Last year, student protesters stormed the chancellor's suite at California's UC Berkeley, staging a sit-in outside Chancellor Nicholas Dirks' office and later marching to his actual residence. In a response that may have made student-administration relations worse, the university has now installed an emergency exit near Dirks' office, campus newspaper the Daily Cal reports. The $9,000 door, paid for using a UC-wide pool of money allotted for risk prevention, is between Dirks' office and his conference room, and will "provide egress to leave the building," a campus spokesperson says. But the senator-elect of the associated students organization (ASUC) says this just makes Dirks seem "elitist and out of touch and inaccessible to the students."
Previously, Berkeley spent almost $700,000 to build a fence around Dirks' residence, University House, though officials say that was built in response to an increasing amount of vandalism and trespassing. "There has to be other ways to handle student concerns and protests than simply building ways to avoid them," the ASUC senator-elect says with regard to the emergency exit door, adding that no chancellor has ever been harmed during campus protests. The protests last year had to do with students' "criticism of the planned Berkeley Global Campus and its potential effect on the Richmond community," said the Daily Cal in an editorial earlier this month that slammed both the emergency exit and the fence. Another Daily Cal article last month referred to the exit as an "escape hatch," but a university spokesman flatly denied that to the Guardian: "It's a door."