University of California Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks appears to be afraid of his own students.
A $9,000 “escape hatch” was just installed outside Dirks’ office in response to a student protest held there last spring, according to the campus newspaper.
“It’s a door,” university spokesman Dan Mogulof told The Guardian, refuting the term “escape hatch” as “the concoction of a 19-year-old headline writer.”
However, the $9,000 door is meant to act as an escape route of sorts.
Campus spokeswoman Claire Holmes confirmed that the door was installed as a safety measure to “provide egress to leave the building.”
The money used to construct the exit came from a pool of funding set aside for risk services, including protections for campus employees.
“It’s concerning that, at a time when campus safety is a national issue and UC Berkeley affiliates are frequently the victims of crimes on and near campus, campus is focusing risk prevention efforts at the uppermost level,” said an editorial in The Daily Californian.
Student protests have become commonplace at UC Berkeley over the past few years. In April 2015, students staged a sit-in outside the chancellor’s office to protest the construction of the controversial Berkeley Global Campus in Richmond. In November 2015, students protesting for workers’ rights vandalized the property around the chancellor’s residence.
A fence was constructed around the residence earlier this year to prevent further vandalism. The project went way over budget and ended up costing nearly $700,000. Mogulof said the fence was constructed due to “increasingly violent attacks on the house.” He claimed the project would ultimately reduce costs for the school, because security staff outside the chancellor’s residence costs $360,000 per year.
Overall, it hasn’t been a great year for Dirks. The chancellor is also currently under investigation for allegedly using public funds for travel expenses and using campus sports training services without payment.