Despite recent backlash from students and faculty against the decision to erect a fence around University House, the chancellor’s home on campus, the chancellor and his family have the right to take action to guarantee their safety.
UCPD, which is in charge of responding to threats against the security of the chancellor’s home, recommended the fence in the face of increasing incidents in and around the house. According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, in the last three and a half years, UCPD has logged 25 incidents in and around the house, although not all of them have involved police officers coming to the house, in addition to providing the around-the-clock security personnel already present. These are threats to the life and safety of not only Chancellor Nicholas Dirks but also his family. As a private citizen who is in relatively higher danger than other members of the UC Berkeley community, living in a house that is both a private residence and a campus landmark, Dirks is completely entitled to agree to an extra measure to ensure his security.
According to Mogulof, Dirks was reluctant to even agree to the measure.
Yet the fence also makes economic sense. According to UCPD, the fence will reduce the extent to which there is 24/7 surveillance of the house. This can be costly if UCPD needs to pay its officers extra for overtime or more shifts. In time, the fence is expected to pay for itself, and the resources that would be going into constant surveillance and policing could be redirected to other places.
While the original plan was to build a 7-foot-high fence about 30 to 40 feet away from the residence, after objections from the Academic Senate, Dirks and campus officials decided to redesign the fence to be shortened and moved closer to the house.
While some are upset that the fence symbolizes a closing off of the accessibility to both campus space and the administration, Dirks’ quick response and the subsequent change of plans indicate his readiness to work with members of the community.
Besides the fence, it’s worth noting that Dirks has opened his home more frequently than past chancellors by hosting fireside chats, and we hope he continues to invite students, faculty and staff into his home for these conversations.
Additionally, the Academic Senate suggested that the door to the fence be kept open during the day; we urge the chancellor to listen to the calls of faculty and students and keep the door open as a signal that students are still welcome, that the campus is still accessible and that the chancellor is still willing to engage with UC Berkeley community members.
Editorials represent the collective opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.
Because of misinformation from a source, a previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated that UCPD has had to dispatch police to the chancellor’s house 25 times in the past three and a half years. In fact, during that time period, UCPD has logged 25 incidents in and around the house, but not all of them have involved police officers coming to the house.