Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Championing Equity and Inclusion: In a Newly Created Position, Dr, Gibor Basri First Seeks to Create a Welcoming Environment for UC-Berkeley's Historically Underrepresented Minorities

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Championing Equity and Inclusion: In a Newly Created Position, Dr, Gibor Basri First Seeks to Create a Welcoming Environment for UC-Berkeley's Historically Underrepresented Minorities

Article excerpt

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In August, Dr. Gibor Basri assumed the new position of vice chancellor for equity and inclusion at the University of California-Berkeley. Basri, who reports directly to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, oversees a staff of approximately 50 and a $5 million budget. His responsibilities include fund raising to support new programs, as well as collaborating with faculty, students and staff to expand current programs. His initial focus is in recruitment, retention and promotion of historically excluded ethnic minorities.

An expert in "brown dwarves," stars that cool down to planetary temperatures, Basri is an astrophysicist, who has taught at Berkeley for 25 years.

He has served on numerous diversity committees and advisory groups before and since the passage of Proposition 209, the controversial voter-approved measure that banned the consideration of race and gender in college admissions. Basri has been chairman of a faculty workgroup of the UC regents' study group on university diversity, a fact-finding committee that has been gathering data on the status of diversity efforts since Proposition 209 passed in 1996. He also has been active in encouraging minority students to pursue the sciences.

A New York native, Basri grew up in Fort Collins, Colo., where his Jewish father taught physics at Colorado State University and his Jamaican mother taught ballet.

DI: What are your goals?

GB: The primary thing I hope to accomplish is to get the same kind of networks in place that the majority now have. We need to let people in to the university, have them be successful and have them stay. It starts with those outside campus having the networks to come to the university. It includes the mentoring networks the majority now has. It also includes the networks that when students go out looking for jobs, whom do they call? I want to make sure those kinds of networks are working for everybody. Since the semester began, many people on campus have told me how glad they are that this is a full-time position.

DI: How do your experience and skills as an astrophysicist translate to your new job?

GB: Both involve complex systems, and I'm an analytical person.

DI: Shortly after Dr. Birgeneau became chancellor in 2004, he criticized the lack of Blacks and Latinos in the student body. He said that instead of finding "camaraderie across cultural lines," he saw "too much alienation, mistrust and division." Did you agree with his conclusions? …

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