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Newsletter: UC system names its first Black president

Michael V. Drake
The University of California system has named Michael V. Drake to replace Janet Napolitano and become its first Black president. A physician, Drake was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Board of Regents.
(Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, July 8, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Who should be at the helm of the nation’s top public research university system? That was the question the University of California Board of Regents was tasked with answering when current UC President Janet Napolitano announced last fall that she would be stepping down after seven years overseeing the system.

On Tuesday, the Regents voted to select Michael V. Drake, a national champion for access and equity who previously headed Ohio State University and UC Irvine, as the next president of the University of California. Drake will be the first Black leader in the system’s 152-year history.

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[Read the story: “Michael V. Drake named new UC president, first Black leader in system’s 152-year history” in the Los Angeles Times]

Napolitano, who made history as the first woman to head the UC system, was a high-profile but unconventional choice — her resume included U.S. Homeland Security secretary and Arizona governor, but no prior experience in academic leadership. In sharp contrast, Drake has dedicated his career to higher education, with the vast majority of that career spent in the very system he will now lead.

Drake’s nearly four decades in the California university system include his residency, MD, and fellowship in ophthalmology at UC San Francisco; more than two decades on the faculty of the UCSF School of Medicine; five years as the systemwide vice president for health affairs; and nine years as chancellor of UC Irvine.

He will now oversee a $39.8-billion operation of 10 campuses, five medical centers and three national laboratories. As education reporter Teresa Watanabe explains in her story, Drake will take the helm at a time of deep challenges, as the system confronts a global pandemic, financial uncertainty and demands to further diversify campuses and defund UC police.

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Varsha Sarveshwar, president of the UC Student Assn., said in a statement that Drake “affirmed his commitment to equity and inclusion, to accessibility and affordability, to rethinking public safety and to student consultation” during a conversation with student leaders on Tuesday.

He will begin his tenure after Napolitano steps down on Aug. 1.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

California braces for a spike in coronavirus deaths as infections soar. But how bad will it be? So far, new deaths have remained relatively flat in California even as cases have surged. But deaths are a lagging indicator, and many experts predict an increase in the coming weeks. How much the death toll in California will rise is the subject of some debate. This new wave of infections is increasingly being driven by younger people, while outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities have slowed. For that reason, it’s possible that fewer of the recent cases will result in deaths. But others on the front lines say the younger COVID-19 demographics won’t necessarily result in a decreased death toll. Los Angeles Times

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Here’s what else you need to know this morning about the coronavirus in California:

  • Coronavirus conditions in Los Angeles County continued to deteriorate on Tuesday as officials released numbers that marked another new record for daily new cases and the infection rate continued to surge. Los Angeles Times
  • Coronavirus testing shortages have also worsened across L.A. Although public health officials have said that testing capacity is expanding, limited availability has stymied those seeking to be tested for weeks. Los Angeles Times
  • The Bay Area is scrambling to adjust reopenings, with San Francisco Mayor London Breed announcing Tuesday that the city would not allow indoor restaurant dining to resume next week as planned and Napa County officials reclosing indoor dining venues. San Francisco Chronicle

And further afield:

  • The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the World Health Organization, making good on President Trump’s vow in late May to terminate U.S. participation in the WHO. But the pullout won’t take effect until next year, meaning it could be rescinded under a new administration or if circumstances change. Los Angeles Times
  • Novavax Inc., one of the front-runners in the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, will receive $1.6 billion from the U.S. government, the biggest contribution yet from the Operation Warp Speed program. Los Angeles Times
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday that he has COVID-19. Bolsonaro had previously repeatedly downplayed the severity of the coronavirus outbreak even as it has ravaged his nation. Los Angeles Times

L.A. STORIES

LAPD investigates “Blue Flu” claims: LAPD officials are investigating whether an unusual spike in officers calling in sick over the Fourth of July weekend was the result of an orchestrated protest or labor action, which would be illegal. Los Angeles Times

As protests against police brutality go global, these Latina moms fight in memory of their sons. A group of women from Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights and East L.A. who have lost their sons to police violence have found solace and a sense of collective voice in one another. Los Angeles Times

Teresa Dominguez, left, and Rosa Morena hug  at a Black Lives Matter rally
Teresa Dominguez, left, and Rosa Morena hug at a Black Lives Matter rally after the stories of their son’s deaths at the hands of law enforcement were told.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
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They got the memo, but L.A. cops still aren’t wearing masks. The mayor said he expects the LAPD to enforce its mask requirement.LAist

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Trump on Tuesday urged the nation’s public schools to reopen “quickly and beautifully” and jabbed at districts like Los Angeles’ that remain uncertain, again injecting politics into the pandemic response. Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s top economic advisor stepped down in April, leaving many wondering about the reason behind his abrupt resignation. In a powerful column, Lenny Mendonca talks about how he was hospitalized for severe depression and anxiety, and the recovery efforts he has undertaken over the past three months. “I’m sharing my story because we have too few business and public leaders making public space to discuss mental health, destigmatize professional shame and protect against the resulting economic impact it can have on people’s careers and our economy as a whole,” Mendonca writes. CalMatters

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“In Baldwin Park, police chiefs turn over like pancakes.” The central San Gabriel Valley city’s current police chief — the eighth chief, including acting chiefs, over the last seven years — is now on leave after he alleged the city’s top officials are corrupt. San Gabriel Valley Tribune

CRIME AND COURTS

Prospective jurors can be excluded from a trial for saying they support Black Lives Matter. But is that legal? A California appeals court will soon decide. The Marshall Project

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

“The pandemic experts are not OK.” After months of nonstop work and little sleep, many American public health specialists are at risk of burning out as the coronavirus surges back. Their physical exhaustion is dwarfed by the emotional toll of seeing the imagined worst-case scenarios become reality, and they’re demoralized about repeatedly shouting evidence-based advice into a political void. The Atlantic

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

The most popular campsites in the Bay Area will reopen Thursday with an array of new rules in an effort to keep campers safe from the coronavirus. The trail camps at Point Reyes National Seashore require hikes with backpacking gear. San Francisco Chronicle

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Merced County’s sheriff mocked the state’s stay-at-home order. He changed his tune when COVID-19 cases surged and Merced was placed on the state’s watch list. Los Angeles Times

A poem to start your Wednesday: “A Little Tooth” by Thomas Lux. Poets.org

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: sunny, 84. San Diego: partly sunny, 75. San Francisco: sunny, 67. San Jose: sunny, 84. Fresno: sunny, 100. Sacramento: sunny, 98. More weather is here.

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AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Barbara Spector:

It was 1970. In an attempt to resurrect nightclubs, the Cocoanut Grove reopened as the Now Grove. This was the famed nightclub at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. My parents took my sister and me to the opening and we saw the greatest entertainer of the day: Sammy Davis, Jr. He sang, danced and did impressions. We were not disappointed. What a heady experience for a 20-year-old. Unfortunately, nightclub culture did not return, neighborhoods change, the Now Grove and Ambassador were demolished and Sammy passed away in 1990 — still a fabulous talent.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.


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