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Robert Berring, a tenured professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law with 20 years of teaching experience, was named Wednesday as the interim replacement for former Dean John Dwyer, who resigned two weeks ago amid allegations of sexual assault by a former student. UC Chancellor Robert Berdahl made a safe, uncontroversial choice to lead the school in the aftermath of the Dwyer scandal. Berring, 53, known within the law school as “Uncle Zeb,” gives anonymous advice to students under his Uncle Zeb moniker, and the law school’s Cafe Zeb is named in his honor. He will serve until January 2004, when a permanent replacement will be named. “I am honored to be selected for this interim position and I look forward to working with the Boalt Hall community to build on the law school’s strengths,” said Berring. “Prior to a few days ago, I would have thought there was a better chance for me becoming the starting point guard for the Warriors.” When news of Berring’s appointment reached a group of professors and students gathered at the school’s Center for Social Justice, they let out a collective cheer, said Nancy Lemon, a lecturer who runs the school’s domestic violence clinic. “He is a very good choice. He can reach students and faculty that have very different points of view about what directions the school should go in.” One of Berring’s tasks will be to help navigate the school through its response to criticism of its sexual harassment policy and the future handling of the charges against Dwyer. However, his comments at a press conference Wednesday announcing his appointment indicated he may not take immediate action. “I don’t see what role the school can play at this point; I think it’s in the hands of other parties,” Berring said. “I think the institution is bigger than any one person.” In addition to serving as director of Boalt’s law library, Berring teaches a full load of courses and delivers the freshman lecture to each year’s incoming class. He is also frequently asked by students to speak at commencement. Berring said he faces a very steep learning curve, but that his 20 years at the school will help him, especially in fund-raising efforts. In addition, Boalt professors say Berring will inherit a school in good shape. Despite the tarnish of the sex assault charges against Dwyer, many members of the faculty and alumni characterize his tenure as dean as a great success. During the dean search in 2000, Dwyer’s critics pointed to his unwillingness to renounce Proposition 209, which made the use of affirmative action by the university illegal. At the time, Dwyer maintained that he would find alternative ways to increase minority enrollment, but that he would not test legal limits. According to admissions data released by the school, minority enrollment at Boalt crept back up during Dwyer’s tenure, closing in on affirmative action-era numbers. In 1996, the last year Boalt Hall could legally use affirmative action in admissions, the school had 20 black students and 28 Hispanics. In 1997, the number of black students dropped to one, and the number of Hispanic students was cut in half. However, the class admitted in the fall of 2002 had 14 blacks and 36 Hispanics. In addition, the number of American Indian students, which had fallen from four in 1996 to one in 2001, grew to five. A school spokesman said Dwyer’s strategy for improving minority enrollment stemmed from encouraging more minority applications. Dwyer instituted an aggressive outreach program at schools and universities with significant minority populations. But much of a dean’s job is fund raising, and Dwyer’s colleagues lauded his talents in this area. In his short tenure, Dwyer raised $20 million for the school, said Louise Epstein, who directs the fund-raising activities at Boalt as the assistant dean of alumni relations and development. “He was dazzling at fund raising,” she said. “We saw a significant increase in participation and dollars raised from alumni and friends.” Lemon, of the domestic violence law clinic, also praised Dwyer for his fund-raising abilities. “He always fund-raised for the clinical programs and we appreciated that,” she said. Dwyer’s most vocal critics inside the school were women. Professor Marjorie Schultz was the only faculty member to publicly oppose Dwyer’s deanship in 2000. In addition to Schultz, 13 student groups, including the Berkeley Women’s Law Journal, opposed Dwyer. During Dwyer’s tenure as dean, he reduced the strains in relations between male and female faculty by, among other things, hiring an outside consulting firm, said Professor Stephen Barnett. As dean, Dwyer hired one woman tenure-track professor and two women as professors to teach in the school’s clinical programs. During this same period, he hired two male tenured professors and one male tenure-track professor. The school currently has 11 tenured women professors and 39 tenured men. The sexual assault charges against Dwyer have prompted the law school and the university to take a look at the university’s sexual harassment policies. After Dwyer resigned, Boalt Hall Associate Dean Jan Vetter said the law school had no policy of its own and that it deferred to the university’s policy. The school plans to wait for interim dean Berring to help decide how it will handle any internal investigations. Some professors, including Linda Hamilton Krieger, one of three faculty members the woman who filed the complaint against Dwyer confided in before making her charge public, said they have neither seen nor been instructed on any policy. Krieger, an employment law specialist, has been openly critical of Boalt’s handling of sexual harassment. The Boalt Hall Women’s Association and the Berkeley Women’s Law Journal released a statement after Dwyer’s resignation calling for the school to take action. “[This] event should also serve as a signal that sexual harassment and assault in the law school environment have gone un-addressed for too long. The efforts made … are not enough.” A search committee comprised of students and faculty will be assembled next year to begin a national search for a permanent dean.

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