U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was appointed the next UC president at a special meeting of the UC Board of Regents on Thursday.
Napolitano’s base salary has been set at $570,000, effective on or around Sept. 30, and will be about $20,000 less than what outgoing President Mark Yudof earns. Her new salary will also be about $370,000 more than what she currently earns as secretary of homeland security.
She will take over for Yudof in September and will be the first female UC president in the university’s 145-year history. She has previously served as Arizona’s governor and attorney general.
Napolitano’s approval at the meeting was the culmination of a five-month search process that some called too closed and secretive. Despite input from faculty, alumni, students and staff, many criticized the choice of Napolitano — which was unanimously made by a special committee of the regents. Napolitano was also announced as the committee’s only choice for president six days before her approval.
“There’s been some questions as to why we did not release the (names of) hundreds of candidates we looked through,” said former board chair Sherry Lansing, who headed the search committee. “The reality is that any candidate who is employed would withdraw their name if it was ever made public.”
The choice was also nontraditional because the role of UC president is typically filled by an academic or individual with previous experience in university administration. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom noted that the change was a conscious decision by the regents that began when Yudof announced his resignation in January.
The board approved the search committee’s selection in a quick vote. Only one voting member, student regent Cinthia Flores, opposed the appointment, citing Napolitano’s background as homeland security head and her role implementing controversial immigration policies like Secure Communities, which gave local governments the power to report undocumented individuals to federal authorities.
“Students have raised a number of concerns,” Flores said. “She must remember that her involvement with Secure Communities will cast a long shadow on her future endeavors … I strongly believe this program has produced a divide that does not reflect nor support the UC regents’ commitment toward expanding and enhancing diversity.”
After her approval, Napolitano began her first address to the board by thanking its members for her selection and expressing her excitement at the idea of working for the university and the state of California.
“The University of California is the backbone of this state and a beacon for the nation and world,” Napolitano said. “It also does not seem to be a stretch to say that as the University of California goes, so goes California. So this is a high-stakes proposition.”
She also addressed some of the concerns voiced by members of public at the meeting, which included her lack of experience in university administration.
“Let me acknowledge that I am not a traditional candidate for this position,” she said. “I have not spent a career in academia. That said, I have spent 20 years in public service advocating for it.”
Contact Andrea Guzman at [email protected]