Chancellor Blumenthal receives top UC honor for Academic Senate service

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Henry Powell presents the Oliver Johnson Award to Chancellor Blumenthal. Photo by Martha Winnacker.

Chancellor George Blumenthal recently received the top UC honor for service to the Academic Senate at both the systemwide and campus levels.

Blumenthal received the 2010 Oliver Johnson Award for Distinguished Leadership in the Academic Senate during the annual systemwide Academic Council dinner on July 28.

The award is presented every other year to a member of the UC faculty who has performed outstanding service to the Academic Senate, exhibited exceptional abilities in working with different university constituents, and made a significant impact on faculty governance.

"I believe that the system of shared governance contributes significantly to UC's excellence," said Blumenthal. "My senate service, both at UCSC and at the systemwide level, has been enormously gratifying. I am deeply honored to receive the Oliver Johnson Award."

In a letter informing Blumenthal that he'd been selected for the honor, Academic Council Chair Henry Powell wrote, "Your record of distinguished service and leadership clearly meets the high standards of the Oliver Johnson Award. Indeed, your exceptional service is demonstrated by the fact that in every instance of your service, you have risen to a new position of leadership."

Blumenthal joined the UCSC faculty in 1972 as a professor of astronomy and astrophysics. He has served as chancellor since 2006, capping decades of service to the Academic Senate in leadership roles. He served as chair of the UCSC Committee on Privilege and Tenure, chair of the systemwide Committee on Privilege and Tenure, chair of the UCSC Academic Senate from 2001 to 2003, and finally as vice chair and then chair in 2004-05 of the systemwide Academic Council and the Assembly of the Academic Senate. He served as faculty representative to the UC Regents in 2003-05.

Blumenthal's lasting impacts on the systemwide Academic Senate include leading the effort to amend Senate bylaws regarding membership, leadership, and charges to standing committees of the Assembly. That work was accompanied by 2003 revisions to the Faculty Code of Conduct. He also helped establish a new Senate Division at UC Merced.

"You have been instrumental in advocating for greater Senate involvement not only at UCSC, but also at the systemwide level," wrote Powell, who called Blumenthal "a champion and exemplar of shared governance as Chancellor."

A passionate advocate of academic freedom, Blumenthal guided the Senate's Resolution on Research Funding Sources through the Academic Assembly. That effort affirmed the Senate's belief that banning certain sources of funds by a majority vote of the faculty would infringe on the academic freedom of individual researchers who may want to accept the funding.

Blumenthal also spearheaded Senate regulation amendments to facilitate the transfer of students among the three branches of public higher education in California.

Finally, he instituted the practice of inviting Regents to Council meetings and inaugurated the "Annual Report on Shared Governance." Blumenthal is the fourth former systemwide Academic Senate chair to serve as a UC chancellor.

The Oliver Johnson Award, which includes a small honorarium, was established by a gift to the systemwide Senate from UC Riverside Professor Oliver Johnson, a professor of philosophy and longtime Senate activist who died in 2000. Nominations are solicited by the University Committee on Committees from each divisional Committee on Committees, which may submit one name at the beginning of every other academic year. The recipient is chosen by a majority of the full Academic Council and ratified by the Assembly of the Academic Senate in May.