Skip to main content

Reorganizing Berkeley (with emphasis on CNR)

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | February 15, 2016

Rumors have been circling for some time about an imminent reorganization of the Berkeley campus structure. Our tenuous financial situation coupled with the widely held perception that our current state is constraining us from reaching our full potential, suggest that this may be an opportune time for change. In the last 30+ years I have been on campus, I have heard numerous proposals for such organizational changes but now, it looks as though they might happen. Yet change is a double-edged sword that has to be introduced thoughtfully, especially in a complex and volatile place like Berkeley, where there is much to lose.

If we consider a major change, everything needs to be on the table. The design of the process must require careful planning and even more careful execution. Even though time might be of the essence, the process should not be rushed and the design must be flexible and adaptive. The administration and the Senate surely will utilize all of the formal procedures for change, but they will need to develop mechanisms that will assure transparency and inclusiveness in the decision-making process. The Berkeley Blog provides a forum for the campus to express opinions and to start a dialogue, and I believe that the discussion on reorganization should be open, hence this post.

The objective of the reorganization is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the campus so we can get more out of the resources we have, and increase our resource base so that Berkeley can enhance its education, research and outreach programs on solid financial footing. The design of the reorganization is very challenging, as it needs to be accepted by a diverse array of stakeholders and respect the rights of myriad groups. I present below some ideas that may be useful in the discussion of the structural redesign.

Because of the scale of the campus, much of the management has to be done in smaller units, which are the colleges and the schools. Every faculty member is expected to engage in research, teaching and public service, and the teaching should include both undergraduate and graduate courses.

To me, the Berkeley structure is asymmetric. We have the mammoth College of Letters and Sciences, and several mid-sized colleges (Engineering, Business, Natural Resources), all having their own undergraduate, masters and PhD programs. Then there are many smaller professional schools that mostly emphasize a professional masters degree.

It seems to me that colleges that offer undergraduates, masters and PhD programs with ~200 faculty members can be large enough to take advantage of economics of scale in administration, development and infrastructure, but small enough to retain a distinct identity that may appeal to students and donors. Each of these colleges should have its own undergraduate (at least upper division courses), masters and PhD programs[1]. A key part of this initiative is to include the professional schools as de facto departments within a few colleges (so they can keep their distinction of the ‘School of XYZ’).

My proposals

Here are of my proposals: The first is an obvious one, at least to me. Berkeley should have a College of Media and Information that includes the Schools of Information, Journalism, and a new department of New Media that will address the content and art of cinematography, TV, games and social media. Berkeley already has an undergraduate major in New Media, with very few permanent faculty assigned, but rather faculty that study issues related to media.

I think that there are incredible opportunities for collaboration between the new department of New Media, and the Department of Information and Journalism. I am sure that some faculty from the Colleges of Letters and Science, Engineering and Business would be interested in a joint appointment. I believe that with the right leadership, Berkeley, with our proximity to Pixar and Silicon Valley, will be able to attract the right external support, as this can be an area of growth for the campus that will be more than able to pay for itself.

Second, a College of Health, Education and Policy (CHEP). This college may include the Schools of Public Health, Social Welfare, Education, Optometry, and perhaps even Public Policy. These are all professional schools in related areas; together they can produce a much stronger undergraduate program and, in the long run, strengthen their PhD programs. Since the School of Public Policy has strong emphases on issues on health and educational welfare, its collaboration with the other schools within this college can be very fruitful. But obviously, the School of Public Policy must continue to address other issues like environment and national security, so the new colleges must not be closed silos, but rather, open structures that interact with other units on campus.

Now I come to my college: the College of Natural Resources. It originated from the schools of agriculture and forestry, and includes biologists, agriculturalists, economists, and ecologists. One way forward is to form a new School of life sciences and the environment – uniting CNR with the biology units in the College of Letters and Science.

Despite not having a hospital, Berkeley is a powerhouse in the life sciences and its prestige is growing, especially with the discovery of gene editing by Jennifer Doudna, the recent Nobel Prize awarded to Randy Schekman and centers such as the Energy Biosciences Institute. There are economics of scale and opportunities to provide better integrated education and research by bringing all of the biological departments under one roof. Or perhaps it is even better to establish a College of Biology (CB), which includes the biologists in L&S and CNR, and a separate college, which I would call the College of Sustainable Development (CSD)[2]. This college would include all of the non-biology CNR faculty, for example soil scientists, foresters, social scientists, and some ecologists in ESPM as well as the Department of Agricultural Economics and Management, the Energy and Resources Group, the School of Environmental Design (SED)[3], and other units interested in environment and international development.

