The Mark Side of UCSB: Chancellor Never Ceases to Amaze

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A man appeared at the doorway of the office where I was working, appeared so suddenly and silently you’d have thought he’d just popped out of the ground. His eyes were light, bright and sparkling behind spectacles. This man’s name was Chancellor Henry T. Yang.

Many students only get a glimpse of Chancellor Yang either at their New Student Convocation or during their commencement ceremony. Some have taken his Mechanical Engineering class and yet others have unknowingly come across both the chancellor and his wife, Dilling, as they walk around Isla Vista on Halloween. The obvious reason for this being that he spends much of his time either in Cheadle Hall or traveling on UCSB-related issues.

This time, much like the other few times I’ve talked with Chancellor Yang, was completely out of the blue. Like clockwork I found that I had difficulty trying to have a regular conversation with him. It’s because I can never figure out whether to be intimidated by his authority or dumbstruck that he’s a person just like the rest of us. To this day I’m still amazed that he even knows who I am. I always figured the only students he would know are the ones he interacts with on a regular basis, such as members of Associated Students.

I’ve always wondered why so many people - especially Associated Students and their affiliated groups - come to Chancellor Yang to solve their problems. Why do activists inevitably end up storming Cheadle Hall, asking for his involvement in their causes? Why do they even need to personally meet with him in order to propose that Building 434 be used to house several A.S. entities and projects? You’d think their faith in UCSB’s bureaucratic process and raised awareness of issues would be enough to enact change. When it’s not, then it’s off to see the chancellor.

I wouldn’t blame them. Aside from Chancellor Yang’s actual position, he also has a pretty extensive background in other fields. He’s been involved in varying degrees with the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Engineering, the Defense Science Board and NASA. It’s amazing to even ponder the amount of influence this man potentially has and what he’s capable of accomplishing. When the Cedarwood tenants were evicted, Chancellor Yang helped start a fund for them. When a student and a professor were arrested at last week’s protest, Chancellor Yang went to the jail and quite possibly prevented the two from having to spend the night behind bars.

It’s difficult to describe the exact role Chancellor Yang plays in our lives as students. I’ve heard some describe him as UCSB’s biggest cheerleader. He passionately promotes the university with pride and attends away sports games when given the chance. I’ve also heard him described as the acting parent of the students. In some ways, he is. When looking for a responsible acting entity over the students, it’s easiest to look at the top. Not to take away from the accomplishments and responsibilities of the rest of the administration staff, but for better or worse, Chancellor Yang serves as the public face of UCSB.

The best way I can describe Chancellor Yang is that he’s Albus Dumbledore and we’re all mischievous students of Hogwarts. Although we rarely get a chance to see him, there is no doubt that he’s looking out for our best interest. He is, after all, even ready to magically transport himself back to Santa Barbara if need be. Who knows how much change Chancellor Yang could enact on the university and surrounding communities if he were so inclined? The fact that he doesn’t get directly involved every single time at least shows that he has some faith in our abilities. In a better world, there wouldn’t be a need for someone like Chancellor Yang. But until that happens, it’s comforting to know that there is still someone like him watching over us when things get really bad.

Daily Nexus columnist Mark Batalla hopes Chancellor Yang will not meet the same fate that Dumbledore may or may not have come to.


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