Campus Conversations: Oliver O’Reilly and Amma Sarkodee-Adoo


– Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Dan Mogulof from the Campus Office of Public Affairs. And today we have two unique guests. After two years of meeting
campus administrators, we’re gonna meet the folks
who really run the university. (audience laughing) That’s not a joke. With me today is Amma Sarkodee-Adoo, who is the president of the ASUC. She’s a fourth year
political science student, minoring in English and public policy. The daughter of Ghanaian? – Ghanaian. – Ghanaian, Ghanaian immigrants. Amma grew up in Glendale,
Arizona, where she lived until she moved to Berkeley for college. As a Cal student, Amma’s been a member of the Alpha Phi Sorority and a board member for Berkeley’s chapter of the National Organization for Women. She also has been working at
the Berkeley City Council. That must be fun.
(Amma laughs) Since her freshman year,
where she has developed her love of policy and civic engagement. As ASUC president, Amma hopes to represent the interests of all students on issues such as campus climate, safety and administrative accountability, while supporting the most vulnerable through basic needs security and diversity and equity initiatives. After graduation. she hopes to pursue organizing and campaign management. Oliver O’Reilly, immediately
to my right here, is the chair of the Academic Senate, is a professor of mechanical engineering for this academic year. Well, it’s repeating, sorry, I forgot to read the second sentence.
(Oliver laughs) Serving as chair of the
Berkeley Academic Senate. Oliver grew up in Ireland, and went to graduate school at Cornell. After a two-year postdoc in Zurich, he started as a faculty
member at Cal in 1992. He counts himself to be very fortunate because he thoroughly enjoys teaching in the area of dynamics and continuum to Cal students. You’ll have to explain
what that means later. And being able to blend his teaching and research interests. He has published several textbooks, all of which are freely
available to students. Does that mean without charge? – Yep.
– Cool. And has had the good fortune to receive several teaching awards,
including the campus’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1999. As chair of the Senate this year, his priorities include capital projects, improving the relations between faculty and other groups on campus, and helping to organize the yearlong 2020 celebration of 150
years of Berkeley women. Off campus, he enjoys rowing
and long-distance cycling, supporting Ireland’s rugby
teams and Cal athletics, and traveling back to Ireland to hang out with his mother. (audience murmuring) Did she tell you to write that? – No, she’s a hoot. (audience laughing) I highly recommend hanging
out with my mother. (audience laughing) – So just to get started, first, Oscar, tell us a little bit about what you hope to achieve in the role and sort of what’s on
your plate right now, or on the Senate’s plate that are your priorities, and sort of objectives for the year. And Amma, after that, I’ll
ask you the same thing. – So I think I would say the main priority on the Senate right now is capital projects, and making sure that the approval of the process by which capital projects are approved and vetted on campus is transparent, but is also expedited because of the seismic results that we’ve just learned, especially about Evans Hall. 2,700 students use Evans Hall every day, and so finding, decanting Evans Hall for the faculty, staff
and students that use it, buildings new buildings,
new classroom buildings to accommodate all the
stakeholders on campus is, I think, a major priority. So I think the seismic results have just really crystallized this idea that capital projects, and also the capital campaign,
’cause we need money, are just really priorities. And I also want the Senate to contribute in a positive way to this. I don’t want the Senate
to always be the people on the outside who are going,
“No, we don’t like that, “I don’t like losing my parking.” Or, “Yeah, I don’t mind if these people “lose their parking,
I want my department.” I really would like us to get away from that dialogue and
to contribute positively. – [Dan] And how’s that working out so far? – I’m working on it. (laughs) (audience laughing) It’s a joy. (laughs) – [Dan] Okay. – But I’m in the College
of Engineering, as well. I’ve been very fortunate that I served as Barbara Spackman’s vice chair, so I learned a lot about just managing. And then the Upper Hearst controversy, however you really wanna call it. – [Dan] That’s a good word. – Yeah, that has helped me see a bigger picture of campus, and especially how
different groups of people on campus communicate
in very different ways, some of whom are not very effective at communicating to some
audiences and vice versa. – [Dan] Good, a lotta stuff we’ll get into in just a little bit. Amma, for yourself, what’s on the agenda? What’s your priorities and objective? What do they look like? – I think our priorities are mostly shaped by what feels like the
most pressing issues to students right now. A big one for us is basic needs security, with so much of our student body being housing insecure or food insecure. So we’re trying to
combat issues like that. Diversity, equity and
inclusion is a big one for us because of the campus demographics are something that can
feel really alienating to a lot of students, so making sure we’re providing support for students from underrepresented minorities. Academic resources. Just kind of figuring out how to bridge the gap between different campus partners, like administration and the student body, and reflect the concerns
of students at large. I think one thing I noticed is that I’m really lucky to be in a lot of the spaces that I’m in, and most students don’t get to have that. So kind of just echoing what I’m hearing are the day-to-day problems from students, and helping to amplify those voices to administration. – So both of you touched
on a similar subject. Actually, before I go
