UC Berkeley Chancellor Ira Michael Heyman, who has led that prestigious and argumentative campus since 1980, announced Thursday that he will resign next year and return to teaching law and city planning.
Heyman, 59, said he is resigning "to regain the sense of perspective you have as a faculty member." Including his six previous years as vice chancellor, Heyman will have been a top administrator for 16 years and that, he said, "is a long time at a place like Berkeley."
His reign as chancellor has been quieter than those of predecessors in the 1960s when the campus was a center of student protest. Nevertheless, Heyman faced controversies over alleged bias against the admission of Asian-American students and over university growth in a city that sometimes has treated UC officials like hostile invaders.
Heyman's resignation, effective next June 30, leaves an opening at what many in higher education consider to be one of the world's finest research universities, public or private. Nobel Prizes and other symbols of academic power are sprinkled throughout the Berkeley faculty.
UC President David P. Gardner said he will soon appoint a committee to search for Heyman's successor.
"The state of California, the University of California and the Berkeley campus have been extraordinarily well served" by Heyman, Gardner told a press conference at a UC Regents meeting here Thursday. He stressed that he was reluctantly accepting the resignation.
Wearing one of the trademark bow ties that add to his genial, professorial air, Heyman said one of his biggest accomplishments was enrolling more minority students. Last fall, non-Anglos made up 51% of UC Berkeley undergraduates, compared to 34% in 1980.
However, Heyman was embroiled for years in charges that the school was trying to limit the number of Asian-American students. That led to several investigations by faculty and the state government and to some changes in admission policy. Heyman eventually apologized to the Asian community for what he said was earlier insensitivity to their complaints.
Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), who is chairman of the Assembly subcommittee on higher education, issued a statement Thursday in praise of Heyman. "He will be most remembered for his recent leadership and sensitivity on the Asian admission issue," Hayden said.
At the press conference, Heyman said his other accomplishments include construction of new science buildings and more student housing, as well as a sharp increase in annual private donations to the school, from $31 million in 1980 to more than $100 million last year.
Yet he conceded that he has tired of the sometimes confrontational politics on campus and such lingering disputes as whether UC should build dormitories on People's Park and on campus hilltops. The People's Park plan, strongly opposed by the city, led to a street riot 20 years ago and another one a few months ago.
"The rhetoric is a little more abrasive at a place like Berkeley," Heyman said.
UCLA Chancellor Charles Young, who is the dean of UC campus heads with 20 years on the job, said he was expecting Heyman's resignation. "I think it's been clear for some time that Mike is getting to the point that he wants to do something else with his life," said Young, who credited Heyman with helping to heal the wounds of campus protests during the 1960s and 1970s.
Robert Clodius, president of the National Assn. of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, also said he was not surprised by Heyman's announcement. "Some of the things you have to put up with (as chancellor) get old after a while," he said in a telephone interview from Washington.
Clodius called Heyman "one of the truly great, unapologetic liberal thinkers I know of in higher education."
Guillermo Rodriguez, student representative on the Board of Regents, said Heyman was very accessible to students and fair in dealing with protests. The chancellor's main weakness, according to the UC Berkeley senior, was in not pushing harder to increase the number of minority professors.
Heyman said he also is unhappy with the ethnic composition of the faculty but stressed that more minority scholars appear to be in the pipeline toward teaching. Non-whites make up 10.2% of the faculty now, compared to 8.5% when he became chancellor, officials said.
Heyman said he will take a year's sabbatical and then return to teaching and research at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall law school and the department of city and regional planning. He said he wants to concentrate on environmental and transportation issues in the San Francisco Bay Area.
He will take a still unspecified pay cut from his now annual salary of $142,900.
An alumnus of Dartmouth College and Yale University Law School, Heyman joined the UC Berkeley law faculty in 1959 after serving as chief clerk to then-U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren. He became vice chancellor in 1974.
Three years into his chancellorship, Heyman was widely considered a finalist for the presidency of the nine-campus UC system. That job went to Gardner and the two men later had some conflicts, although on Thursday they described each other as good friends.
Asked about qualifications for his successor, Heyman listed top scholarship, egalitarian ideals and "good luck."