Dirks’ back door alienates students, restricts access

CAMPUS ISSUES: Recent construction of emergency exit near chancellor’s office for security reasons symbolizes closed-off nature of Dirks' administration

Last week, we learned of the most recent in a series of increasingly absurd missteps involving UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. This time, the outcry was in response to the decision to install a separate exit near Dirks’ California Hall office — ostensibly to avoid protesters.

The emergency exit cost $9,000, and its installation was kept largely under wraps. In fact, when The Daily Californian reached out to campus officials and spokespeople to confirm rumors of the construction project, some denied it outright. Dirks himself was not aware of the door until construction began.

While this may seem like a non-issue to some, the security measure and the secrecy with which the matter was handled is emblematic of an administration that is taking every possible step to guard itself from criticism. This aversion to conflict — while understandable on a personal level — is entirely inappropriate for a public institution.

UC Berkeley recently constructed a nearly $700,000 fence around the chancellor’s campus residence amid security concerns. It’s clear that administrators on this campus operate in a near-constant state of fear of its students.

Protests on this campus are commonplace, and they frequently occur around the chancellor’s office and residence. We acknowledge the chancellor’s right to safety and security, but we fear that many of these “safety” measures are coming at the expense of accessibility to students and faculty.

Installation of the door was requested by staff in response to a sit-in and protest outside Dirks’ office where students voiced their criticism of the planned Berkeley Global Campus and its potential effect on the Richmond community. Occasional disruption of administrators’ daily lives is an important tool for students to ensure their voices are heard.

When leaders are too afraid to engage, their ability to lead is significantly diminished. If these trends continue, the chasm between students and administration will become irreparable. An out-of-touch administration cannot be effective.

Students are not Dirks’ only critics: Many faculty members voiced frustration about the administration’s lack of transparency in recent cost-cutting efforts.

The money used to construct the exit, while not substantial relative to other UC construction projects, came from a pool of funding to be allocated toward risk services, including protections for campus employees. It’s concerning that, at a time when campus safety is a national issue and UC Berkeley affiliates are frequently the victims of crimes on and near campus, campus is focusing risk prevention efforts at the uppermost level.

With Dirks under investigation for a potential breach of UC policy, it is clear that many decisions made by his administration have not taken into account issues of ethicality. When students have something to say, administration should open the door, not create new closed ones.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

A previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated that it was Nicholas Dirks’ decision to have the emergency exit installed near his office. In fact, he was unaware of the door until after construction began.

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  • Taziar

    It is not the person fleeing, but the angry mob who is the real victim. The administrators selfish ‘fear for their safety’ oppresses the students by denying their right to shout at them.

  • “Absurd missteps” perfectly describes the fools who think sitting in a foyer is an adult way to handle a dispute. This campus has been creating fools for decades, though.

  • Dick_Gosinya

    I hate the fact that my tax dollars go to support a bunch of crybabies. Nothing worse than someone who’s privileged enough to go to Cal points fingers and accuses others of “Elitism”.

    If everyone is so concerned about the negative impact the proposed campus expansion will have on Richmond, maybe the UC System should look at locating it at UC Merced, where there’s plenty of space for housing and little fear of “gentrification”?

  • Bob

    Funny title! 😂

  • ShadrachSmith

    I’ll bet your mother avoided you too :-)

  • Alex Simonelis

    “Occasional disruption of administrators’ daily lives is an important tool for students to ensure their voices are heard.”

    What? lol – that’s crazy.

  • Dan Spitzer

    This construction is less an attempt to avoid confronting students–Dirks has and will continue to regularly speak with them–as an act of security. $9000 today is a rather small sum to afford a bit of protection, something deemed necessary as in the recent past the administration is aware that Occupy and BLM protests have turned violent…

    • Becky Newsom

      Dan “Squirrels” Mogulof, is that you? Only a UC administrator would think $9,000 “is a rather small sum.” Look, a squirrel! Black Lives Matter is coming!

      • lspanker

        Kooks like you are part of the problem…

  • lspanker

    Agreed that the trap door is a silly idea, but the childish antics of the far-left crowd that uses physical bullying and intimidation doesn’t help either. Perhaps the solution is to stop selecting chancellors from the ranks of academic weenies and appoint someone who is physically able (and not afraid) to slap some sense into these junior marxist wanna-bes when they get aggressive…

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