on, just for those of you who joined us late, if you have questions, as they come up for you during the course of the conversation, jot ’em down on the index card that are on your seat. Hold ’em up, somebody will collect ’em. Anyway, back to what I was saying. Both of you brought up a similar subject, which is sort of your relationship, the relationship of each of the bodies that you represent, ASUC and the Senate, to the administration. And I’ve seen in my time here that there’s sort of an ebb and flow between confrontation and cooperation. What do you aspire to and where do you think things stand right now? Amma, let me begin to you. The relationship of the ASUC, what would you like to see and where do you think things
actually are right now? – I honestly am feeling really hopeful because I think one thing that’s distinct about this year is what we’re saying as our priorities are also the priorities that we’re hearing from administration, possibly, probably because these problems are so pressing and so apparent. So when we bring something
to administrators, most of the time what we’re hearing is, “We’re thinking the same thing. “What are your ideas
for how to combat that?” So I think that puts us in one of the best places that
I’ve seen in my time here, in terms of actually
getting things done because everyone just wants to see
these problems combated. – [Dan] Was that a surprise
to you when you came, after coming into office? – Not necessarily a surprise. I think one thing, we’re always a little wary of each other, I think. Administrators can be a
little wary of students because we’re pretty aggressive sometimes. And then likewise, we can be
pretty wary of administrators. A lot of the times, we see them as kinda like a brick wall where we can’t get things done, or like a black box where we don’t really know what’s going on. So I think I personally
might have underestimated the transparency and the collaboration that I’ve received. So I was a little bit hesitant coming into this role, but I’ve been super pleasantly surprised about how much everyone’s
willing to work with us and how much everyone wants to see the same things get done. – [Dan] And how do things
look from Stephens Hall? – I think actually fairly very similar. I think Paul Alivisatos, it’s his third year as the provost. You can see that, like,
he’s evolved into the role. Carol has used all her experience being a president at Smith, being a former provost here, being a provost here again, and just having a very
broad vision of the campus. So it’s actually been a
pleasure working with them. They’ve come to speak at the Senate anytime we’ve asked them. I also think the new
athletics director is terrific and is very open to getting more faculty involvement
with student athletes and with the athletics
program at Berkeley. I see it as a lot of positives. I would second what Amma said, yeah. – So I’m gonna step back for a second and talk about how you see the role that each of your
organizations or bodies plays because shared governance is something you hear a lot in the
context of the university. You don’t ever hear that
in the corporate world, very rarely, at least. And just that you were talking before, about you’re the academic Senate, but your top priority
are capital projects, and that’s not an intuitive connection. So what do you think when
you step back a little bit? What is the role of the Senate and how do you see shared
governance on campus? – So I see shared governance
as the responsibility of the faculty to request transparency and accountability from
the administration. We’re also responsible for admissions, courses of instruction,
merits and promotions. We’re advisory on those. But our goal, our mission
as the Academic Senate is to provide advice
to the administration, and to expect that
advice will be respected. On the flip side, I think faculty need to understand that shared governance is a responsibility, it’s a privilege and a responsibility. And if you go to other campuses, they don’t have that privilege. You don’t have the privilege where your merit case gets forwarded to various committees
and then gets decided by your peers, and their recommendation is forwarded to the chancellor. And it will take a lot
for the chancellor to say, “No, I really disagree with this.” In other campuses, the
dean can pretty much decide that they don’t like you, and that’s it. – Wait, wait, sorry to interrupt, but are you saying that the
level of shared governance on the Berkeley campus is different than other UC campuses? – [Oliver] No, not on other UCs. – Not on other UCs, but compared to other universities around the country? – Compared to other universities, the Senate at Berkeley
is the most powerful in the country. – [Dan] Wow.
– Yeah. But, I mean, that’s taken a lotta work, and it only really started in 1919. People call it the Berkeley– – [Dan] Seems like yesterday to me. – Yeah.
(audience laughing) We’re not that old. (audience laughing) But it basically started in 1919, where Ide Wheeler was the president, and he wasn’t doing very well, so they replaced him with three deans. The regents replaced him with three deans, which is a disaster. The faculty revolted. And then in 1919, 1920, the regents gave the Senate, the faculty Senate, all these powers on
courses of instruction, admissions, merits and promotion, and that changed the whole
landscape of Berkeley. – [Dan] Wow. – And if you look at Berkeley’s trajectory after that, it really started to go up. Like, Berkeley in the 1950s and ’60s, I mean, it was like Nobel
Prizes almost every year. And also faculty knowing that they have a say in their career and that other faculty have a say in their promotion, that that’s fair, is very valuable. You don’t feel you’re
at the mercy of a chair that doesn’t like you or a dean that doesn’t like you. You feel you’re getting a fair shot. Like when you come to Berkeley, you get a tenured faculty
position, it’s there for you. It’s not like other schools, where they hire five people
as an assistant professor and maybe two of them will get tenure. There isn’t that sense at Berkeley. The sense of Berkeley is
that we want you to succeed and we’re here to help you succeed, and that’s fantastic. – [Dan] Amma, what about you? I know slightly, obviously,
the shared governance and what’s actually provided for in terms of policies
is somewhat different, but how do you see the ASUC’s role insofar as sort of the governance and the operations of
the campus are concerned? – Yeah, I think one
thing that is super weird about our student government that not a lotta people know is– – [Dan] Did you say weird?
– Weird. – Weird.
