At a virtual UC system-wide town hall meeting Friday, staff advisors had the opportunity to ask UC President Michael V. Drake questions on varied topics such as hybridity after COVID-19, the university’s role in climate change and police accountability.
Priya Lakireddy and Jo Mackness, staff advisors to the Regents, facilitated the town hall and asked several of the 400 questions submitted by university staff through the Staff Advisor Program.
Lakireddy noted many university staffers became accustomed to working online during the pandemic. Those who have a preference to work remotely are able to, Lakireddy added.
Drake noted that COVID-19 was a “great upheaval” for the university and related communities and individuals. In the span of two weeks, the university underwent a “dramatic pivot” in the ways they had conducted business for 150 years.
During that transition, Drake said it was “imperative” that the university maintain the quality of its work.
COVID-19 offered flexibility, as the university learned there were some things that could be done remotely and some things that needed to be done in person, such as patient care.
“We did a lot of our teaching remotely,” Drake said at the town hall. “Sometimes that worked well, sometimes we feel that it wasn’t as good as the teaching we had done before. So we’re moving back now to being the best university we can.”
Drake added that while some activities have continued remotely, most are being conducted in person, albeit remaining flexible for staff and colleagues.
Mackness then shifted the conversation toward climate change.
“We really have to adjust the way that we are interacting with our planet and live in a regenerative and sustainable way rather than the extractive way that we’ve learned to move economies forward,” Drake said, responding to questions as to what the UC has done to address environmental measures.
There are three key ways the university, as an entity, can approach the future differently, according to Drake: facilitating climate change research, disseminating that knowledge to communities and incorporating energy and carbon-neutral practices on campuses.
Drake then commented on police accountability, specifically in response to questions about UC San Diego, UC San Francisco and UC Davis campuses.
The university has worked on “several” improvements regarding safety and accountability Drake noted.
To build safety in the community, town halls have been conducted to collect various opinions, he added.
The university devised a community safety plan over the last few years that includes four main points, according to Drake. The plan includes a community safety dashboard to record data and officer statistics and police accountability boards that are aimed to oversee the actions of officers and “open a dialogue” about accountability with community members.
“We wanted to take a step back and not just polish off the old methods but take a step back, eyes wide open and say, what can we do to help us be more safe, to help us be more engaged in the process of keeping ourselves safe,” Drake said at the town hall. “We wanted…not a force keeping us safe in some way, but actually all of us as a community doing what we can to be the safest possible community.”