- Former president of the University of Texas
- Former Chancellor at UC Berkeley
See also: Edward Said
Robert M. Berdahl took office as the University of California-Berkeley’s eighth Chancellor in July 1997. Prior to that, he was President of the University of Texas at Austin from 1993-1997; Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1986 to 1993; a history professor at the University of Oregon from 1967 to 1986; and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oregon from 1981 to 1986. Berdahl is a strong supporter of affirmative action in college admissions.
In 1998 Berdahl accepted, on behalf of UC Berkeley, a $5 million donation from the second deputy prime minister of Saudi Arabia, Sultan bin Abdulaziz al Saud. The donation was made for the purpose of “establishing programs on campus and to enhance the understanding of both the Arabic and Islamic worlds.” Specifically, the money was used to create the Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud Program in Arabic and Islamic Studies within the UC Berkeley Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Stating that he was pleased to have received this gift from “our Saudi friends,” Berdahl said that “[t]he endowment funds will allow us to broaden UC Berkeley’s already remarkable resources at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. This a study area of critical global value.”
Berdhal also sponsored and welcomed “warmly” Professor Edward Said to the Berkeley campus to give a two-hour diatribe against Israel in 2002.
In 2001 Berdahl dedicated a "Free Speech Cafe" on the Berkeley campus to commemorate the Free Speech Movement that was launched there in 1964. As David Horowitz explains, this was a movement that ultimately was not about free speech but rather "about the right of the political left to agitate for its agendas within the confines of the campus itself." According to Horowitz, it marked "the insertion of ideological politics into the heart of the university community."
Robert Berdahl received his B.A. degree from Augustana College in South Dakota and his M.A. degree from the University of Illinois. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1965 and an honorary Doctorate of Science in 1997.