– It’s weird. I think we might be the only student government in the
country that’s like this. We are our own separate
501(c)(3) nonprofit. We’re not under a school’s
division of Student Affairs. So technically, our Senate is our board of trustees. I act as effective CEO. So when we come to the table, I think we’re almost more like a union in the sense that I can’t really, besides me, as a student, I can kind of be instructed, but the chancellor can’t really tell me what to do, I can’t tell her what to do. So we kind of are like negotiating in a more shared governance way than a student government that’s funded by their university, but also, I guess, controlled in the
more direct sense than we are. We’re funded independently through the business of the student union and then through our
own separate investment. So it’s a way different system than a lot of schools have. And I think that kinda lets us feel more like partners, but it also makes us really, really conscious of maintaining that autonomy and how to best utilize it. I think that’s sometimes why we’re a bit louder and more aggressive than other school student governments is because we pride ourselves so much on being an independent body. But it definitely just
changes the way we function. – [Dan] But why is that important? How does the university benefit from the obvious independence that the ASUC has, in your opinion? – I think it sometimes allows us to act as an accountability mechanism, more than student governments
at other schools can because we don’t necessarily have that deference to, I guess, a higher body. And it kind of also makes
us feel more represented, more inclined to be
representative of students because they’re technically the ones holding us accountable. Yeah, that’s our accountability mechanism, that’s who feels like
who is in charge of us. Our boss is just the student body. So our first priority is reflecting their concerns, and not necessarily what we’re being told to do. – So speaking of that representativeness, I’ve heard from other students some complaints about the ASUC in the past, not this year, about, take, for example, the fact that it takes, what is it, 500
votes to become a senator with a undergraduate
student body of 32,000, and the extent to which certain students have felt that sometimes the issues, and the ASUC’s engagement
in issues that extend well beyond campus, is an indication that the ASUC sort of has its
eyes on the wrong prizes. So what’s your response to that, to students who express concern about the extent to which the ASUC is really broadly representative and that has sort of its eye on priorities that students share? – I think those are kinda two questions. – [Dan] They are. – And I think as far as the
representation issue goes, it’s hard because we do, that small quota is important because our senators are endorsed a
lotta time by communities. So, like, for example, the
black community senator would never get elected
if quota was higher because they’re trying to get elected by a population that’s about 1.9% of the student body. I think 1% of the student
body is black undergraduates is the most recent stat I’ve heard. I don’t know if that’s 100% true. But it’s so hard because you’re trying to make sure a lot of those smaller communities’ voices get heard, which is a really hard thing to do when you want to hear everyone’s
issues and priorities. But I think the claim that we sometimes have our eyes on things that are far from this campus is fair, but I also think we do a really, we’ve historically done a bad job of translating the things we do to effect day-to-day student life to the student body, so that’s something I’m really concerned about is the way we communicate with the
people that we serve, how we let them know what we’re
actually doing day to day. ‘Cause some of those smaller policies just kinda get swept under the rug or we focus on some of the bigger, more controversial things. And I think that’s also just
how press tends to work. The things that we do that are really out of the box are the ones that end up front page of Daily Cal or front page of– – [Dan] Give me an example. – Oh, shoot. (Dan and Amma laugh) – [Dan] You can think about it. – I’m trying to think of a crazy one. This isn’t even an us example, but if you know the city of Berkeley, the thing where they changed manholes to maintenance holes because manholes has a gendered connotation. And that ended up on
Fox News, national news in a matter of hours. And it kind of gives you the impression that that’s the only thing that Berkeley City Council is
working on, and it’s not. There’s a lot of really valuable work. Not that that’s not valuable, but there’s a lot of
really keenly felt work that doesn’t get as much press coverage, but when those are the
things that blow up, it makes you feel like, it makes the average person feel like maybe they’re not being served. So we’re trying to work on translating our work better to students. That’s a big concern of mine. We’re working really
closely with Daily Cal to try and make sure we’re
getting our work out there. We’re all trying to be more active on social media ’cause that’s a big one. And it’s a work in progress. – [Dan] So, Oscar, in terms of the Senate, it interesting, the ASUC, you guys meet every week, right? Every week there’s a
story in The Daily Cal, usually, covering every meeting. And the Senate seems a little more opaque. The meetings aren’t as frequent and a lotta the work that I know that goes on isn’t as evident. – [Oliver] Right. – So kinda open the
doors a little bit for us about where do you think
faculty are right now, after a few tough years, in terms of sort of what’s the sense of the Senate about
where the university is and where it needs to go and what its primary challenges are? And the extent to which
you feel the Senate is representative of 1,500 faculty when at many meetings,
there may be a hundred, 150 faculty who show up. Two separate questions for you, as well. – Thank you. So the Senate has 27 standing committees, which is a phenomenal number. And then we have maybe
three to 400 members of the faculty are active members. So the Division Council,
which is the main group, we meet every two weeks. And then there’s a meeting in Oakland of the Academic Council,
which is the council for the entire system, so I go to that every two weeks, as well. So it seems like there’s
a lot of meetings. There’s a lot of engagement. I think faculty are concerned
about resources, actually. It’s just the last few years of these budget squeezes just, I think it’s been really challenging. The number of resources for teaching, for teaching assistants, seems lower. It’s certainly lower than it was when I first started here 27 years ago. So there are fewer resources. We have to be more careful
about our resources. And I think there’s a feeling like, hey, we need to get some more money into the system because there’s a lot of people with fantastic ideas, and we need resources to help those ideas come to life. So that’s my– – [Dan] Sorry, go ahead. – My take on the Senate is that we feel like there needs
