On Thursday, UC President Janet Napolitano will set foot on the UC Berkeley campus, her 10th and final stop of a UC campus listening tour that began more than four months ago.
While on campus, Napolitano will meet privately with a cross-section of students — including those in the ASUC and Graduate Assembly — as well as faculty, staff and campus administration in an effort to hear the perspectives of the campus community.
“She will be listening and learning and seeing for herself what a fantastic, awe-inspiring place Berkeley is,” said UC spokesperson Dianne Klein. “She will see firsthand the exciting work being done on campus and be given the opportunity to ask her own questions of those carrying out that work.”
Although the ASUC has been fairly critical of Napolitano thus far — last semester, the ASUC Senate formally expressed a vote of no confidence in her — ASUC President DeeJay Pepito is hopeful that the UC president “takes seriously the concerns students have raised” about her presidency.
“While some students are calling for her resignation, I think at the very least students want her to take substantive, real action to address important issues at UC,” Pepito said in an email, citing affordability, diversity, campus climate and sexual assault as some of the most pressing concerns.
Last year, Napolitano allocated $5 million to recruiting graduate students to the university as part of a larger $15 million initiative aimed at supporting undocumented students and postdoctoral fellows.
While Graduate Assembly President Max Gee commended the gesture as a first step, he said he hopes to give Napolitano a sense of some of the underlying issues important to graduate students — such as professional development and university funding — when the assembly meets with her Thursday.
“What’s more important than the $5 million is taking time to understand the student experience and to look at substantive changes that can support and improve the student experience,” Gee said.
Napolitano will also be met by protesters during her Thursday visit, just as she has been throughout her tour of the UC system. At least two protests will coincide with her visit, including a morning rally in front of Sutardja Dai Hall, where Napolitano will be speaking, and another on Upper Sproul Plaza in the early afternoon.
Although the two groups sponsoring the separate protests —BAMN and Students of Color Solidarity Coalition — are not affiliated with each other, they are alike in both their support for undocumented students on campus and their continued opposition to Napolitano for her oversight of the deportation of millions of immigrants as former secretary of Homeland Security.
“We want to establish UC Berkeley as the epicenter of the student movement,” said UC Berkeley senior and BAMN organizer David Douglass. “It’s really an opportunity to unite UC Berkeley with the immigrant rights movement and speak against policies that Janet Napolitano has advocated for.”