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Chapter 39: Transitions
President Atkinson announced in November 2002 that he would step down the following year. In addition to making the University more responsive to the economic needs of the state, he had presided over a historic transformation of the University's processes for selecting students, hewing a careful and exacting path through a maze of clashing regental, faculty, and public views. In May 2001, with Atkinson's support, the Regents voted unanimously to rescind SP-1. The Board affirmed the University's intent to continue complying with Proposition 209 as well as its commitment to enrolling a student body that reflects both exceptional achievement and "the broad diversity of backgrounds characteristic of California."
UC posted some of the largest budget increases in its history during his presidency, and annual private giving exceeded a billion dollars for the first time. President Atkinson used the opportunities of prosperity to urge the University in innovative directions. UC extended its presence abroad with the establishment of California House, a center for UC activities in London, and plans for a Casa de California in Mexico City—one of many efforts to strengthen ties with Mexico. A new degree program—the Master of Advanced Study—offers working adults the chance to earn degrees in selected fields through University Extension.
President Atkinson was particularly concerned about embracing the opportunities offered by new technologies. In 1997, he established the California Digital Library (CDL), which today is unmatched in the scope and sophistication of its digital collections. The CDL is a leader in encouraging new forms of scholarly communication.
In the late 1990s the University was instrumental in creating Internet2, a national consortium of universities and industries to build high-speed computer networks that will advance teaching, scholarship, and research. The first Internet2 link between major universities in California and Mexico was forged in 2001 through a memorandum of understanding between the University and Mexican higher education leaders.
Toward the end of the Atkinson administration, recessionary storms that had been gathering nationwide hit California with spectacular force. In late 2002 government analysts in Sacramento were projecting a staggering $35 billion shortfall over the next eighteen months—more than twice California's budget deficit in the early 1990s. As one of a handful of state programs whose funding was unprotected by statute or mandatory spending requirements, the University was particularly vulnerable.
To deal with the fiscal crisis, the University instituted large cuts in areas ranging from administration to research. Student fees, which UC had held steady for seven years in a row, had leaped 40 percent by 2003. That same year the state's contribution to the University's outreach programs and professional development activities for K-12 teachers sank to one-fifth of what it had been at its height a few years earlier—a particularly painful reduction given the promise of these programs and the magnitude of the need. Moreover, few considered it likely that the state's fiscal troubles could be quickly resolved. The prospect of even deeper cuts remained—including curbing enrollments despite unprecedented student demand for a place at UC.
Clearly, the University's ability to sustain both its access and its excellence would be tested.
On June 11, 2003, the Regents chose Robert C. Dynes, Chancellor of UC San Diego, as the University's eighteenth President. Dynes, an expert on semiconductors and superconductors and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, spent twenty-two years in the private sector—at AT&T Bell Laboratories—before joining the faculty at UC San Diego in 1991. He did so, he said, because he saw "that the locus of American innovation was shifting from industry to the academy."
During his seven years as UCSD Chancellor, Dynes was known for his egalitarian and energetic style. He guided the campus through a 25 percent growth in enrollment and the establishment of a school of management, a school of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences, and a new undergraduate college, as well as a public charter school on the campus dedicated to preparing low-income students for a university education.
On the occasion of his appointment as President, Dynes told the Regents that he recognized the pressures facing the University to accommodate large numbers of students despite shrinking public support. "There is a national consensus that American public universities must redefine how they deliver quality higher education," he said. "And the rest of the country is looking to the University of California to lead the way."
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The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Last updated 09/29/05.