to be more resources for public education. And some of that is, I
think, the campus itself has done a phenomenal
job balancing the budget, having to make some really hard decisions. I think there’s not a
department on the campus that hasn’t felt the effects of this, even ones that people
consider to be wealthy. I mean, the number of masters programs, self-supported degree programs that have exploded on campus in part is because all of these schools feel like we need more money. And this is a way of getting more money, getting more resources for our program and keeping our program competitive with all these other schools. So I think I would say resources. But I also think if you look at Berkeley and you look at all the
other public schools across the nation, funding
for public universities fell off a cliff in 2008. – [Dan] Right. – Berkeley’s reputation has allowed it to keep going a little bit
better than other schools, but I think we still need
to somehow figure out how to get the public, more
support from the public and more support from our politicians for public education. – So, Amma, how does the resource issue look from the student perspective? The campus line for a long time has been that throughout the tough years, that it was doing everything it could to protect what it
called the academic core. What’s your sense about where we are right now in terms of resources and the extent to which the campus has successfully protected that core? – I think we definitely feel it in the academic sphere. I think we feel it most strongly when it comes to housing. The percentage of students that are housed is about, I wanna say 27, but. Most students aren’t able
to get on-campus housing. And I think sometimes for us, it feels like academics is, like, that’s way down the line. We just wanna have a place to live. We wanna make sure our students are eating and things like that. And those are the areas that we feel a smaller budget most strongly. But we definitely feel
it in larger class sizes. I think the percentage of lecturers out of total faculty
is about 43% right now. And so that’s something we notice, too, because I know lecturers aren’t necessarily receiving the same level of compensation. And so we definitely sense that the budget is smaller, and we feel it in the academic sphere, as well. But those basic needs
questions are, I think, the first thing that comes
to mind for students. – So I wanna just touch on another issue, and we’ll turn to some questions that have come in from
folks in the audience. One of the things I’m reading a lot about, I know the chancellor
is talking a lot about and around the country they’re talking, and that’s the mental health crisis on campuses across the country. What do you see from
a student perspective? Is this something that’s been ginned up by the media or is
something really serious and significant happening that we need to pay attention to? And do you have any thoughts about what might be behind it, if it is something real and significant? – The thing about the mental health crisis is that it’s so hard to
assess in your own generation because my generation’s all I really know. But I definitely do feel
like it’s so prevalent amongst myself and my peers. And I think a big driver of it is just that same sense of insecurity. I keep going back to that same basic needs questions, but
that plays into it a lot. Students are anxious because they don’t necessarily know,
’cause they’re struggling both now and feel a sense that they’ll be struggling in the future to even just provide for themselves. The academic pressure
is huge, a huge factor. And also just the
competitiveness of Berkeley, which I think is something that makes this campus unique and great is how driven all the students here are, but also can be so toxic
to the individual student in feeling content in what you’re doing and being in a place that’s healthy, like mentally and emotionally, and caring for your wellness in that way. Because for a lot of us, it just ends up feeling there’s this mentality of you need to survive, not thrive. You just need to do what you’re doing, get your degree, get the best internship, the best job and then get out. And I don’t necessarily think that that’s what the college
experience should be. – [Dan] Oscar, Oliver. It has been pointed out to me that I’ve called him Oscar twice.
(audience laughing) I started this a few weeks ago. I have no idea, it’s like I’m an idiot. You’ve been behind the
lectern for a while. What are you seeing? Have there been changes? Are they substantive and significant, and do you have a sense of what might be driving them, if they are? – So I have a teenage daughter. And in her generation, I’m noticing it. So compared to what I was growing up, it’s certainly, it’s a totally, there is a mental health crisis, I think. So when I first started teaching here, you would get maybe two or three students in a class of 60 or 70 who just wouldn’t show up to the final exam, and you really had no idea why they stopped coming to class or why they didn’t come to the exam. Now you see students, and I don’t know if this is me or the
student or what factors are involved, they will come to you before the final and say, “Look, I have “a mental health issue. “Can you accommodate me?” So in some senses, the positive is that people are talking about this now. There’s much more of an acceptance of mental health and
talking about mental health and accommodating students
and trying to help people. So from my perspective of just seeing more people coming and talking to me when they do have problems, that has certainly gone up. Whether that’s because I’m older, I have no idea, but I do notice that if you look at the teenagers now, mental health and
teenagers is a big issue. Those students are going
to come to college, and it’s challenging. And I don’t think
anybody really knows why. Is it because you all have way more data now? Like when I was going to college, you just hear anecdotally, “Oh, this person in this class did, like, “this amazing job on an exam.” Now you hear about it, “Oh, this person “in this college and this
person in this college “and this person in this.” It’s this massive wealth of qualitative and quantitative data that
can seem overwhelming. And just in terms of sheer processing all of that data on a day-to-day basis. Like even for most of us last week, for me last week, Wednesday and Thursday of last week when all
the stuff was going on in Washington, it was just, I felt, like, completely overwhelmed by the news. And I can imagine that if you’re a student and you’re hearing all of this data about grades and distributions
and the curve this, the curve that, what
the old exams were like, that maybe it’s a bit
too much information, and maybe that’s not very helpful. – [Dan] What else has
changed in the classroom during your time as a professor? – The demographics of the students. – [Dan] Meaning? – So you look out at the students now and you see Latina, Latino, you see Asian, white, African American. You see this swath of colors that’s just completely different. It feels a lot more diverse here. There’s a lot more emphasis on being fair and transparent in your teaching. Behaviors that used to be acceptable when I started off here,
