The ASUC Senate wasted no time at the beginning of the academic year, gearing up in its first meeting to debate a bill expressing that the senate has “no confidence” in Janet Napolitano as the incoming UC president.
Napolitano’s appointment raised concerns due to the policies she implemented in her previous position as Secretary of Homeland Security. In response, the ASUC Senate will debate SB 2, titled Bill in Support of Undocumented Students and Immigrant Communities, on Monday.
“The ‘no confidence’ comes from a lot of history — she has deported over 2 million undocumented immigrants,” said ASUC Senator Sean Tan, who authored the bill. “There’s a lot of fear in terms of what is her main priority as UC president, because she comes from a background of surveillance and apprehension and security.”
As Homeland Security Secretary, Napolitano played a role in enacting immigration policies such as Secure Communities, a program that allows local governments to report undocumented immigrants to federal officials.
Under her leadership, the Homeland Security Department deported a record number of undocumented immigrants, according to a report by UAW Local 2865, a UC student workers’ union.
“We call for a president devoted to rebuilding our capacity for teaching, research, and learning — not a specialist in cyber surveillance, law enforcement, and border security,” the union’s release states. “We demand that the UC Regents retract Napolitano’s nomination for appointment and reopen the process for selecting the UC president.”
If the bill is passed, ASUC External Affairs Vice President Safeena Mecklai will present a list of priorities detailed in the bill to the UC Student Association. These priorities include holding mandatory annual trainings for the rights of undocumented citizens, holding town halls for the UC campuses in both Northern and Southern California regions and ensuring that Secure Communities will not be implemented on UC campuses.
“A vote of no confidence is more effective when someone has already been in office,” Mecklai said. “For me personally, it’s more impactful to list eight demands with a timeline of when she needs to follow through with them.”
But some UC officials feel it is too soon to judge how Napolitano will perform as UC president. UC spokesperson Steve Montiel believes students will see that she is a person of “great integrity” as they learn more about her.
“She’s coming to lead the University of California, not coming to lead an immigration enforcement program,” Montiel said. “It’s a whole different world.”
The bill also calls for ASUC President DeeJay Pepito to propose a review of the UC president’s selection process to the UCSA Council of Presidents because some students felt that they were unfairly represented in her appointment.
“We as a senate could look at possible policy changes on how the UC president is selected, because we had a real problem with how student voices weren’t heard,” Mecklai said. “My fear is that we’ll only attack Napolitano and not the process, and in 10 years, this will happen again.”
Student Regent Cinthia Flores said the bill provides a proper avenue for students to voice their positions about Napolitano’s appointment.
Jane Nho covers student government. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.