A recent New University commentary accused Chancellor Drake of being “reclusive and unresponsive to students, workers and faculty.” In my experience as a student and ASUCI President, this has not been my experience to date.
I would agree that the lottery system creates the appearance of inaccessibility because it appears as though the odds against getting a meeting are extraordinarily high. However, though Chancellor Drake is not able to meet individually with all of the students on this campus, he is still intimately aware of our needs and interacts with students on a regular basis.
Just last week Chancellor Drake had 20 students over at his house for dinner and he regularly visits different student functions like the Administrative Intern class, Greek Awards, the annual Powwow and the Olive Tree Initiative. There are regular monthly meetings for Chancellor Drake to meet with elected student government officials and he meets one on one with the ASUCI and AGS presidents at least once a quarter or as needed. For a person with such tremendous responsibility, I think this shows a sincere effort to be accessible to students.
There is also a common misperception that the chancellor, as the head of this university, is the best person to solve students’ problems. I would argue that the person at the top of any major university should spend a majority of his time working with their executive team, with special attention paid to student leaders as time permits. The chancellor is responsible for providing oversight to the university’s business services, academic programs, budget, research and advancement in addition to student affairs. While the power of the chancellorship has a certain allure, it is important for the chancellor to preserve the decision-making power of his team and it is usually more effective to work with an administrator who specializes in the issue you are working on. In my first term as ASUCI President, I never once found it necessary to go straight to the Chancellor on an issue. Normally, I would start by working with the director of a unit like housing or dining and then work my way up to a vice chancellor. So students who have a concern should consider which administrator is best suited to help them before they seek out Chancellor Drake.
Finally, students need to remember that they have representatives who are responsible for advocating to the chancellor on students’ behalf. The ASUCI and AGS presidents have direct access to the chancellor and can get a meeting whenever they need to. If students have issues that they are concerned about, they should first seek out their elected student leaders. The presidents have extensive knowledge of campus politics so they can often advocate more effectively than the average student. We are more than happy to champion any issue at the highest levels of the administration.
Students do have a forum for voicing their concerns to Chancellor Drake, whether it is through office hours or the student government. I would argue that the entire UCI administration is committed to promoting this university, and I want to know if any student has not received satisfactory service from a school official. The chancellor takes the needs of all students very seriously. Whether it be discussing the potential increases in student fees, arguing that faculty should not be taking furloughs on instructional days when students are entitled to learn or considering changes in the campus smoking policy, Chancellor Drake is actively engaged in all areas of student life. Students may not always agree with all his decisions, including the decision to do office hours by lottery, and that’s okay. But I argue that students should be standing in solidarity with our chancellor during a very challenging time and appreciating his commitment to the undergraduate experience.
Megan Braun is fifth-year history and philosophy double-major. She is president of ASUCI.