UCOP > A Brief History of the University of California > The University Builders >

President Wheeler

The Faculty Revolution

Growth of the Campuses

The Modern University

President Sproul

The Loyalty Oath

Progress and Problems

The Chancellorship

The Multiversity

Achievements of the 1960s


Chapter 16: The Chancellorship

In the early days of the University, most administrative authority was centered in the Board of Regents. The 1868 Organic Act described the President as "the executive head of the institution in all its departments," but in fact the President's authority was largely limited to academic areas. In 1890, for example, it took a special amendment to the Regents' bylaws to give the President authority to hire, dismiss, and regulate the duties of janitors. Replacement of a lost diploma required attention from the Regents until 1901.10 It was only during the administration of Benjamin Ide Wheeler (1899-1920) that the President truly became the chief executive officer of the University.

During President Sproul's long tenure, the issue of how the University was to reorganize itself to deal with its transformation into a multicampus system surfaced several times and with increasing urgency. The University and Berkeley were no longer the same thing. UCLA, the Southern Branch, was becoming a full-fledged campus. The University was growing and its research and extension activities were multiplying up and down the state.

A 1948 report on governance pointed out that lines of responsibility and communication among the campus heads, the President, and the Regents were cloudy at best. Most administrative decision-making power, including authority over campus budgets and the hiring and firing of faculty members, rested with the President. The burdens on his office were enormous and growing. The report estimated that 200 to 500 items routinely languished in the President's office without a decision, and that the University's "administrative arrangements" were "fashioned for days gone by."11 It concluded that the Board of Regents was too enmeshed in administrative detail as well, and recommended wide-ranging delegation of authority from the Board to the administration.

Sproul was reluctant to make major changes in the University's organization and governance, however. He was comfortable with his role, despite the staggering workload, and he feared that delegating significant authority to individual campuses would threaten institutional unity—the "One University" ideal to which he was deeply committed. When the provosts at the two major campuses, Berkeley and UCLA, were designated Chancellors in 1951, the scope of their authority did not match the grandeur of their new titles. In practice, UC remained an institution governed from the center. Yet the University had moved a critical step down the road to decentralization.


10. Verne Stadtman, ed., The Centennial Record of the University of California (Berkeley, 1967), p. 406.

11. Eugene C. Lee, The Origins of the Chancellorship (Berkeley, 1995), p. 28.


Clark Kerr, President, 1958-67.

Photograph courtesy Gabriel Moulin Studio, San Francisco.



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Last updated 09/29/05.