Students Protest Napolitano Approval

The UC Regents met on July 17th and 18th at UC San Francisco Mission Bay to confirm the appointment of Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as the President of the UC System and to select the new UC Student Regent.

Courtesy of SF Chronicle

Courtesy of SF Chronicle

Secretary Napolitano’s confirmation as president of the UC was met with mixed reactions from students and members of the selection committee. The vote was almost unanimous in approval of the Secretary’s appointment with the exception of the current UC Student Regent and UC Irvine Law student Cinthia Flores, who was the only Regent to stand in solidarity with the opposition by casting a vote against Napolitano’s appointment.

Students, activists and concerned members of the UC community gathered outside of the meeting to express their opposition to Napolitano’s appointment. Many of the demonstrators protesting the President-Elect’s appointment cited the record number of immigrants deported during her time at the Department of Homeland Security, her lack of experience in academia and the lack of student input in the selection process. Members of the Student Advisory Committee who took part in the search for the new president and other student leaders present stated that they were not updated frequently or given enough input on the appointment of a new UC President.

While the Regents gave Napolitano a standing ovation during Napolitano’s press conference, attendees expressed their concern during the public comments and were ordered to exit the building by the UCSF police. Some DREAMers — undocumented students — spoke out during the comment section stating that they do not feel safe or comfortable with Napolitano as the UC President, considering her record. Six protestors were arrested upon refusing to leave during the public comment portion on counts of disturbing the peace and unlawful assembly. Former ASUCI Executive Vice President Andrea Gaspar was amongst the six students who were arrested for protesting Napolitano’s appointment.

Some of these protestors made clear their status as undocumented students pointing out that Napolitano has overseen the deportation of 1.4 undocumented immigrants. These undocumented youth — or DREAMers — rallied outside with various immigrant rights activists, including members of ASPIRE (Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education). UC Student Association (UCSA) expressed their opposition in a statement presented by the current UCSA President Raquel Morales who stated that nine former UCSA presidents disagree with this selection.

This meeting also marked the designation of the new Student Regent. Sadia Saifuddin, an undergraduate student at UC Berkley, will take on the position of Student Regent after Cinthia Flores leaves her post in 2014. Saifuddin will serve on the board of Regents from 2014 to 2015. This marks the first time in UC history that a Muslim student is appointed and only the second time an undergraduate student has been selected for the position in a decade. Saifuddin, who served the UC Berkley student government as an ASUC Senator, was met with controversy and opposition upon her appointment as discussion arose over her support of an ASUC bill that moved to divest school funds from companies supporting the Israeli military. Even though one Regent did vote against Safuddin, she was approved by the board and states that she plans on making financial aid and campus climate priorities in her time as a student Regent.