The CSD would bring together all the units working on land issues in agriculture, forestry and the urban sector – scholars who work on parks, sustainable cities and agriculture in both developed and developing countries. It would serve as a center for research on climate change, biodiversity, food systems, alternative energy, land use, and urban design. It will combine both conceptual and data-driven modeling with behavioral sciences. Having a college like this one would be appealing to many donors and we could expand significantly many professional masters’ programs, such as the Master of Development Practice.

CNR is the link to Berkeley’s history and mission as a land-grant university, especially with its commitment to address issues of agriculture, natural resources, and the environment and extend knowledge to practitioners. Whatever the new configuration of CNR, Berkeley should not only maintain, but also expand its cooperative extension program. Berkeley is a state university with a global reach. Berkeley should aim to establish a global extension program to complement its research and education in the many areas of sustainable development. Such an expansion shouldn’t draw on existing resources, but can attract new sources of funds.

I don’t cover the rest of campus, but I’d like to emphasize that a key point in this design is that different colleges would have significant collaboration between them. For example, CSD would work very closely with CB and CHEP, as well as with its counterparts in the departments of Chemistry, Geography, Economics, Political Science, etc.

Each college will have its own educational and research programs but there will be significant cross-campus collaboration. I see colleges, and especially its departments, as the home base to faculty and alumni, but recognize that much of the action will be across college boundaries. Such a framework will demand an administrative structure able to support movement and communication between units and allow for the creation of partnerships to emerge.

In this light, common facilities and programs include the new campus in Richmond and an integrated lower division program will allow the colleges to specialize in their strengths while collaborating with other units to produce valuable joint research, teaching, and outreach.

It is clear that the reorganization of UC Berkeley is forthcoming. Our financial crisis presents us with the opportunity to grow and position ourselves for the 21st century – and in turn make larger contributions to California, the US, and the rest of the world.

[1] It is worthwhile to consider the idea to have one major undergraduate college that will be responsible for the education of freshmen and sophomore students with multiple tracks (Engineering, Life Sciences, Humanities, etc.) and the individual colleges would manage the upper division undergraduate teaching, and their faculty will serve the undergraduate division. I am unsure of the feasibility and viability of this plan, as it depends on the design and execution, but it is worthwhile to consider.

[2] Another possibility is to name it the College of Natural Resources and the Environment (and perhaps Development) to maintain the CNR connection. I believe that sustainable development is preferable because it can integrate both the environment and development programs together and it will project a new beginning and integration between programs that study the urban, rural, and wilderness settings.

[3] The SED includes the departments of city and regional planning, architecture and landscape architecture.

Comments to “Reorganizing Berkeley (with emphasis on CNR)

  1. Post 3
    My next proposal is about Mostly Lower Division courses that are used by most students at Cal sometime in their career at Cal
    University studies Division would have four departments. The first department would be Lower division Seminars. The second department would be Directed study. The third department would be Honors program Dean list requires Major GPA of 3.3+. The Chancellor’s list requires a total GPA of at least 3.3 and major GPA of at least 3.5. The Honors Thesis requires a total GPA of at least 3.5 and Major GPA of at least 3.7. The freshman honors program requires Top 5% of instate students and 3 or more SAT 2s with cumulative score of at least 1800.
    The fourth department would be Lower division studies. The Department of Foreign Languages would have Foreign Languages 1-4 and Lower div FL Courses. The Department of Reading and Composition would have all courses from Departments with at least 3 sections per term. The Calculus 1,10,16 series and Statistics 1,2,20,21 would be in this department. This department would offer all Lower division liberal Arts Science.
    My proposals 9-17 are Focused Schools and Colleges, which will separate L&S and College of Chemistry
    So they could fundraise better and have their own Alumni groups. They could choose use L&S requirements or create their own graduation requirement structure

