Past Protests Lead to Pricey Upgrades

Photo: Cost of security upgrades to Chancellor Birgeneau's house:$236,850
Tim Maloney/Photo
Cost of security upgrades to Chancellor Birgeneau's house:$236,850

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A Boost in Security

Mihir Zaveri talks with Javier Panzar about the ways the University of California system finances pricey security upgrades, such as the most recent ones.

Search through reports and letters outlining security upgrades at chancellors' residences at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Santa Cruz »

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Close to midnight on Dec. 11, 2009, several dozen masked demonstrators marched to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's on-campus home, angered over the mass arrest of 66 protesters earlier that day. Some wielded torches; others smashed the house's lights and damaged its impact-resistant windows as Birgeneau and his wife called police from inside. Close to $14,000 in damages was done to the home, and eight protesters were arrested by campus police.

Later that month, the campus was authorized to spend $151,050 on a brand new security system for the home consisting of several cameras and motion detectors, as well as paint and patch work to install the new system. By July, the campus had spent an additional $85,800 on further security upgrades to the house including 350 feet of new fencing, two gates and several "no trespassing" signs.

In an e-mail from Birgeneau to UC President Mark Yudof requesting approval for the fencing, Birgeneau said "these measures may not completely prevent people from coming up to the house, but will make it easier to recognize that this is private property and that one can be charged for trespassing."

A year after the incident, students passing by the home will encounter a residence souped-up with $236,850 worth of security upgrades - more than any other UC campus had spent on security since the UC Board of Regents began keeping tabs on expenditures over $25,000.

A review of UC documents by The Daily Californian has shown that the university has spent close to $600,000 since 2007 on security upgrades to the homes of three of its chancellors as well as to a home rented out to Yudof - with the $236,850 worth of security enhancements to Birgeneau's house costing the most.

The majority of upgrades are paid for by the Edward F. Searles Fund - an endowment established in 1919 and currently valued at $161,114,912 - which is meant to cover costs the state will not fund including maintenance of chancellor's homes, travel costs and conferences. The UC Berkeley upgrade is an exception.

According to a report to the regents, the $150,050 security system at UC Berkeley was covered by an insurance claim, while the campus paid for the $85,800 in new fencing out of campus funds. The campus is still waiting for another insurance claim to fund those upgrades, said Claire Holmes, UC Berkeley's associate vice chancellor for public affairs and university communications.

Because of the sudden nature of the assault and the possibility of another assault, Holmes said the campus administration wanted to install the upgrades as soon as possible.

"If people hadn't attacked the house, we wouldn't have had to do this, but given that that happened, we just felt that it was very important to take immediate action," Holmes said of the upgrades. "If that is what it costs and it achieves its goal, then unfortunately that is the cost we have to bear."

Similar instances of vandalism have caused other campuses to turn to expensive new security measures.

Letters between UC officials and reports to the regents state that UCLA spent $235,450 over two years on security enhancements to enclose its chancellor's home with over 1,000 feet of wrought iron fencing, hardened window treatments to "prevent flying glass from projectiles and fired ammunition from small caliber firearms," several cameras, as well as dedicated phone lines connecting to UCLA police.

Letters from UCLA officials requesting approval for the upgrades cite numerous attacks on the homes of faculty members partaking in animal research, including one incident where an incendiary device was left underneath a professor's car. One letter says the personal residence of UCLA's Acting Chancellor Norm Abrams was the target of three demonstrations by members of the Animal Liberation Front between October 2006 and March 2007.

The last upgrades to UCLA's house - eight new cameras, four upgraded ones and a larger digital video recording system - were completed in 2008 as "a direct response to the initiation of reconnaissance activities by animal extremist groups," according to a letter sent to Yudof by a UCLA administrator.

According to reports and letters, in December 2008, UC Santa Cruz spent $23,000 to add shatter-resistant protective film on windows at the University House, $3,300 to build a safe room for the building's occupants and $10,500 on new lock sets and reinforced gates around the home. Those upgrades came after the house had several of its windows broken and a "spike strip" laid out on the road leading to Chancellor George Blumenthal's home on Dec. 17, 2008.


Javier Panzar is the lead higher education reporter. Contact him at [email protected]

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