For the first time in its 152-year history, the University of California has elected Dr. Michael V. Drake as their first Black president.
Dr. Drake — a national champion for access and equity who previously headed The Ohio State University and UC Irvine — was unanimously voted by the UC Board of Regents to head the school’s system, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Much has changed in the 15 years since I was given the privilege of becoming chancellor at UC Irvine, but not my absolute belief in this great University and its time-honored mission,” Dr. Drake said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the regents, chancellors, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and our broader community as we, together, guide the University through the challenging times ahead.”
The university seized the opportunity to elect their first Black leader of a majority non-white student body as America continues to grapple with the new emerging battle against systemic racism.
“Given the ongoing epidemics of COVID-19, unaffordability, and racial injustice in our state, students have high expectations for President Drake to chart a future rooted in social, economic, and racial justice,” said UCLA’s Undergraduate Student Association Council External Vice President Aidan Arasasingham in a statement reported by CNN. “I look forward to working closely with President Drake to make that future a reality for UC.”
Dr. Drake will succeed Janet Napolitano, who became UC’s first female president back in 2013, CNN reports.
Amid the pandemic, financial distress, and social unrest sweeping the nation, Dr. Drake is expected to lead a university whose budget has been slashed in response to an expected recession and students dealing with a racial reckoning, The New York Times reports.
Although he described this as an “awful time” during a Zoom call with The New York Times, Dr. Drake is excited to lead the same university that granted him a medical degree and where he also served as a faculty member for three decades.
Regent Gareth Elliott — chair of the Special Committee in charge of the presidential search, UC faculty, staff, and students — expressed that he believes UC elected the right man for the job.
“When we needed the right person to steward UC’s global reputation, it turns out we didn’t have to look too far from home,” he said according to a press release. “I am very proud of this thorough and inclusive search, and I’m delighted it resulted in such a great match with Dr. Drake.”
The pressure is on for Dr. Drake as the school’s first Black leader, but the expectation is that he will lead the university in the right direction during this tumultuous time.