Richard Atkinson’s eight-year stint as president of the University of California is soon coming to an end. Although the moment he steps down from office on Oct. 1 will be bittersweet for him, the future of his successor is anticipated.
‘It has been pointed out that I seem to have a knack for picking tumultuous times for my entrances and exits. When I took office as UC’s 17th president in 1995, the university and much of the state were paralyzed by a bitter debate over affirmative action,’ Atkinson said. ‘As I prepare to leave on Oct. 1, our state is consumed by a gubernatorial recall election that will feature a ballot with 135 candidates. California is never at a loss for interesting issues.’
Atkinson announced his retirement in November 2002, before anyone was aware there would be a recall election. In addition to the election, Atkinson leaves office in the middle of California’s severe budget crisis. However, he believes UC will play a major role in the state’s economic revival.
‘I’ve always believed that California’s economy is driven by new ideas, and much of the innovation in our state springs from UC campuses,’ Atkinson said.’The research and workforce preparation that occur on our campuses are absolutely critical to California.’
It may be even harder this year for UC to continue with much of its research due to the $410 million in budget cuts passed by the state. To help fill the budget gap, Atkinson said the university is taking deep cuts in non-instructional programs to protect UC’s academic quality.
‘[We are] borrowing money to cover regular operations for the first time since the early 1990s, foregoing cost-of-living increases for faculty and staff, delaying the opening of UC Merced and raising student fees by 30 percent,’ Atkinson said.
Atkinson’s most controversial lobby includes his idea to throw out standard SAT requirements for UC applicants in 2001, calling the test a ‘destructive national obsession.’ Atkinson argued that SAT II subject tests should be required instead, while UC Regent Ward Connerly opposed the idea, saying minorities who more often attend poor schools do not adequately prepare them in many subjects the SAT II tests cover.
A compromise was made between the opposing viewpoints and beginning in 2006, applicants will take two SAT II subject tests in addition to an SAT I test that is currently being revised by the College Board.
Atkinson served during the time of the failed UC San Francisco-Stanford Health care hospital merger, which resulted in an $11 million loss to UC and Atkinson’s admitting to ‘failing badly in the management of the operation.’
Atkinson’s greatest achievements for UC include setting new records for federal research funding for UC and breaking ground for UC Merced, the first new UC campus in 40 years.
But as Oct. 1 draws nearer, all eyes will shift from Atkinson to the new UC President, Robert C. Dynes. Dynes is currently chancellor of UC San Diego.
UC Regent John Moores headed the Board of Regents national search to find a qualified person to fill the office. The regents chose Dynes from a pool of more than 300 applicants nationwide.
‘He will build on the extraordinary leadership that President Atkinson has brought to the University of California,’ said Gov. Gray Davis.