like shouting at students and telling them they were stupid, is just not acceptable, anyway. (audience laughing) And it’s not just that
it’s not acceptable, people will call people out for that, which is really the way it should be. So I think the campus has, I feel, in my classrooms, the campus
has become more diverse. I think there’s more an awareness of the human in the classroom. There’s still a long way to go. But every journey has a beginning, yeah. – Amma, I’m betting, based
on your initial comments, that the improved
diversity notwithstanding, that, indeed, we do have a long way to go. What’s the case that you make? I mean, how do you see the undergraduate diversity
initiative that was announced and how do you make the case for undergraduate diversity, for example? Why is that something that’s important? – I think on one hand, just factually, we’re a public school and
we should be educating the population of California. Not that we shouldn’t have students, I’m an out-of-state student, and not that out-of-state and international students
don’t enrich our campus. They do, and I absolutely think we all belong here, but I think that the population of the school
should be more reflective of the population of
the state of California demographically, and it’s not. It’s so distant from what the state of California looks like. And then on the other
hand, there’s also the idea that not having a diverse student body, diverse faculty, diverse administrators, it makes it harder for the students that are here from underrepresented
minorities to succeed. It’s hard to succeed when you don’t have professors that look like you or when you don’t have advisors that share your experiences to talk to when you’re going to Tang
and people don’t necessarily, or when the mental health services you’re seeking, people
don’t necessarily understand your background or your experiences. And so I think it’s kind of a, it reinforces things because in addition to just admissions and population, retention of underrepresented minorities is such an issue. Underrepresented minority
groups are always the first to go on academic probation and the first to leave. And so when you have more students to be mentors and to be in community with each other, it kind of helps create a culture where students
from every background can succeed here, can graduate here, can feel at home here and
contribute to this campus. – We got a, while you were answering that question, Oliver, a question came in from the audience. How does the Senate plan to address issues of equity and inclusion for underrepresented minorities on campus? – Well, so there’s a taskforce being set up right now, and the Senate is gonna
actively participate in that. That’s probably one of
the best things we can do. I think the other thing we can do is to just basically
be positive proponents for the campus and help the campus. Better classrooms, better facilities and help the campus with that. And also be more conscious of our roles as teachers and our influence, and the fact that, yeah,
there are a lot of students in our classrooms that don’t relate to us. Our background is so different and we need to be aware of that. – Got it. Another question from the
audience for you, Amma. What are effective ways to get feedback from students on proposals or initiatives, the best way to hear their perspectives? And by their, I’m assuming this person means beyond the elected folks who are in the Senate and the executive. – Well, first of all, we meet Wednesday evenings at 7:30. Feel free to come by. (laughs) Come hang out with us. But I think one thing that’s really nice about the Senate and the endorsement model I mentioned earlier is we have 20 senators and each of them represents a fundamentally different space on campus. Like, for example, I was first elected as a senator to represent
the Greek community, and I had never met about 17 of the other people in my Senate class before we got involved with that space. Just because this campus does feel very much like it’s kinda split into different community sectors, and so you function in
your own little bubble, and everyone else is functioning in their own little bubble. And then you don’t necessarily
interact with each other. But it also means that when the 20 people who are elected by all those different niche areas on campus come together, they act as a really broad representation of the student body. And talking to those 20 people kind of feels like you’re talking to a small little sample size of the whole campus. And they also have pretty big networks that they can spread information to. So I think we act as
a pretty good resource to getting things out to
the student body at large. I might be overplaying
our (laughs) influence just by being in it, but I think that’s one really helpful way. – Got it. I hate to interject my own personal or professional interests here, but we find it incredibly difficult to communicate with students. I mean, it suggests that emails are rarely opened. Do you have a secret for that? Or do you also find yourself challenged and frustrated in terms of reaching 32,000 or more of your peers? – Oh, it’s definitely hard. I think part of that surviving, not thriving mentality is that your first
priority when you’re here, for a lot of students, is yourself and just I’m trying to
do well in my classes, graduate, look out for
myself and my friends, and that’s kinda it. I don’t really wanna be involved or I’m not gonna answer your survey, basically, is a lot of
students’ mentality. (Amma and Dan laughing) And so it’s hard. And it’s fair because
it’s really challenging being here, but I think we try to be intentional about
reaching out to students and emphasizing why it’s
important to participate in things, that your voice matters. And even though it might feel like you’re just doing a courtesy in providing your input on this little policy or this little thing, those voices, in connection with each other, really can make a difference. So I think just emphasizing the impact is a really effective way of overcoming that barrier. But it’s a challenge for all of us. And it’s hard because in our roles and in most roles of students involved in some kind of advocacy position or some kind of outside thing, we’re also students, and
I think we forget that. That balance is really hard for us, for each of us to maintain. Sometimes I’m like, oh, my gosh, the emails are so scary. So many of ’em. And it’s a challenge for everyone, but we’re working on it. We’re working on our end, too. We’re trying to get better. (laughs) – If you crack that code,
let us know, would ya? So, Oliver, same person had
a question for you here. Are there ways the Senate can promote more diverse graduate
