Newly Appointed UC President Drake Answers Questions on Pandemic, Other Issues


Jose Chavez

The newly-appointed University of California President, Dr. Michael V. Drake, held a Q&A panel exclusive to UC student-journalists on Nov. 10 at 1:30 p.m. PST. Drake answered many inquiries regarding how he plans on leading the UC Board of Regents in the coming years, including issues of the pandemic and current political environment. 

Correspondents from The UCSD Guardian asked the UC Regents president about how his diverse medical and academic background will contribute to his performance.

“I became the first practicing medical doctor to become a chancellor, which came with skepticism: what does a medical doctor know about running a campus?” Drake said.

Drake has published numerous articles, co-authored six books, and served as a reviewer for several medical journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association. Additionally, he has spent nearly two decades as a faculty member of the UC San Francisco Medical School, nine years as the chancellor of UC Irvine, and 2014 to last July as the president of The Ohio State University. To this effect, he stated that the general training he received as a medical doctor allowed him to be an effective leader across a variety of disciplines, especially those in the UC system.

The questions meandered from the UC system’s response to the pandemic to how the President’s connection with the president-elect will benefit students and faculty.

Journalists from UC Berkeley and UC Irvine started the panel off with questions on the topic of the pandemic. A writer for The Daily Californian posed a question specifically regarding sentiments held by UC labor organizations regarding austere measures that would necessitate staffing cuts or tuition hikes.

Drake voiced his dedication to protecting low income workers in the UC system.

“The university, along with many aspects in society have been impacted … [some decreased revenue] was restored by the Federal Care Act … We have had a hiring and firing freeze, travel decrease, and many things to budget,” Drake said.

Drake stated that the Federal Care Act, a hiring-and-firing freeze, a decrease in travel, and many more changes to the budget will be the first step in restoring the decreased UC system revenue. This and the “Access, Affordability and Excellence” strategic plan was cited to reassure additional concerns about increased tuition as remote learning continues. Drake claims that the UCs will continue to remain among the most affordable universities in the nation.

“We think that affordability access is a cornerstone to a successful education,” Drake said. “UCs are often seen as the best value universities in the country and should continue to be a hallmark.”

Additionally, as a writer for UC Irvine’s official campus newspaper “New University” pointed out, there has been an air of mystery around the implementation of COVID-19 testing and the universality of its methodology. While university testing wasn’t adequate initially, Drake believes the UC system has held up especially well, pointing to the half a million tests administered throughout the UC system and the focus on sensitivity. 

On the topic of national politics, writers from The Highlander asked about what Drake thought about the results of the election this year.

He was especially disappointed that Proposition 16 — a measure taken to legalize affirmative action within the state of California — didn’t pass. He reflected upon the grievances he held towards diversity and inclusion in the 1990s, including an argument with then UC Regent, Ward Connerly, on the topic. 

Drake is still optimistic about the future prospects of diversity, especially because Chicano/Latino students were the largest ethnic group of admitted freshmen, up 34 percent from the previous year.

Additionally, he believes that the Biden-Harris administration will bring plenty of aid to the efforts championed by the UC system. Drake says that the UC system’s $2.1 billion deficit brought about by the pandemic will be largely closed under the new administration. He congratulated the Biden-Harris team on their victory, citing that he knows both of them on a personal level. Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris is a graduate of the UC Hastings College of Law School in San Francisco and President-Elect Joe Biden cares deeply about higher-education. Drake particularly wants help from the new administration on ensuring DACA students’ protections are clarified.

As he closed the session, Drake mentioned that instruction will remain mostly virtual for the rest of the year, as he thinks vaccines need a lot more time for testing. With lots of movement taking place during the holiday season, he wanted to encourage all students to be safe when with family members.

Photo courtesy of the University of California.