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The Master Plan

Decentralizing the University

Student Unrest

The Steady State

Planning for Hard Times

The Tax Revolt

Bakke vs. The Regents of the University of California

New Intellectual Horizons

The Booming 1980s

A Pacific Rim State

Growth Again

Conflicts and Controversies

The University Under Fire


Chapter 20: Decentralizing the University

The system of governance that President Kerr inherited in the late 1950s was clearly too cumbersome and slow moving for a university in the midst of a postwar boom, with seven campuses—and more in the offing—an enrollment of 50,000, and a growing and complex network of government-sponsored research. A wider sharing of authority was not just desirable but essential. With the support of the Regents, the chief campus officers, and the faculty, President Kerr initiated a reorganization that was to transform the University of California in far-reaching ways.

The animating principle of this reorganization was a major transfer of decision-making authority from the Regents and the President to the campuses—a revolution in governance that made the chancellorship, in Kerr's words, "the central locus of administration" in the University of California.16 For the first time, Chancellors had broad authority over the day-to-day management of the campus; for the first time, they were in fact as well as in name chief executive officers, responsible for their campus's academic, physical, and fiscal plans.

Decentralization encouraged more efficient, more collaborative, and more locally relevant decision making. Just as important, it was a Copernican shift in governance that marked the future direction the University would take as a multicampus system—a federated union of research universities, each enjoying considerable autonomy and each seeking excellence in its own way, but unified by common standards for the admission of students, the appointment and promotion of faculty, and the approval of academic programs.


16. Clark Kerr, The Gold and the Blue: A Personal Memoir of the University of California, 1949-1967, vol. 1, Academic Triumphs (Berkeley, 2001), p. 203.




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The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Last updated 09/29/05.