admissions and faculty hiring? And I wanna actually add something to the second part. I think the chancellor noted in one of her messages is while the student body turns over substantially and frequently, that’s not the case for faculty. So any objective to sort of create or have a more diverse faculty is gonna take a lotta time to play out. Do you think there’s a
way to accelerate that or compensate for it or promote that? Does the Senate have a role, too? – Yeah, so there’s a committee on equity and climate, which gathers data on diversity and equity for every faculty hired on campus. So when a department
hires a faculty member, they have to justify their selection based on the available talent pool. The pool of applicants has
to be sufficiently diverse and it has to pass muster
at various processes. I think every department understands the important of having a diverse faculty. But I think one of the issues is it’s just gonna take some time. Like, my department has hired four women in the last 10 years out of maybe 12 faculty hires, which is more than double the number of women in the department. And it’s fantastic and
everybody appreciates that and it’s wonderful and the
department wants to be. No one likes going to a conference where it’s 99% male. It feels like, wow, this is just, this field is just
really, the 21st century has just sorta left it in the dust. And similarly with the department. I mean, you want a
department that’s diverse, but it does take time because the faculty, when they’re hired, the first and most important thing is for them to get,
learn how to do teaching, learn how to do research, get grants. They’re almost like
invisible in many ways, and it’s only when you
become an associate professor or a full professor that you’ve time to sort of go out and
reach out to the community and you become more visible. But the beginning part of it, it is a slow process. I think it takes at least 20 years to do that properly. But I do think that a lotta progress has been made and a lot of things are just not acceptable anymore, which is really wonderful. – Got it. Amma, next question from
the audience is for you. And it says, asking you about whether you believe that, “Are
administrators aware “of the negative effects on students “as a result of reduced
staffing and capacity “at dining halls, like Crossroads, “and also from reduced library hours?” Are there any conversations about this? And I’m assuming they mean within the ASUC and within the Senate. What’s your sense about those two issues? – I know we have conversations about them, and it’s so hard with questions like that because so often we get to a point where it’s like we bring a concern and the answer is capacity-based
and not will-based. Like, it’s kind of– – [Dan] Not what based?
– Will-based. Will, it’s not like there’s not a will to fix the problem,
there’s just not capacity to fix the problem is what
we kind of hear sometimes. Both of those things are things that have been brought up
and we continue to bring up. Study space, I know, is a huge push for on-campus study space,
different library hours, but then also how that affects people who work in those study spaces and maintain those libraries. And it’s a really hard question between balancing the capacity of the administration, both financially and personnel-wise, versus the needs of a growing student body. I’m really hopeful about
changes that we’ll see as far as that goes in all areas, but in those areas, dining halls and study spaces. But I think that for so long, we’ve been in a position where we’ve been kind of playing, to my understanding, I’m not making the budget, but we’ve been playing defensive with the budget, and we can finally start tackling our problems head on with a
balanced budget, hopefully. So I think if there’s
a time for these things to be addressed, it’s now. (mumbles) – Let’s stick with
money here for a second. One of the things that
was pointed out recently, the chancellor met with The
Daily Cal editorial board and noted simply that, in fact, a balanced budget may
not necessarily portend sort of days of easy money, if only because, for example, we’re required to increase compensation by 3% every year so people who work here can keep pace with inflation. That, in and of itself, adds $50 million a year to the campus’s budget. There is an understandable opposition to tuition increases, kinda leaves us with the state. How active is the ASUC
involved in the state in terms of advocacy and
activism in Sacramento or with elected representatives? Or do you see another
way that the university can expand the extent to which, resources it can tap into? – Yeah, we actually have a whole position called the external
affairs vice president. And we’re really lucky this year because our external affairs vice president is also president of the
UC Student Association, which kind of links all of those offices across the UC system. So the majority, maybe not majority, but a good amount of their position is just lobbying, trying to get higher education funding. They were really adamant about pushing for the facilities bond
that was just signed. And so we’re pretty constantly plugged into that across all offices. We try to be involved with pushing for funding from the state because we know that’s the avenue we’re looking for. We don’t wanna see tuition raised and we don’t wanna see campus
cutting essential services. So that’s what we’re hoping for, is state funding, investment
in the public education from Sacramento, fingers crossed. – [Dan] Yeah.
– Yeah. – So in the context, so it seems the other thing that
you’re saying is that, and it’s understandable,
I just wanna confirm it, though, that sort of the ASUC’s opposition to any tuition increases
is pretty intractable and firm, leaving just the state as the sole solution. Do you think that’s correct? Because we do live in an environment where prices for everything else that we pay go up on an annual basis. But it seems like the
line on tuition’s been pretty firm and pretty
strong in recent years. – Yeah, it’s pretty
firm, and that has a lot to do with the fact
that our cost of living isn’t being adjusted. So our costs are also going up. Our housing costs are going up, especially with most students
not living on campus. Our access to food,
access to transportation. And so even when the tuition dollars that we’re being charged
from the university aren’t going up, the amount it costs to be a Berkeley student
is constantly increasing. – [Dan] Good point. – And maybe, in a way, that
almost feels like more, especially because we’re at the center of a housing crisis. – [Dan] Good point. Oscar, I did it again, Jesus Christ. (audience laughing) Oliver, sorry. In the Senate, in terms
of advocacy in Sacramento, it seems like maybe not quite so much as the students in the administration, or do I have that wrong? – No, because we’re not a 501. – [Dan] Got it. – And so, like the Alumni Association and ASUC are, so they can do things that we can’t. So the things we can do, there’s a search for a new president that’s gonna start happening, and we need to be very active in that because we need a president who’s going to argue for increased state funding for public education and be successful at it in Sacramento. Because the number of students on the Berkeley campus
