Despite having been in office for less than a month, UC President Janet Napolitano has already faced overwhelming opposition in the form of votes of no confidence by student governments across the UC system.
Many students within the system have voiced concern over Napolitano’s enforcement of various immigration policies while serving as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and say her appointment will make undocumented students feel unsafe on UC campuses.
In reaction to student concerns, the student governments at UC San Diego and UC Irvine unanimously passed resolutions of no confidence in Napolitano during the past two months. UC Berkeley’s ASUC passed a similar bill stating that it will vote no confidence in Napolitano if she does not meet certain demands by mid-October.
Students at UCSD expressed a need to feel protected by the UCSD Associated Students, said Vanessa Garcia, UCSD Associated Students’ vice president for external affairs.
“A lot of students have organized against her, and I haven’t seen anyone organize in favor,” Garcia said. “She really has nothing to lose from working with students because a lot of students are already very critical of her from the get-go.”
Unlike the student governments at UCSD and UC Irvine, UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Association Council passed a resolution that does not express no confidence but instead delineates a list of demands the council expects her to meet. These demands include prohibiting the use of riot police on campuses.
According to USAC Internal Vice President Avi Oved, the USAC believes a vote of no confidence could strain communication between the USAC and the UC Office of the President. Oved said the USAC wanted to begin its relationship with UCOP on positive footing.
“She hasn’t really followed through with any of the demands except supporting the TRUST Act,” said Maryssa Hall, USAC external vice president and an author of the resolution. “The resolution was significantly watered down because our council was opposed to passing it with some of the amendments.”
The Associated Students Senate of UC Santa Barbara also debated a bill Oct. 9 consisting of a “no confidence” clause and a list of demands but did not approve it.
Although most of the Santa Barbara body agreed with the demands, some students were not willing to approve the “no confidence” clause.
Similarly, the UC Student Association, an advisory board of students and student governments that seeks to represent students across the UC system, declined a vote of no confidence at its monthly board meeting Sept. 7. The UCSA instead created a list of demands for Napolitano similar to that passed by UCLA’s student government.
When the UCSA met with Napolitano on Oct. 8, she said her staff was looking into the demands. The UCSA will continue communicating with Napolitano’s office for updates on her progress in completing the demands, said Safeena Mecklai, ASUC external affairs vice president and a UCSA board member.
ASUC President DeeJay Pepito also underscored the importance of maintaining communication with the UC Office of the President.
The Council of Presidents, a group consisting of the presidents of the student governments across UC campuses, met with Napolitano on Monday morning to ask about topics such as the online education movement and its potentially negative impact on education quality in relation to the different campuses.
“President Napolitano still has a lot to learn about our culture and the climates of each individual campus which make up the UC,” Pepito said. “There is definitely a steep learning curve that she is facing, and while taking time to listen to students is very valuable, students deserve to see an intentional effort from the president to follow through on taking action on the issues we face.”
Jane Nho covers student government. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A previous version of this article may have implied that the ASUC Senate passed a bill expressing no confidence in UC President Janet Napolitano without qualifications. In fact, the senate bill stipulated that the senate would commit to a vote of no confidence if Napolitano did not meet a list of demands by the third week of October.