come as no surprise that competition for the best graduate students is fierce, and recruitment and retention are all the more difficult if our facilities and financial support packages cannot compete. For this reason, we are prioritizing efforts to strengthen the financial support and supportive facilities that will keep Berkeley at the top of every grad student’s wish list. 

Our beautiful campus is a vessel filled with the extraordinary legacies and accomplishments of the past, the effervescent passion and purpose of the present day, and the enormous potential and promise of our university’s future. I am confident that, together, we can ensure that the quality of our built environment is commensurate with the quality of our community.

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