has increased by 10,000 in the last decade, but
the amount of resources to support that has declined. And that has made the housing issue worse, as well. I think one of the important things the Senate needs to do this year is to make sure to do everything possible that the regents will select a president who will support and basically be successful in getting
more state support for the universities. On the other side, I think that, and I think this hasn’t
been figured out yet, but I think faculty need to figure out how we can advocate better to the public to support the university. We’re not a private, so we
can’t do certain things. We are a very prestigious
public university, but we don’t get enough funding, we don’t get enough
support from our alums, and we should be able to do that. So the question is why
aren’t we doing that? Why aren’t we achieving that? Is it because we come
across as being just, is it the image we have in the public? Is it how we reach out to people? What boat are we missing? – [Dan] Right. – I think we should start
asking those hard questions because I think there’s a lot of amazing faculty here who can advocate for the university and who are marvelous at reaching out to different communities, and we need their help. But we need to figure out how they can help us, as well. – So let me play devil’s
advocate a little bit. It’s a line, a pushback line that I think we’ve heard from politicians in the past. And very often when the
university is making a case for enhanced state support, there’s the idea of sort of
a bloated administration. We’re hearing less of that, if only because of the significant cuts in the size of the administration here on campus in recent years. And at times, we’ve also heard, “Your faculty are working
nine months a year “and they’re teaching a
couple of classes a week, “so why don’t you come back to us “once they’re actually
doing full-time jobs?” And I’m being devil’s advocate here. – [Oliver] Right. – What’s the response to that? ‘Cause it seems like there’s
a cultural disconnect between what’s happening here inside the campus walls and, at times, the public outside in
terms of understanding exactly how we roll. – Right. Most politicians spend a certain portion of their time in legislative session. So should we just support them for the times, the number of hours they spend in legislative session? No, because they’re out talking to their constituents,
they’re writing letters of support, they’re drafting bills. Well, faculty are writing
letters of support for students, preparing lectures, learning how to master the material so when they stand in front of 150 people, they don’t sound like an idiot. They’re dealing with
student conduct issues, maybe they’re writing letters of recommendations for students. They’re doing a lot of other
things outside of that. They’re writing maybe 10 or 15 proposals with a hit rate of one
in 10, if you’re lucky, with NSF and NIH. They’re trying to support
graduate students, they’re trying to mentor
graduate students. The job has a huge spectrum. But most of us, I think,
actually really enjoy our jobs. We love what we talk about and teach, so that really helps. So the one piece I think that we should be arguing about, and the one thing I think Berkeley has, Berkeley has become this sort of punching bag. What people don’t realize is that Berkeley has contributed
tremendously to the success of California and the
success of Silicon Valley. Like, most of the students in engineering, they go to work for Apple,
they go to work for Google, they do all the self-driving cars. I mean, one of the
alums from my department helped design your, most
of you have Apple Watches. They helped design the Apple Watch. The feedback mechanism on the face of it was designed by a Berkeley mechanical engineering student who has four degrees from Berkeley. All of these things
Berkeley has helped with. And I think we need to
push back a little bit and say, “You know,
we’ve done an awful lot “for this state. “We need more state support. “And you’re gonna benefit from it.” We’re one of the biggest
economies in the world, and Berkeley has played
a huge part in that, massive, and I think we need to sorta stand up for ourselves. And we also need to ask all those people who left here, who went to Silicon Valley and became very, made a lot of money, we need to ask them to help us again. And we need to say, “You know, you came, “you got an education, you went out “and you did a fantastic, “you’ve had fantastic success. “Please consider helping others “who are gonna come through
Berkeley in the same way, “who have needs, who have housing needs “that they need help with, “so they can be successful. “The challenges that
they face are different “than the ones you faced.” The state support when you were here, when I started, was 50%, now it’s 13. And most of our alums
don’t really know that. Yeah, they think it’s just a bunch of faculty who just, like, go to lecture for two or three hours a week and then we’re off playing golf somewhere. – [Dan] Or rugby. – Rugby, watching rugby, or going to hang out with our mother. (audience laughing) – Another question for ya, Oliver, from the audience here. Lecturers now teach
43% of classroom hours, but enjoy almost none of the privileges you’ve hailed, decision making power, job security, the ear
of the administration. They are also woefully underpaid. What obligation should
the Faculty Senate have to achieve some degree of equity for their lecturer colleagues? – I think the Senate
needs to argue that the, so the number of Unit 18 lecturers on campus is about a thousand. – [Dan] What did you call them? – Unit 18 lecturers. – [Dan] 18. – So lecturers, Unit 18 lecturers, are lecturers with security of employment or teaching professors. So it’s about a thousand. I think the amount that they’re paid to teach classes should be increased and should be improved dramatically. And I think faculty should
get behind that effort, the effort to support that. – [Dan] Is there resistance
within the faculty? – No, but part of it is that the negotiations are being done with the University of California system and the Unit 18 lecturers, and it’s almost a separate thing. But I think everybody realizes that Unit 18 lecturers need
to be paid more money. I think there’s no question that people don’t support that. – To chime in, I think– – [Dan] Please. – In my conversations with the union that represents non-Senate faculty, I know Academic Senate, I believe, or maybe independent members are writing a letter in support of the lecturers as they enter their negotiations. I think there’s definitely support from (mumbles) body, as well. – Yeah, there is support
for the lecturers, yeah. I can’t speak for everybody. There’s a consensus that we need to provide more support for education, and that includes better pay for the people who teach the classes, not just faculty. – So, Amma, a question for you. We’re staying within the dollars and cents realm here. How involved is the ASUC
