UC President Michael Drake discusses system-wide issues with members of student publications

UC President Michael Drake discusses system-wide issues with members of student publications

Drake answers questions from UC student journalists at virtual press conference

During the Student Media Teleconference held on Tuesday, Nov. 9, UC President Michael Drake addressed questions posed by student journalists from all nine UC campuses. On the Zoom call, Drake discussed topical issues including student tuition, campus police budgets, diversity in light of the failure of Proposition 16 and the recent election. 

He began by welcoming the student journalists, mentioning his appreciation for the opportunity to speak with them. He also acknowledged the impacts of COVID-19 across the UC system, praising both students and faculty in their ability to adapt to the “new way of providing education.”

Regarding tuition, Drake said he hopes to make the UCs as affordable as possible to increase access, while still providing “outstanding value” for its students. 

“We’re really pleased about the quality of education, and that the combination of tuition and fees and our need-based aid programs are able to make the university affordable for so many people, and that will continue to be one of our hallmarks,” Drake said during the teleconference.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Drake said it has been a challenge for the UC system to manage its costs. In the era of remote learning, the cost of instructional services has increased for the UC system, in part due to licensing fees.

“I’m sure that we won’t have an increase in tuition of any kind coming up in this year,” Drake said. “We wouldn’t think about anything like that during the time we are still remote. We’re just pleased that we can continue to offer the educational content that we can, so [students] can continue to make progress toward their degrees.”

Despite the difficulties the pandemic presents, the UC system has refunded over $300 million in fees for housing, dining and other services not currently used by students, even through “the cost of those enterprises remain.”

In terms of admissions, Drake said the UC plans to continue promoting diversity across its campuses, despite the failure of Proposition 16 in the recent election. This past year, the UC system admitted the most diverse class in history—Latinx students are the largest single ethnic group from last year, making up 36% of the admitted class. 

“I think there are many things that we can do to help continue to maintain access and affordability and excellence and a big part of that is to make sure that we can continue to champion diversity,” Drake said.

When addressing the presidential election, Drake congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory and said he looks forward to working with them for the next four years.

“Vice President Biden is somebody who has valued education throughout his life and sees it as an extraordinarily important part of what helps our country move forward,” Drake said.

With the help of the newly-elected administration, Drake wants to “simplify and clarify” protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students and other undocumented students.

When discussing the question of campus security, Drake said that he had experienced personal incidents of police bias and targeting.

“I certainly have lived the life of racist [policing] and the way that police have targeted certain communities like my own community disproportionately,” Drake said. “I myself have been stopped multiple times for no reason. My sons have been stopped multiple times for no reason. And I say no reason I mean, no reason. Just you happen to be there and you were stopped and detained.”

He maintained, however, that for college campuses security is essential.

“It’s critical that we protect the safety and security of all of you and guests and visitors to campus,” Drake said. “At the same time, people have to be treated with respect. We want to make sure that […] protected communities who have difficult relationships with the community police can learn that the campus safety and security people are there to protect them.”

To address student and faculty health and safety during COVID-19, Drake said that the UC campuses have developed “different and evolving ways” of testing. 

“Our University of California campuses have all been very low […] in the number of campus-related infections and we will do all we can to keep things that way,” Drake said.

When considering reopening UC campuses, Drake said the UC system must work alongside county health departments and inspect the status of infection rates. According to Drake, when campuses do start reopening for in-person instruction and services, it will be done slowly.

“As we find that this campus can be safe for students, faculty and staff, then we will open more and more functions,” Drake said.

Written by: Sophie Dewees, Sabrina Habchi and Margo Rosenbaum — campus@theaggie.org