Editorial | Daily Californian 5-31-16
In September, the Senior Editorial Board of The Daily Californian editorialized in support of the decision to construct a fence around University House, where the UC Berkeley chancellor lives rent-free. The board supported the fence in the name of safety and reducing security costs.
Several months later, the fence was completed without fanfare and cost more than $700,000, more than 2 1/2 times the original projection of $270,000. The campus’s lack of continual transparency about the mounting expenses of the project and its acceptance of the fence’s astronomical price tag indicate an absence of responsibility and forethought.
The reasons for the fence’s high cost seem to stem from poor planning.
Issues first arose when a temporary fence was erected around the property. The reasons for why a temporary fence was necessary are unclear — already, the campus was throwing away money by haphazardly beginning the project before it had been thought through.
The fence was in the beginning phases of construction when campus officials decided to redesign its perimeter. The Academic Senate urged officials to change the design so the fence would not extend past the borders of the property, because the original plan was criticized for sealing off the house from the broader community.
Had the campus sought more community input in planning the fence construction as opposed to changing plans mid-construction after fielding criticism from the Academic Senate, it likely wouldn’t have deviated so far from the projected goal.
Some of the budget discrepancies are understandable, though, such as the decision to move the fence farther from the house in response to security incidents over the course of the project’s timeline, which required additional fencing.
But the design costs, which totaled $65,000 after the original design was scrapped, prove that utility and safety were not the only objectives. Though a fence surrounding a historic property such as the chancellor’s mansion certainly shouldn’t be an eyesore, it also doesn’t need to boast ostentatious designs that may have increased its already hefty price tag.
It seems as though money was leaking through nearly every aspect of the fence design and construction. The vast difference between the estimated cost versus the actual cost only validates the concerns of the state and Gov. Jerry Brown that the UC system is incapable of managing its funds.
The apparent need for a fence is also a telling sign of the larger campus culture and feelings between administrators and students. The administration should also make greater strides to address the problem at its roots — student and faculty dissatisfaction. Erecting a literal wall around one of the main administrators shouldn’t be a necessary course of action.
Dirks and his successors certainly deserve the right to privacy and safety, but this fence, its exorbitant construction costs and its planning were simply poorly executed.
We're on the fence about this issue. Probably, not worth picketing about.