University of California regents refuse to create a new home for its first black president after racist graffiti defaced his current residence
University of California trustees late Wednesday rejected a proposal to purchase a new home for President Michael Drake after his current Berkeley residence was defaced with racist graffiti and suffered other attacks this year.
The purchase of a new residence could have been financed with private money, but the regents, who met in closed session, voted 13 to 7 against the proposal, according to board minutes, and will look for other alternatives to secure safe housing for Drake and his family.
Drake, the first black president of the UC system in its 155-year history, was not home when a vandal sprayed racial slurs and profanities on the front and back of the house in May. But the attack horrified the UC Berkeley community, prompted an ongoing hate crimes investigation by local law enforcement and raised concern about the need for improved security for Drake and his wife, Brenda.
This racist attack came in the wake of other incidents, including the smashing of a window in the house and the break-in On the property by trespassers during a five-week strike by academic workers at the University of California late last year. UC installed a fence around the perimeter in March, but a UC official said a vandal involved in racist graffiti jumped over the fence to deface property.
Talk has begun about a rolling housing proposal Publicly earlier this week. State Sen. Carolyn Menjivar (D-Panorama City) criticized UCLA at a committee hearing Monday for considering buying an “almost $12 million home” for Drake even though the university, she said, was Opposing the proposed constitutional amendment to enhance labor rights in the country for its workers.
Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, Executive Secretary and Treasurer of the California AFL-CIO, She took the issue to social media On Tuesday, she posted her disbelief at the proposal and a photo of the regents’ closed session notice. Several demonstrators, some wearing scrubs, showed up Wednesday at the meeting at UCLA carrying signs that read, “Invest in safe patient care, not in palaces!” Gonzalez-Fletcher also reposted a video of a woman who identified herself as a UCLA nurse, saying millions for a house could instead pay for a lot of nurses “to make sure patients are taken care of.”
Rich Lieb, chairman of the UCLA Board of Regents, declined to confirm or deny the $12 million price tag, nearly double the cost of the current presidential residence, which was acquired in 2021 for $6.5 million.
“We are extremely concerned about ensuring the safety of President Drake and his family based on the horrific attack that occurred, but we will not move forward with this proposal,” Leap said.
In the vandalism that occurred in May, the perpetrator also spray painted the words “Jan. “December 6, 2021” — the day of the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — on Drake’s home and other homes in the area, according to the Berkeley Scanner, which first reported the attack.
The Scanner reported that the Berkeley Police Department received a call about a vandalism report around 10:45 p.m. on May 15 and also a notification about a video alarm at Drake’s home that night. The news site published a picture of the residence covered with paper in several places on the facade.
“UC condemns all hate crimes committed against members of our campus communities. We will continue to do everything we can to create a safe and welcoming campus community for all,” a UC statement said at the time.
A UCLA spokesperson on Wednesday declined to comment on the incidents, saying they were still under investigation.
UCLA’s $6.5 million purchase of the current residence included some of the house’s original artwork and furnishings. Hailed by the University of California as an “architectural gem,” the 1928 home was designed by pioneering architect Julia Morgan, one of the first women to graduate from UC Berkeley’s School of Civil Engineering. She is best known for designing Hearst Castle in San Simeon.
The university initially purchased it in 1971 and sold it in 1991, repurchasing it as the official residence of Drake and future UC presidents. UCLA described the house as “a 6,400-square-foot master building blending Renaissance, Mediterranean, and Moorish styles.”
The house lacks a long setback from the sidewalk and its location on Claremont Street, near busy College Avenue, People’s Park and UC Berkeley, made it difficult to secure. It’s unclear whether Drake and the guardians will continue the search for new housing — perhaps a more secure high-rise apartment, which housed former President Janet Napolitano — or continue securing the current home, which has received additional safety upgrades since the attack.
“We are committed to whatever it takes to keep him and his family safe and secure,” Lieb said.