UC Announces New President to Replace Janet Napolitano

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Michael V Drake
Photo courtesy of Ohio State News

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The University of California (UC) announced at the Board of Regents meeting this afternoon that Dr. Michael V. Drake will be replacing Janet Napolitano as the next UC President.

The UC President oversees all 10 UC campuses, five medical centers, and three affiliated national laboratories. Current President Napolitano resigned last year at the September Board of Regents meeting after seven years in office. Her resignation will be effective August 1, 2020. During her tenure in office, Napolitano was accused in 2017 of maintaining a $175 million slush fund after a UC audit. Furthermore, months before she was scheduled to step down, UCSD faced campus closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak and Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) protests.

Last fall, the Board launched a global search for the next President, compiling a list of criteria for the selection. According to the list, the criteria were chosen based on consultation from a broad base of advisory groups including students, faculty, and alumni.

“Dr. Michael V. Drake coming back to the University is a homecoming. We’re excited to be celebrating that today,” said Regent John A. Perez during the Board’s discussion. Other Regents, including current President Napolitano, echoed this sentiment during the meeting. The vote passed the Board of Regents unanimously at 5:16 p.m.

Drake’s career in the UC system began in 1979 when he received his MD from UCSF and became an assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Chief of the University Eye Clinic. In 2001, after holding several other positions at UCSF, he eventually became the University of California’s Vice President for Health Affairs.

In 2005, Drake left UCSF and served nine years as Chancellor at UC Irvine (UCI). During his term, the four-year graduation rate increased by more than 18 percent. Drake also spearheaded several new academic programs in law, education, and science during his time at UCI. In 2014 Drake became the president of Ohio State University (OSU). He notably expanded need-based financial aid at OSU by $100 million, which was estimated to reach 32,000 students.

According to a press release, UC Student Association President Varsha Sarveshwar said that Dr. Drake sat down with student leaders to affirm “his commitment to equity and inclusion, to accessibility and affordability, to rethinking public safety, and to student consultation.” 

As the new UC President, Drake will immediately be faced with concerns about climate change, campus fall reopenings, demands to defund the UC Police Department, and the financial toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UC system.

“I am hopeful that Dr. Drake will work in partnership with UCSA to follow through with the [aforementioned] principles,” Sarveshwar said in the press release. “I challenge him to boldly pursue a vision for the University of California that is grounded in economic, social, and racial justice.”

Drake will be the 21st President and the first Black leader to head the UC system.

Ella Chen is the Editor-in-Chief of The Triton. You can follow her @cinder_ellachen. Administrative Director Orianna Borrelli and Managing Editor Kate Zegans contributed to the research of this article.