Since the pandemic began, Jeremy Geffen, director of Cal Performances, has been sending a weekly email to patrons, a playlist of half a dozen or so performing arts videos, entitled “Now, More Than Ever.” The title resonates. At a time of great crisis, like the one we are experiencing, we need the arts, to bring us moments of beauty, of profound reflection on the human condition, of heightened emotion captured in the symmetries of form.
Chancellor Carol T. Christ
Berkeley is blessed with a unique set of aspirations and responsibilities. We are the product of Abraham Lincoln’s vision for “people’s colleges”—an accessible system of public higher education for all, without regard to inherited privilege. We are an engine of socioeconomic mobility, a center of resistance to the status quo, an institution animated by a determination to make the world a better place. We strive for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The last literary essay I wrote was about dystopian fiction. At the time, in 2016, I had been struck by the publication, within the space of a few months, of a large number of novels offering visions of the future in which some catastrophe—climate change, natural disaster, financial collapse, a pandemic—destroys society as we know it, plunging humankind back into a nightmarish anti-Eden. I was curious about what such novels—written by authors who did not characteristically write science fiction—said about our current state of mind, our anxieties and fears.
Last month, we formally launched a comprehensive fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $6 billion for Berkeley—a historic target for any public university and one of the most ambitious in all of higher education.
The goals and aspirations for the campaign connect directly to the challenges and opportunities our University faces at a decisive moment in its life, at a time when our societal and academic role has never been more important.
It was just over ten years ago that the State of California cut funding for higher education as part of a financial retrenchment in response to the Great Recession. Ensuing tuition increases helped to partially close the resulting budgetary gap, but the financial foundations of the campus were weakened and there were legitimate fears regarding our ability to sustain Berkeley’s excellence. In that context, I am delighted to announce to the Cal community that, as of June 30, 2019, our operating budget is balanced.
As you read this, a new academic year is getting underway on the Berkeley campus. It’s a wonderful time of renewal and excitement; an excellent opportunity to reflect on the road we have recently traveled as well as the one that lies ahead.