Napolitano Meets With Students First Week On Job

The new president of the UC system, Janet Napolitano, met with undocumented students and students of color representing a coalition concerned about issues surrounding her appointment at the UC headquarters on Oct. 1. Napolitano, who took her post on Sept. 30, wasted no time in meeting with these students who came from all over the UC system to present a list of demands they wish to see fulfilled by the new president.

The coalition of multicultural, undocumented and concerned students mobilized over the summer around their disapproval of Napolitano’s appointment. Before physically presenting the list of requests to the UC president, these students penned a letter including the widely read seven (previously nine) demands addressed to Napolitano. The list of demands circulated throughout the system and within various activist groups. It was eventually adopted by several UC student governments, signed by multiple student organizations and distributed as a petition via the popular DreamActivist.org.
As opposition directed toward Napolitano grew, the need for a meeting between the incoming president and students became evident. Student Regent Cinthia Flores helped coordinate the meeting between the two parties and was present alongside Student Regent-Designate Safia Saifuddin at the meeting.
Andrea Gordillo, a UC Irvine student and vocal leader in the coalition challenging Napolitano, served as the moderator for this meeting as the students present went through the list of demands, explaining them to Napolitano and her staff in great detail.
Napolitano agreed with many of their concerns and promised to look further into many of these demands and consult with her staff on what steps to take. This left the students present at the meeting cautiously optimistic.
“We expected more tangible solutions and clear responses, but we do think this is a first step,” Gordillo said. “Our no confidence in her still stands, the fact that we had a meeting with her doesn’t change the fact that we don’t accept her as UC president.”
According to Gordillo, this is not the end of communication with Napolitano, but rather the beginning. The UC president and coalition students plan on having a follow up meeting to continue discussing the students concerns and what responses are necessary.
“It was a productive opening discussion in what I hope will be an ongoing dialogue with students,” Napolitano said in a press release regarding the meeting.
Napolitano also took time to discuss the newly signed TRUST Act with students at this meeting. At the time, the TRUST Act — a California bill concerning immigrant rights — was awaiting Governor Brown’s signature and the students present at the meeting were pleased to hear that she was publically supporting this new law.
A group of California lawmakers also addressed Napolitano on her first day of office in an open letter that expressed concern about a recent change in wages in the UC system.
“This past year, UC contract negotiations with its employees have largely resulted in signed agreements, providing many workers at the backbone of the UC system with well-deserved 3 percent wage increases. UC has applied a different standard to its patient care and service workers  90 percent of whom are immigrants and people of color. Service workers are the only ones that have been singled out for a wage freeze. These women and men are already the lowest-paid UC employees,” read the letter signed by ten California assemblymen and women.
The assembly members, in tandem with the students’ voice, stated that they are ready to work with the new UC President.