How Will Tidal Wave II Affect Undergraduate Education?

By Kathy Barrett
December 6, 2000

The second Colloquium on Undergraduate Education was held on December 6 2000, to a large audience of staff and faculty members. George Breslauer, Dean of the Social Science Division, opened the colloquium and welcomed our guest speaker William Webster, Vice Provost of Academic Planning and Facilities, whose topic was "Expanded Enrollment and Its Effects on Undergraduate Education." The Vice Provost chairs the Enrollment Growth Committee and co-chairs the Strategic Planning Committee. Vice Provost Webster noted he was Associate Dean of student affairs in Engineering for many years. When he left on sabbatical in 1999 he planned upon his return to take up the relatively calm life of teaching. Instead he was asked to take on the task of helping to guide the University through some of its greatest challenges in recent memory.

Vice Provost Webster laid out in a detailed and well organized presentation the numerous challenges the University will be facing in the next 20 years. As a University we face many competing issues that must be addressed. We are being asked by the State to increase our enrollments by 14%. (Because the Baby Boomers' children are reaching college age, the entire UC system will need to grow substantially—a development known as Tidal Wave II.) At the same time we also must honor the commitment made to the City of Berkeley in the Long Range Development Plan to actually decrease the size of our student population. Furthermore, while trying to accommodate more students and faculty, we will have less space as we work feverishly to bring campus buildings up to seismic code.

In terms of planning, Vice Provost Webster and his team are looking at three umbrella issues:

  • What is the mission or vision of the University?
  • What are Berkeley's objectives resulting from this mission or vision?
  • What initiatives should we undertake in the next 3-5 years in regards to our mission?

As VP Webster noted, this is a time for creative thinking and new ideas.

Both the Enrollment and Growth Committee and the Strategic Growth Committee are looking at ways to accommodate 4,000 FTE (full-time equivalency students) by 2010-ll academic year. We have already grown by 1000 FTE since 1998-99. The committees are already implementing several plans to accommodate students, including expanding summer session, increasing participation in the Education Abroad Program and creating a semester-in-the-City program.

VP Webster outlined the planning process, which is beginning in the committees he chairs. These committees have broad representation from across the campus including faculty, staff and students. The Enrollment Growth Committee is charged with handling the mechanics of enrollment, growth and scheduling. The Strategic Planning Committee is developing criteria for the enrollment growth proposals that will come from the deans and department chairs, who will receive the criteria in January and will be asked to submit requests for budgeting and staffing needs and proposals for new initiatives or programs by July, 2001. The campus will receive funding to increase both faculty and staff commensurate with the increase in students, and decisions about allocating these new resources will be made based on the guiding principles developed by the Strategic Planning Committee. Of course, the Chancellor and the Budget Committee will have critical input in the decision-making process.

A wide-ranging question and answer session followed the formal presentation. Several questions concerned summer session. Faculty are concerned with governance, workload and compensation issues. Several staff members wondered how Berkeley students will pay for summer and will we make summer session courses more comparable to regular courses? VP Webster noted that faculty will be compensated at the academic-year rate, and that departments will not lose the money they currently receive from summer sessions. Berkeley students who attend summer this term will have the registration fees waived due to a 3.7 million dollar grant from the state. In the future we expect the state will provide more funding and financial aid will continue to expand its funding of summer. The committees are looking at possibly shortening the winter break to create a 14-week summer session. Concerns about the timely delivery of transcripts and subsequent notification of probation and dismissal, among other issues, must be addressed if we shorten the winter break. VP Webster stressed that he is hoping for proposals from departments about many of these issues.

Service courses such as reading and composition and American Cultures classes and gateway courses such as Economics and Chemistry are also a concern. How do we provide incentives to departments to be sure there are enough spaces in these classes? VP Webster acknowledged the seriousness of these concerns.

Several pleas were also made to consider staffing issues when thinking about the planned for growth of both faculty and students. If we wish to maintain the same level of service that we currently provide to both of these populations we will have to increase our staff. Vice Provost Webster responded that when deans and departments submit their proposals they need to include requests for both additional staff and increased financial resources.

Several questions addressed shortening time to degree and increasing the number of students who are completing 15 units per term. Audience members noted that financial aid or other registration blocks can prevent timely and full-time enrollments. VP Webster felt that increasing our time to degree would not necessarily be viewed by the Office of the President as a solution to this situation.

This newest challenge to the University is being addressed at all levels of the campus. The Undergraduate Division plans to keep the College of Letters and Science faculty and staff informed and engaged in the discussion.

The L & S colloquia, which take place once or twice each semester, provide opportunities to learn about and discuss the overarching issues affecting undergraduate education at U C Berkeley. For more information on upcoming or past programs, contact Alix Schwartz at or (510) 642-8378.

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