    School of Art will have a college and a Conservatory, The College of Fine arts would have these courses and majors: Film, Studio Art and Creative Writing. The Conservatory of performing Arts will have Departments of Dance, and Music And Theater.
    School of Area studies would have a single stand-alone department and six colleges. The Department of African Studies will have all the African language and history and cultural Courses. The College of American studies will have four Departments and a single division. The Departments would be American studies, American History, American Literature and American Politics. The Division would be American Ethnic studies (African-American, Asian -American, Chicano, Native American). College of Asian Studies will have Departments of East Asian South/South East Asian, Central Asian Departments and Courses. College of Germanic Culture and Languages would have All Germanic, excluding English, Modern language and history and cultural Courses. College of Jewish Studies will have all Judaic Studies Courses. College of Latin American Studies: will have all of Latin American Courses. College of Romance Culture and languages: All French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish Modern language and history and cultural Courses All related Centers and Research Units will also be located in the School
    School of Economics and Finance: Environmental Economics ,Economics and Accounting and Finance Courses from Haas
    School of Health science would three divisions and several stand- alone departments. The first division would be Immunology, Infectious diseases and Vaccinology. The second division would be Epidemiology and Biostatistics. The third division would be Human Biology and Public Health Biology. The departments would be Dietetics, Environmental Health Sciences and Kinesiology and Food systems. All related Centers and Research units.
    College of Chemistry will have these two programs: Chemistry BS and Chemistry BA
    College of Cognitive studies: Psychology, Applied Linguistics, Linguistics, Cognitive Science, and Education Psychology from the School of Education
    College of Physical science will have these departments: Geology, Geophysics, BA Computer science, Physics, physical Geography, Astronomy, Astrophysics .
    College of Pre-Modern studies:
    The Department of Ancient and medieval History and Languages will have all the Ancient and Medieval language and history Courses. The Department of Archeology and Ancient Art history will have all the Archeology and Ancient Art history Courses. The Department of Classics and Near Eastern Studies: will have all the Classical and Near Eastern Studies Cultural courses
    Department of Mythology and Folklore will receive All mythology and folklore Courses
    Department of Renaissance and Early modern Studies will receive All Renaissance and Early modern Courses. The attached Centers and Research units

  2. Post 2:
    My proposals 1-3 are based off of Dr. Zilberman’s Proposals in his blog post
    CNR would receive Oceanography, Earth Environmental Science, Atmospheric Sciences.
    CBS would receive Anthropological Biology, Biopsychology, Neuropsychology.
    CHEP would receive Developmental psychology and Educational Psychology courses.

    My next proposals are about present Professional schools:
    School of Education: They would control K-12 outreach. All present courses and programs except Education Psychology would stay in the School.
    Educational Psychology moves to College of Cognitive Studies.
    School of Education would have these two divisions and a stand-alone department. The department of Applied English would have College writing, ESL/ESP courses and all public speaking courses.
    In the Pre-secondary Division, there would be two majors: Early Childhood-Birth to 2nd Grade and Elementary- 3rd to 6th grade. Secondary Education division would be divided in to three Departments. The First would have four majors Biology, physical science Education, Technology and math.
    The second would be Art education with three majors: Drama, Music and Studio Art.
    The third would be Liberal arts education: English, French, History, Mandarin, Social Science and Spanish

    Haas School of Business would receive Industrial Psychology
    Berkeley Law (Boalt) would receive Legal studies Department, Major and courses
    School of Journalism receives Media studies Major, Department and courses

  3. I’m a liberal arts grad from UCB. My main proposals for L&S and some of the Professional Schools are list below. There would be 4 new schools. A college can be a part of a larger School or an Independent entity. College of Letters would be likely be one of the largest of schools and Colleges, as the College of Letters and Science is today. Some of my proposals are extensions of Dr. Zilberman’s proposals in the above post. All Schools except Health Sciences and Area Studies could be spun off to be separate Campuses that include All courses in the same fields from UCB, UCD, SF State, SJ State, CSU-East Bay, Sacramento State.

    There will be at least three posts.

    Note 1: One reason that L&S is so large is that the Education School has no undergraduate Majors. This means students who want to be English teachers have to be an English major than apply to Grad school or Elementary school teachers are Psychology Majors.

    Note 2: All Stem fields and urban design will be a BS. Haas will be a BBA. All fine arts would be BFA Both Architecture and Landscape Architecture would be a B.Arch. All ED Majors would be a B.ED Every other Major would be a BA.

    Note 3: Simplify the Breadth requirements: Science’s and PS; SBS: HS and SBS, and add Data science Breadth. Get rid of AC and PV, UD writing requirement, UD course out of major for L&S, Area Studies, Cognitive studies majors: 3 courses of at least 3 units. PV and AL breadth would become AV and LP Requirements

    Note 4: Computers will schedule the lectures for students with Lower division intensive majors (20 or more units of LD work required).

    Note 5: College’s naming Rights could be given to Philanthropists after donating at 100 Million dollars to support that College’s administrative not educational costs.

    Note 6: When a freshman has a declared major, they will have priority in lower division classes for that major if there are any impacted classes. All Students have to finish R1AB by the time they have 45 unit earned in residence. Unless students are from small school (under 800), the assumption if they didn’t take 3rd year Foreign language or 4th year math they struggled in the previous course, they would not be required to Foreign language and/or math at Cal.

