Protesters at UC Regents meeting demand Napolitano’s removal

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Libby Rainey/Staff

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SAN FRANCISCO — The cries of protesters at the November meeting of the UC Board of Regents escalated to screams Tuesday as students and activists demanded Janet Napolitano step down from her position as UC president.

The protest, which began outside and continued into the public comment period of the meeting, took place at UCSF Mission Bay, where the regents convened for the first day of a meeting that will run through Thursday. The demonstration comes after months of outcry from various groups claiming Napolitano is unfit to be UC president because of her previous role as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and in particular because of her involvement in the deportations of undocumented immigrants during her tenure.

This was Napolitano’s first regents meeting as UC president, an office she took in late September.

“You need to immediately remove her,” UC Berkeley senior David Douglass told the regents. “There will be no tranquility, no peace. She is a lightning rod for protest across the UC. We will not rest until she is removed.”

The outcry took place during the meeting’s public comment session, during which Napolitano was not present.

The crowd of about 65 protesters — who said they were representing BAMN, a coalition advocating immigrant rights — began protesting about 1 p.m. and entered the meeting an hour later. The group included activists and students from Oakland High School, Oakland Technical High School, Edna M. Brewer Middle School, UC Berkeley and other institutions.

Rally cries included “UC Regents, we say no; your racist choice has got to go,” and “Education is not deportation.”

UC spokesperson Brooke Converse said the university has no plans to formally respond to the protest. She said that the size of the protest was roughly similar to that of past demonstrations but that the crowd was much younger.

Despite being present for Tuesday’s meeting, which focused on audit reports and capital projects, Napolitano is giving her official remarks before the regents Wednesday morning. In these remarks, Napolitano will announce new university initiatives, according to UC officials. Wednesday’s meeting will also feature a discussion on private donations to the university, which reached more than $1.6 billion in 2012-13.

Napolitano arrived at the meeting after the protesters left. Although she did not formally address demonstrators, she has met with undocumented students and student representatives across the UC system since beginning her role as president. About two weeks ago, she announced a $5 million initiative to enhance counseling and financial aid for undocumented students.

Protesters, however, said these actions are not enough. BAMN is distributing a petition that calls for replacing Napolitano with an “educator who will champion public, democratic education.”

“Immigrant students are an integral part of the community,” said Justin Cheong, a BAMN organizer who said he is undocumented. “They are fighting for all the values that are crucial to the UC system. Under her leadership, they will be impossible to achieve.”

Student Regent Cinthia Flores said that given the short time Napolitano has been in office, it is only natural that people are continuing to express their discontent at her appointment.

“The president needs to continue to prove herself to her constituencies at large, and it’s going to take a lot of time,” Flores said. “The best response is to continue to do what’s best for the university as a whole.

Contact Jessie Lau at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jessielau93.

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