Bobby B’s Welcome Back Letter (Abridged)

This week marks the start of the 2010-2011 school year at UC Berkeley. As a way to welcome back the stakeholders of Cal, Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau issued a riveting 2,200 word email to the campus community. This letter followed on the heels of a slightly more light-hearted welcome back letter recently penned by UC President Mark G. Yudof. You can find President Yudof’s letter here.

We here at the UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP) have long been ardent supporters of Chancellor Birgeneau (who we like to call Bobby B). Like all good patsies worthy of the name, Bobby never hesitates to do what his more ambitiously ruthless colleagues such as Provost George Breslauer tell him. UCMeP loves people who have the courage to refrain from rocking the boat even if it means compromising their integrity.

Despite our admiration of Chancellor Birgeneau’s unwavering ethos of inaction, we must say that Bobby’s lengthy welcome back letter was anything but efficient. Don’t get us wrong, the piece toes the UCMeP party line quite well and it masterfully leaves out the right amount of crucial information.

Yet there’s no denying the fact that the tome-like length of this e-mail was a bit excessive. UCMeP understands that students, faculty, and staff just don’t have the time to read  pages and pages of moderately inspiring claptrap like they used to. This has nothing to do with shortened attention spans or laziness. Trust us, students for one are more industrious than ever – they have to be, what with the multiple jobs many now juggle in order to finance the privilege of being a Golden Bear.

So in the spirit of efficiency, UCMeP has taken the liberty of producing an abridged version of Chancellor Birgeneau’s welcome back letter. Each paragraph has been pared down to its essential elements. Where necessary, we have added subtle bits of information to enhance readability. We do hope you enjoy.

Faithfully yours,


Chancellor Birgeneau’s Fall 2010 Welcome Message to the Campus Community (Abridged Version)

August 26, 2010

It my privilege to welcome back all students who can still afford to attend UC Berkeley. I’d like to give a less enthusiastic “Hi” to staff who have not (yet) been laid-off (or fired), and faculty who have not (yet) left Cal in search of greener pastures (cha-ching!).

We are serving lots of new customers (aka students) this year at Cal. But don’t you worry, our recently revised Cal Master Plan of reaching a student-to-building ratio of 7:1 by the year 2015 is still well within reach.

I am proud to say that the “over-enrollment of California students” at the University of California is steadily being reversed. Very soon only students with deep pockets hailing from outside California will be admitted into the University of California. It just makes sense – and dollars!

Unfortunately, there are still lots of people at Cal who don’t deserve to be here. These mostly include low-income and undocumented students who can’t afford to pay their fair share for a Berkeley degree. But we can all feel comforted by the fact that thanks to the masterful stewardship of the Regents and President Mark G. Yudof, Cal has made tremendous headway in pricing out potential students from middle-class families!

It is my pleasure to announce that every student at Cal is now required to register their genes at the Tang Center. Isn’t that cool?

Graduate students in math, the sciences, and engineering continue to bring in loads of cash to the UC. Thank you for that. Among other things, these cash cows will help Grand Inquisitor Jonathan Poullard expand his growing collection of tacky argyle v-neck sweaters.

On a more sober note, big name faculty are fleeing the UC faster than you can say “The Academic Senate is full of loudmouthed whiners.” As we like to say in Canada, too bad, eh?

And did you know that some university in Shanghai loves Berkeley? But not as much as it ❤ Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and Cambridge.

Here’s some math for you: 300 new staff hired this summer + 900 staff laid off last year = 1200 staff members. It’s math, stupid.

Last year, the Bain Company found tons of creative ways to save us $75 million (mostly through creative accounting). Rest assured, these savings will be passed along to students in the form of brand new Cal1 Cards sponsored by none other than BP. The remaining savings will help cover an exorbitant security deposit for President Mark G. Yudof’s vacation villa on an island somewhere near the Dominican Republic.

The state’s decision to stop recklessly spending money on public education is allowing us to approach our long-sought after goal of having noble corporations like Citigroup fully fund (and oversee) Cal with reckless abandon. As a way to gloss over the progress made on this profitable front, I am now going to tell you about some of the new courses we’ve added to our “American Cultures” program here at Cal. Highlights include: “Ronald Reagan: the Successor to Jesus Christ?” and “Manifest Destiny: A Color-Blind History of How the West was Won.” Following Dean Christopher Edley’s wise recommendation, both courses will be taught online by robots.

We are building lots of new buildings on campus. Dick Blum gets another poverty center. Originally, it was going to be named the Dick Blum Center for Impoverishing Minorities and Developing Countries, but that name was too long to inscribe in 24k gold on the building’s Sub-Saharan ivory facade.

All workers who left the university last year did so on their own volition. And all the furloughs last year were actually requested by greedy staff members who wanted more vacation time.

I sort of remember ordering an administrative review of the alleged police violence against students protesting the 40% fee hikes which will probably force many of them into years of debt. I haven’t yet read or acted on the findings of the 100+ page report that came out in June. It’s not because I don’t care, but because that was SO last year.

Every academic department on campus is experiencing cuts, but I promise, these cuts will not affect our sports teams (Go Bears!). After all, shouldn’t every student have the right to see their tuition subsidize over-priced tickets for a mediocre football team?

The state government’s cuts to public education are draconian. Doesn’t the word “draconian” remind you of Slytherin and Death Eaters. Creepy, huh?

The budget cuts are the state’s fault. My prescription: write some letters to Sacramento or something. After all, a sustained and engaged activist movement that employs a diversity of tactics and which includes the committed participation of students, faculty, staff, union workers, alumni, community members, and (god forbid) administrators might actually stop the transformation of UC Berkeley into something resembling the University of Phoenix business model. Who wants that?

