The special search committee of the UC Board of Regents announced their nomination of Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as the 20th UC President on Friday, July 12.
If approved by the full Board of Regents during a meeting this week, Napolitano would be the first woman to serve as UC President in the UC’s 145 year history.
After former UC President Mark Yudof announced his resignation in January 2013, after which the UC Regents underwent an extensive search process to find a replacement, complete with a review of over 300 potential candidates.
The Regents decided on Napolitano, who brings her experience as the former Governor of Arizona and work in the Department of Homeland Security to the position.
“As Governor of Arizona, she was an effective advocate for public education, and a champion for the life-changing opportunities that education provides,” UC Regent Sherry Lansing said in a statement.
“As Secretary of Homeland Security, she has been an ardent advocate for the federal Dream Act and the architect of a policy that protects from deportation of young undocumented immigrants who are pursuing a college education.”
Other UC leaders and political figures expressed their praise for the nomination, including President Barack Obama, who wished her well on her new journey.
“Since day one, Janet has led my administration’s effort to secure our borders, deploying a historic number of resources, while also taking steps to make our immigration system fairer and more consistent with our values,” Obama said in a statement.
“And as she begins a new chapter in a remarkable career of public service, I wish her the best of luck.”
While there has been support for this nomination, other groups and individuals have expressed their concerns regarding this unconventional candidate. Typically, past UC presidents came from a background of academia, either serving as former teachers or university administrators. Others are wary that Napolitano will not be supportive of undocumented students trying to pursue a UC education.
Several petitions have come up to try and prevent Napolitano from serving as UC President. UC students organized a petition through DreamActivist.org because they have a strong objection to Napolitano due to her background with immigration policies.
“Secretary Napolitano is the architect of the deportation machine that has resulted in over 1.5 million deportations during President Obama’s tenure. She has no expertise in higher education, only in family separation, and no place in our public university system,” the letter to the UC Regents on the petition website said.
Aside from people saying that her background does not qualify her for this position, others are also upset with the selection process and wish that it had not been so secretive.
In a recent statement, AFSCME 3299, an organization that represents Service and Patient Care Technical Workers for UC campuses and medical centers, noted how they did not get to have any input on this decision.
“While UC staff, students and patients were largely excluded from the secretive process that led to Secretary Janet Napolitano’s appointment, we appreciate her years of public service and congratulate her on becoming the next President of the University of California,” AFCSME 3299 said in a statement.
Additionally, former ASUCI President Traci Ishigo served on the Student Advisory Committee for the UC Presidential Search and also remarked on the secretive nature of the selection process. She said that she is upset with the selection process and how the views and priorities of the students on the committee were minimally considered.
Ishigo noted that each advisory committee representing different parts of the campus were given the opportunity to create a list of the values and issues the next UC President should be able to address. The list of priorities included issues such as diversity, transparency, understanding the current budget situation and being able to protect against UC privatization.
After the Student Advisory Committee presented the issues that they felt were most important to students, the committee was never consulted again.
“Many of us on the committee are also upset that the Regents rejected our request to be involved with their final list of top candidates,” Ishigo said.
“Now that they have concluded their search, per regental policy on the appointment of the President of the UC, they are presenting the nominee to the members of each constituent group. Essentially, this already feels like a done deal and is not a consultation.”
Aside from concerns about the selection process of this candidate, Ishigo is also concerned about Napolitano’s prior inconsistent record of addressing immigrant issues in California.
“From implementing the destructive Secure Communities, deporting more undocumented people under Obama’s administration compared to any other presidency, and yet acting as an advocate for the DREAM Act, Napolitano has made decisions that are inconsistent with understanding the implications of xenophobic and racist policy on the people’s lives.”
Additionally, Melissa Gamble, the incoming Executive Vice President of ASUCI, shares similar concerns with Napolitano’s policies on immigration. She is afraid that this history does not align with the work that UC students are doing to institutionalize financial aid for undocumented students.
“Her appointment to presidency is worrisome and frankly concerning because of her intense history in racist, anti-immigration policies.” Gamble said.
“I am overall disappointed with her appointment to be the next UC President and believe that students should mobilize against this appointment.”
The final decision regarding Napoltiano’s appointment will be made during a special meeting on Thursday, July 18, following the UC Board of Regent’s regular bimonthly meeting in San Francisco. If approved, Napolitano would begin her tenure in September.