UC President Janet Napolitano Announces Decision To Step Down In 2020

By: Oriana Gonzalez

Update 9/30/2019: This article has been updated to include a statement by ASUCI President Randy W. Yan.

UC President Janet Napolitano announced that she will step down from her position by Aug. 1, 2020 at the UC Board of Regents meeting held on Wednesday. 

“My time at UC has been deeply gratifying and rewarding. I have been honored and inspired every day to serve this institution alongside incredibly dedicated, passionate people,” Napolitano said during the meeting. “The decision was tough — and this moment, bittersweet — but the time is right.”

Napolitano became the 20th UC President in September 2013 after serving as the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security for four years. She is the first woman to ever serve as UC President.

Napolitano’s appointment as UC President was controversial. In 2013, the New University reported that UCI students marched to protest the then newly-appointed UC President while she visited the campus, bringing up their concerns about her designation, “including the record number of deportations during her time as head of Department of Homeland Security.

During her time as UC President, the UC increased tuition, increased enrollment numbers, sued the Trump Administration to keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and appointed the first system-wide Title IX Coordinator for the UC.

The UC Student Association President, Varsha Sarveshwar, released a statement addressing Napolitano’s resignation announcement following the UC Board of Regents meeting. “President Napolitano was the first president to regularly meet with students — and in that spirit, we encourage the Regents’ Special Committee to work with us in the coming months to select a bold, visionary President who will join us to fight for the best that public higher education can be.”

In her statement, Sarveshwar also noted that “the past six years have been a tumultuous time for the university community.” She commented on how student activists have brought attention to issues about housing and food insecurity, the daily struggles of black, brown and undocumented students, among others. Sarveshwar also highlighted labor union protests regarding underpayment and mistreatment.

“UC President Napolitano has carried out her duties these past six years with dignity and responsibility,” said Associated Students of UC Irvine President Randy W. Yan. “Under President Napolitano’s leadership, the UC System has made significant progress towards basic needs efforts, reforming UC’s sexual harassment and sexual assault policies, and providing gracious support services to first-generation students.”

Like Sarveshwar, Yan also commented on student issues, “While President Napolitano did the best she could during her tenureship, we also recognize that there are many other student issues that need to be addressed. On behalf of the Associated Students of UC Irvine, we look forward to the next UC President in continuing the partnership with students in helping resolve the many issues that students in higher education face today.”

After Napolitano’s announcement, UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Pérez said that the Board of Regents “will provide the UC community and the state of California a transparent and thoughtful process to find the next president of the University of California.”

According to a UC Press Release, after she steps down in 2020, Napolitano will continue teaching at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, where she is currently a tenured professor.

“We have new regents on UC’s governing board, a new governor in Sacramento and a presidential election on the horizon. With many of my top priorities accomplished and the university on a strong path forward, I feel it’s the ideal time for a leadership transition — an infusion of new energy and fresh ideas at the university,” Napolitano said during the meeting.