Fiat Lux!



Bobby B.

Chancellor, UC Berkeley

Approved by Overlord George Breslauer



Filed under Uncategorized

7 responses to “Bobby B’s Welcome Back Letter (Abridged)

  1. oh gawd that is funny!
    thankful for no references to his over used “circling the wagons don’t shoot inward” blah blah blah overused cliches
    how much was spent on the portrait?
    did ucop commission it?

  2. Caitlin

    Read it aloud at home. Could barely get through it I was laughing so loudly!

  3. Bronwen Rowlands

    This is a real hoot; thanks for the chuckles.

    I suspect those 300 newly-hired staff members must be “change-management consultants” (currently my favorite euphemism) for the Operational Flatulence Program Office. Any day now the army of change enforcers will show up at dept office doors announcing that staff are laid off and demanding that we be out by the end of the day.

  4. Pingback: This Week In Struggle: The Resistance Mounts | ★Mobilize Berkeley★

    Public universities are into a phase of creative disassembly where reinvention and adjustments are constant. Even solid world class institutions like the University of California Berkeley under the leadership of Chancellor Birgeneau & Provost Breslauer are firing employees, staff, faculty and part-time lecturers through “Operational Excellence (OE) initative”. Yet many employees, professionals and faculty cling to old assumptions about one of the most critical relationship of all: the implied, unwritten contract between employer and employee.
    Until recently, loyalty was the cornerstone of that relationship. Employers promised work security and a steady progress up the hierarchy in return for employees fitting in, accepting lower wages, performing in prescribed ways and sticking around. Longevity was a sign of employer-employee relations; turnover was a sign of dysfunction. None of these assumptions apply today. Organizations can no longer guarantee employment and lifetime careers, even if they want to. UC Berkeley senior management paralyzed themselves with an attachment to “success brings success’ rather than “success brings failure’ and are now forced to break the implied contract with Cal employees – a contract nurtured by management that the future can be controlled.
    Jettisoned Cal employees are finding that the hard won knowledge, skills and capabilities earned while being loyal are no longer valuable in the employment market place.
    What kind of a contract can employers and employees make with each other? The central idea is both simple and powerful: the job or position is a shared situation. Employers and employees face market and financial conditions together, and the longevity of the partnership depends on how well the for-profit or not-for-profit continues to meet the needs of customers and constituencies. Neither employer nor employee has a future obligation to the other. Organizations train people. Employees develop the kind of security they really need – skills, knowledge and capabilities that enhance future employability.
    The partnership can be dissolved without either party considering the other a traitor.

  6. Sorry Tale of UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Office: easily grasped by the public, lost on University of California’s President Yudoff. The UC Berkley budget gap has grown to $150 million, & still the Chancellor is spending money that isn’t there on $3,000,000 consultants. His reasons range from the need for impartiality to requiring the consultants “thinking, expertise, & new knowledge”.
    Does this mean that the faculty & management of UC Berkeley – flagship campus of the greatest public system of higher education in the world – lack the knowledge, integrity, impartiality, innovation, skills to come up with solutions? Have they been fudging their research for years? The consultants will glean their recommendations from faculty interviews & the senior management that hired them; yet $ 150 million of inefficiencies and solutions could be found internally if the Chancellor & Provost Breslauer were doing the work of their jobs (This simple point is lost on UC’s leadership).
    The victims of this folly are Faculty and Students. $ 3 million consultant fees would be far better spent on students & faculty.
    There can be only one conclusion as to why inefficiencies & solutions have not been forthcoming from faculty & staff: Chancellor Birgeneau has lost credibility & the trust of the faculty & Academic Senate leadership (C. Kutz, F. Doyle). Even if the faculty agrees with the consultants’ recommendations – disagreeing might put their jobs in jeopardy – the underlying problem of lost credibility & trust will remain. (Context: greatest recession in modern times)
    Contact your representatives in Sacramento: tell them of the hefty self-serving $’s being spent by UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau & Provost Breslauer.

  7. UC Berkeley’s recent elimination of popular sports programs highlighted endemic problems in the university’s management. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s eight-year fiscal track record is dismal indeed. He would like to blame the politicians in Sacramento, since they stopped giving him every dollar he has asked for, and the state legislators do share some responsibility for the financial crisis. But not in the sense he means.

    A competent chancellor would have been on top of identifying inefficiencies in the system and then crafting a plan to fix them. Compentent oversight by the Board of Regents and the legislature would have required him to provide data on problems and on what steps he was taking to solve them. Instead, every year Birgeneau would request a budget increase, the regents would agree to it, and the legislature would provide. The hard questions were avoided by all concerned, and the problems just piled up….until there was no money left.

    It’s not that Birgeneau was unaware that there were, in fact, waste and inefficiencies in the system. Faculty and staff have raised issues with senior management, but when they failed to see relevant action taken, they stopped. Finally, Birgeneau engaged some expensive ($3 million) consultants, Bain & Company, to tell him what he should have been able to find out from the bright, engaged people in his own organization.

    From time to time, a whistleblower would bring some glaring problem to light, but the chancellor’s response was to dig in and defend rather than listen and act. Since UC has been exempted from most whistleblower lawsuits, there are ultimately no negative consequences for maintaining inefficiencies.

    In short, there is plenty of blame to go around. But you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. An opportunity now exists for the UC president, Board of Regents, and California legislators to jolt UC Berkeley back to life, applying some simple check-and-balance management principles. Increasing the budget is not enough; transforming senior management is necessary. The faculty, students, staff, academic senate, Cal. alumni, and taxpayers await the transformation.

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