with philanthropy efforts and external funding opportunities given rising costs and
potential tuition hikes? – That’s one thing that
is a big priority for me. For the first time, we’re writing into our bylaws that we wanna have a committee that’s in collaboration with the Department of Alumni Relations. And I think we actually have a meeting with them next week to find out how we can be involved. I think student voices
and student testimonies can be really inspiriting
to donors sometimes, so we’re hoping for that. But I think we also recognize how hard it is to rely on philanthropy as a sustainable funding mechanism, just because, for one
thing, so many projects are earmarked, or so many gifts are earmarked for a specific purpose. A lot of those purposes are amazing. Like, for example, we’re having transfer student-specific housing go on Oxford on University, and that was a donor project that was specifically for that purpose. But relying on that is hard because, like, one initiative funded a scholarship specifically for black students, but now that scholarship isn’t able to be continued to the degree it was originally started in because the project just
is running out of money. And so relying on donor dollars is just,
creates a really hard system where you can’t see the future and you can’t create sustainable programs. But it’s definitely an
avenue that we recognize is so valuable and we wanna be involved in any way we can. – So I wanna change the subject as we’re wrapping up
here just a little bit. So I’m always very wary of painting with a broad brush when it comes to our faculty or our students, but I think a decent
argument could be made that this community skews left on the political spectrum. – [Amma] That’s fair. – Without talking about politics, in particular about what’s happening today in Washington and electoral politics and all the rest, share
with us for a second your thoughts about the importance of diversity of perspective and how we ensure there is diversity of perspective, given
that sort of ideological, the broader ideological
context of higher education in general, and maybe
Berkeley in specific. Oliver, let me start with you on that. – Well, thanks for the easy question. (laughs) I think there needs to be more of an emphasis on listening, even when the person that’s, what you’re hearing is pretty, you just completely disagree with it. I think this needs to become the era of free listening. (audience laughing) That’s my. – [Dan] You think it’s
a serious challenge? I mean, do you think it’s something, is it a real issue for us, or is it? – Oh, I think it’s a huge issue. – [Dan] Why? – Because we’ve become so polarized. We’ve become so polarized. It’s like Rashomon. You look at the same scene with two people, and one person looks at a politician A on TV and if the politician is on one side, on their side, they completely agree with what they said. And then a person on the other side looks at what the
politician says and goes, oh, completely disagrees
with what they say. And it feels so skewed right now. I think it also happens
on the Berkeley campus, that we need to learn how
to listen to each other. And politics is like an
extreme version of it. The other version of it is with the Upper Hearst parking, that one group of faculty were very much against it, and the other group of faculty were entrenched in support of it. And having those two groups of faculty actually listen to each other and sort of try and
find some common ground in the middle was actually very difficult. And so I think that’s sort of a microcosm for this bigger picture. But I do think we need to learn how to listen to each other much better than we are right now. But I also think we’re in a very, our country is in a very fragile place. Yeah. – [Dan] Yeah. Amma, what do you? – I think I have a slightly different take in the sense that I think I know firsthand that speech isn’t benign, and the problem, I think, that a lot of us feel, and it
might be my perspective, it might not be shared, is that when speech isn’t benign, you enter into such a slippery slope. An example is I’m a senior now, so I was around for the Milo protests. And I know so many people felt like those protests, the concern about his presence on campus
was such a restriction of free speech, but
part of that was because at a previous campus, he had revealed the documentation status
of an undocumented student, and that’s something that
puts people in danger. I think so many of these speech issues, for example, when you see a lot of misogynistic rhetoric,
a lot of the time, that’s accompanied by sexual violence. When you see students on campus, some groups making mini border walls and saying, “Build the wall,” it conflicts with the ability of our
undocumented students to feel safe on this campus. It conflicts with their learning. It conflicts with their
presence on this campus. And I think it’s so
hard because speech is. I’m an English minor, I think speech is rarely just speech. I think that there would
be no point in talking if your words didn’t have power. So recognizing the impact
of different people’s words is really hard, and it’s a very hard line to draw in protecting people’s legal right to free speech, but
recognizing the impacts it has for different students, especially vulnerable students. – Last question, then we’ll wrap up. Do you think the ASUC has a role, as we’re sort of entering
political high seas and with presidential
elections not too far away, has a role in trying to help the campus navigate those shoals
that you’re describing? – Yeah, I think our job as a body is to be advocates for students. And I think part of what I see our job is and what I intend to do is pointing out those things that folks
might not understand about the way speech affects different marginalized groups on campus and the tangible effects of speech. I think that’s something that we have, as a body,
pointed out in the past and we intend to point out in the future because I think from
above, it can seem like a lot of what we do seems
like temper tantrums. And we have to be there to explain the real world, or the real tangible effects on students in their day-to-day lives. Like a group’s demonstration
that is an exercise of their free speech will make a student not feel safe getting to campus, and administrators might not know that, outside bodies might not know that. And so we are trying to convey that. – Yeah, both of your answers really impact the complexity of that question. Thanks for that. And before we wrap up, just a note that the next Campus Conversation
will be on October 15th, Tuesday, October 15th,
here at the usual hour, with David Robinson, the
chief campus counsel, which I promise will be
a really interesting one ’cause he’s got his fingers in every interesting, complicated
pot at this university. And I just really, on behalf of everyone, wanna thank Amma and Oliver for really a fascinating conversation.
(audience applauding) – Thank you.
– Thank you for having us.

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