  4. To achieve “Reimagining UC” as the LA Times editorial title recommends, we must focus first and foremost on what we must do to accomplish this goal. First we must choose criteria for what we want to accomplish at UC, like protecting and perpetuating the survival of the human race.

    Three of the greatest threats against humanity today are global warming, violence and inequalities. These must be among the highest priority threats we must overcome. UC has many resources already dedicated but they are not united. Maybe one campus can be dedicated to the goal of protecting and perpetuating the survival of the human race.

    Since the power of money has repeatedly placed the human race in gravest jeopardy throughout history, we must make every effort to focus on achieving character elements like Truth and Morality that Socrates got into so much trouble over, elements which still remain marginalized at the highest leadership levels of our civilization today, as documented 24/7 in current presidential campaign news reports.

    Since the global warming clock is racing against us, as out of control climate changes suggest, maybe journalists should constantly inform, educate and motivate the general population to demand what is needed.

    We had better find a better way with the greatest sense of urgency, because politicians and intellectuals are wasting too much of the time that is rapidly running out doing business as usual with no thought whatsoever to perpetuating an acceptable quality of life into the long-future for our newest generations.

  5. I strongly agree with the thrust of everything that David says. Most importantly “everything must be on the table”. An inclusive, transparent process is likely to produce a result that enhances impact and efficiency in teaching, research and outreach.

    As I am not a faculty member I am not in a position to advocate any specifics…. for example the integration of all components of Biology and CNR. At the same time I have a hard time understanding what the benefits would be of placing any combination under the umbrella of L&S. What would be gained? Their powerful identities would be sublimated which would certainly not help on the fundraising side and it pales as a concept compared to some of the expansive concepts David raises.

    There is clearly an increasing realization that a multidisciplinary focus is essential in addressing such wicked problems such as climate change. Perhaps a reorg presents an opportunity to evaluate whether our current academic structure is optimal. It would seem that joint appointments is a also a tool that could be leveraged as part of this effort.

  6. The suggestions of Professor Zilberman have merit, particularly those ideas for reorganization that would enable the faculty, staff and students of CNR and other units to work better together. The reorganization at UC Berkeley, as Professor Zilberman pointed out, will require careful planning, transparency, thoughtfulness, and skill. As UC Berkeley works on a redesign of the University, I hope this is an opportunity to consider changes that not only result in greater efficiency and savings, but to better situate the University to help solve both current and future challenges in California and the world.

    A few years ago Stanford University led a fascinating design exercise asking students, faculty, and staff to imagine Stanford in the year 2025, and what emerged were compelling concepts like an Open Loop University that embraces lifelong learning, as well as Purpose Learning where students declare missions instead of majors. Whether all of these ideas are viable or will even be considered remains to be seen, but what I appreciated was Stanford’s boldness in crafting a new, even radical vision, rather than confine itself to how things have always been done. Let’s hope that those involved in the decision-making process can find their vision for this University.

  7. When “Reorganizing Berkeley” you might consider the following reality check. In 2007, John Brockman published an annual Edge question: “What Are You Optimistic About?”

    I bought a copy and have been using it as one of my most important reference books ever since, but it is now almost 10 years later and things keep getting worse and more out of control because we keep proving that optimism is a belief that is all too easily destroyed by greed.

    We keep proving that politicians and intellectuals are no longer capable of overcoming destruction of our way of life by the power of money. One root cause for this reality was provided to us by President Eisenhower in his 1961 Farewell Address to the Nation:

    “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.”

    Thus our capacity to solve civilization destroying problems is all too easily overwhelmed by greed. Truth, honor, integrity and morality are too easily overlooked for the sake of money and none of our institutions have been able to save us from the number one biological limitation of the human brain that prevents us from producing and perpetuating an acceptable long-term quality of life for our newest and all future generations.

    So the worst case scenario consequences we are being destroyed by today include global warming, violence and inequalities.

    This month alone we have been continuously overwhelmed by 24/7 news reports documenting Presidential campaign rhetoric that is doing absolutely nothing to save the human race, indeed, it is hastening our decline and fall by emphasizing superstition, prejudice and greed that the majority of humans succumb to far too easily. Lincoln didn’t foresee our 21st century gullibility of the human race when he said: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” Our politicians and oligarchs today have proven Lincoln to be tragically wrong.

    Thus our number one root cause of failure is that we no longer produce leaders like FDR and Churchill that we will allow to save our civilization one more time.

    Can you consider this reality check during your Berkeley reorganization?

  8. I am a current CNR undergrad studying Conservation and Resource Studies (one of two true interdisciplinary majors at Cal) and was formerly in Letters and Sciences and have heard rumors of the merging of CNR and L&S. The two colleges are very different in terms of advising, resources, and even just the structural environment.

