Rich Lyons named new chancellor at UC Berkeley

This news has been enhanced with extra quotes.

UC Berkeley’s Vice-Chancellor of Innovation and former dean of the business school, Rich Lyons, has been appointed as the forthcoming chancellor of the university, as revealed by the institution on Wednesday.

Lyons, 63, a graduate of Berkeley, is scheduled to assume the position on July 1, succeeding the current Chancellor Carol Christ who will be stepping down at that time. 

“Being named the next chancellor of UC Berkeley after the exceptional leadership of Chancellor Christ is both a humbling and exciting honor. Berkeley is truly unique, and I aim to respect its customs and past while navigating the campus towards the next era and extending its influence,” Lyons stated in a release. 

Upon taking up his role this summer, Lyons will be facing challenging times in higher education, including at Berkeley. The campus has been divided due to Israel’s conflict in Gaza, triggering various demonstrations and protests since last autumn. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education recently disclosed that it is investigating Berkeley for potential cases of bias related to the conflict.

Faculty members at Berkeley conveyed their concerns as well. According to the Berkeley Faculty Association’s open letter to the upcoming chancellor last week, the faculty is dissatisfied with the lack of wage increases in line with inflation for several years, coupled with below-average salaries compared to similar institutions.

This has led to an environment described by the faculty as “on the verge of collapse,” with faculty members facing challenges in upholding Berkeley’s reputation despite diminishing resources and deteriorating working conditions. Faculty have also encountered difficulties in affording housing in the expensive San Francisco Bay Area.

Additionally, Berkeley is grappling with preserving its image as a champion of free expression and academic liberty, as indicated by the faculty. The faculty association reported that extremist groups across the country are aiming to suppress universities as forums of critical thinking, finding cooperation from parties concerned about potential donors being turned off by the Berkeley ‘brand.’

In response to the faculty’s letter, Lyons pledged to focus on collaborative governance with the faculty upon entering his new post.

“With over three decades as a Berkeley faculty member, I deeply value the faculty’s excellence and the environment that supports it. I see numerous prospects for fresh investments in our faculty and their necessary resources for success,” Lyons responded.

Prior to his upcoming position, Lyons served as the Dean of the Haas School of Business from 2008 to 2018 and holds a professorship in economics and finance at the school. Since 2020, he has been Berkeley’s chief officer for innovation and entrepreneurship.

UC system President Michael Drake, who collaborated in selecting Lyons, expressed that Lyons would serve as an ambitious and forward-thinking leader for the campus, dedicated to maintaining Berkeley’s academic and research excellence.

As chancellor, Lyons is set to receive an annual salary of $946,450. 

After attaining his business bachelor’s degree from Berkeley in 1982, Lyons completed a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987. He joined the Berkeley faculty as a finance professor in 1993 and has remained at the campus ever since, except for a two-year term as the chief learning officer at Goldman Sachs starting in 2006.

Christ, Lyons’ predecessor as chancellor, expressed her contentment with the selection of Lyons as the next chancellor. Christ mentioned, “In many aspects, Rich embodies the finest characteristics of Berkeley, and his commitment to the university’s public mission and principles couldn’t be stronger,” in a public statement.

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