Former UC president dies

    Courtesy of www.berkeley.edu

    The father of California’s Master Plan for Higher Education and former UC President Clark Kerr, who oversaw the University of California’s growth spurt in the 1960s and was eventually fired by the UC Regents, died on Dec. 1. He was 92.

    Kerr, who served as UC Berkeley’s first chancellor and later as the 12th president of the UC system from 1958 to 1967, died at his El Cerrito, Calif., home due to complications from a fall, according to a UC Berkeley press release.

    During Kerr’s presidency, the University of California saw unprecedented growth with the college years of the baby boom generation. Enrollment rose from 43,000 to 87,000 students. Three new campuses ‹ UCSD, UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz ‹ were opened under his care.

    “”The same vision that shaped California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, shaped this campus,”” Acting Chancellor Marsha A. Chandler said. “”Clark Kerr’s imprint can be seen in the uniqueness of our undergraduate colleges, our tradition of recruiting the highest quality faculty, and the remarkable catalog of UCSD’s achievement in only four decades … UCSD is fortunate to be a part of his legacy.””

    Kerr was the main architect and negotiator for the state’s Master Plan, which shaped the university’s commitment to accessibility as well as its relationship to the state university and community college systems.

    Under the plan, and to this day, the top 12.5 percent of high school students are guaranteed a place at a UC campus, the top one-third a spot at a California State University campus and all high school graduates access to community college.

    “”It is an extraordinary document because it is a commitment by the people of California to provide students with a quality education,”” UCSD history professor Michael Parrish said.

    With increasing budget cuts to the university, however, the Master Plan could soon be curtailed through enrollment caps for the first time since its inception in 1960.

    “”Kerr’s greatest achievement … is now in jeopardy of being destroyed,”” Parrish said. “”It is in the greatest of jeopardy because of the legislature and because of the governor, who are apparently unwilling to honor that commitment.””

    Kerr distinguished himself during his early days working at UC Berkeley by defending Berkeley faculty who would not sign a loyalty oath denouncing communist values, an action for which these dissenting faculty members were threatened to be fired.

    Kerr himself had signed the oath, but supported their right not to.

    Kerr made the history books for his role at the height of the Free Speech Movement, during which he came under criticism both from protesting students at UC Berkeley and conservative state leaders.

    Student protesters were angered that he would not meet their demands, while conservative leaders were mad that Kerr would not use force to control the protests.

    This put him at odds with then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, who pushed for ousting Kerr.

    This difference of opinion led to a 14-8 vote by the UC Board of Regents to fire Kerr “”effective immediately”” in January 1967. Some of the Regents during this period had been asking for expulsion of the protesters, while Kerr advocated following campus due process.

    An award-winning San Francisco Chronicle report published in 2002 revealed that members of the FBI also conspired with CIA leaders who did not like Kerr’s politics to have him fired by harassing UC Berkeley students and faculty members.

    Following his dismissal, Kerr became the chair of the Carnegie Foundation on Higher Education.

    In 2001, Kerr published his two-volume memoir, “”The Gold and the Blue: A Personal Memoir of the University of California, 1949-1967.””

    He had also written “”The Uses of the University”” in 1964, which has now been translated into six languages.

    “”Clark Kerr was a giant in American higher education, and the entire University of California community joins in mourning his loss,”” UC President Robert C. Dynes said in a statement. “”He was the dean of the higher education community not only in California, but in America, and we will be forever in his debt for the extraordinary contributions he made to educational excellence and opportunity.””

    Kerr is survived by his wife and three children.

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