    The L&S advising building is like a doctor’s waiting room compared to the warm coziness of CNR’s advising space in Mulford Hall. This really isn’t fair to students and we should all have access to a comfortable space and an available advisor.

    I think that changing around the colleges as Professor Zilberman suggests could be a very smart and beneficial move if done correctly. It would be awesome if the campus was more interdisciplinary and if we had more opportunity to take classes in different colleges and departments.

    I think CNR works so well and is able to provide its student with such great advising and resources because of its size. Merging L&S and CNR wouldn’t be the right move in reorganization. It would create too big of a school and Cal students would be lost.

    • Thanks for your comment, Emily. One option that seems to be on the table is that CNR will become a division of L&S. Personally, I think that it is better to have a few, strong independent colleges, where CNR can be either a part of a School of Life Sciences and the Environment or a School of Sustainable Development, rather than having a behemoth L&S where schools cannot pursue a unique identity, nurture relationships with a network of supporters, friends, and alumni, and build an element of intimacy and familiarity that are essential for commitment.

      I see some merit in building a college for lower-division courses that will challenge first- and second-year undergraduates, but for me it is best that departments that are a part of distinct colleges will be in charge of upper division courses, Master’s programs, and PhD programs.

      You may ask: how do you improve the financial situation of campus if we want to keep some semblance of the current structure of CNR? There are many ways to do this. We can increase educational offerings through professionals programs, master’s degree programs, and continuous training programs, and make Berkeley really committed to the idea of life-long learning.

      From my modest experience with the Master of Development Practice, I know there is a lot of demand for education from Berkeley, and we can expand our staff with adjunct professors and professionals so that the overall burden on our research faculty will not increase. It is also encouraging that students and faculty are aware of the current situation, and realize that we have to work together to sustain Berkeley as the world-class gem it is.

      I see reorganization as an opportunity to introduce more logic, reduce costs, and most importantly develop a launching pad for growth.

  9. Okay, interesting exercise, but I can’t help think there is more at stake here than simply moving things around. At some point – like now – we may no longer be able to avoid a more fundamental analysis of what is the right scope of instruction and research given our new funding paradigm. Understandably this is not a task the faculty want to undertake, but the alternative is to have the new model imposed by others.

  10. Being an outsider to UC Berkeley, I see the merits of merging CNR with the biology units. This will create a school similar to Wageningen University (where I am know) or the TUM School of Life Sciences Weihenstephan (where I had been before). Both places are very stimulating interdisciplinary research environments.

    I expect that UC Berkeley will benefit from such a move and increase its international competitiveness. It will be interesting to observe from the outside what and how it is going to happen. Maybe, David, I should not invite you too often to Europe. You get too many good ideas – just kidding!

    Good luck! Justus

  11. The focus on greed as the highest motivation by our political and intellectual leaders keeps proving that our cognitive capabilities are not really evolved enough beyond those of chimpanzees for the human race to survive.

    You might want figure out how to overcome our worst case failure mode first.

  12. The only words that I hear from the administration is money and money. I do not hear academic improvement as this blog suggests. Money means fewer people and larger units.

  13. David, I have read with interest your post and ideas on UC Berkeley restructuring. This is a major task indeed. I would hope for a strong, multidisciplinary groups in environmental engineering and urban ecology at Berkeley and elsewhere. I will try to follow. All the best, Adrian

  14. I like 99% of the schema. Master’s of Development Practice should be, as suggested, in the bio-sustainability group, as it is the major unaddressed aspect of developing economies. Developmental economics that knows little of environmentally sustainable practice forfeits a major organizing principle in resolving cultural, religious, and political conflict.

  15. Current events worldwide keep proving daily that the human race is failing to perpetuate itself and all of our institutions are failing to meet the challenges of change that are destroying our civilization. We must find a better way with the greatest sense of urgency if we are going to overcome global warming, violence and inequalities that are destroying all opportunities for our survival.

  16. Really interesting ideas, David, and I definitely see the benefits to this type of reorganization. I am curious as to why you think the Master’s of Development Practice would be best within a College of Sustainable Development that is mostly environmentally focused, as opposed to within your proposed College of Health, Education and Policy?

    International development is such a broad field, but at its root, is it about environmental sustainability or addressing harmful political and economic systems? Obviously that is a tough question and I think we would likely have different answers. Another way to look at it would be to focus on the skills that development practitioners need and ask if they are more likely to be developed by being surrounded by scientists or by policy analysts. I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Comments are closed.