Napolitano’s expected appointment stirs controversy at UC

The National Guard /Courtesy
UC President Janet Napolitano will lead the U.S. delegation in the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

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Several UC Berkeley affiliates intend to protest the appointment of U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as president of the University of California, which is set to be confirmed at the UC Board of Regents meeting Thursday.

A group of campus students, coordinated by graduate student Elizabeth De Martelly, will gather on Sproul Plaza at 11:30 a.m. to carpool to the UC Regents meeting at UCSF Mission Bay, where they plan to voice their concerns in the public comment session.

“Napolitano was nominated without any input from the university community, and that suggests that the university predicted there wouldn’t be support from student and faculty,” De Martelly said.

UCLA law professor Abraham Wagner cited similar concerns and said that Napolitano’s nomination was a completely “confidential enterprise,” alleging she was hired by an outside recruiting firm. Wagner said there was little transparency with university faculty, and he does not think Napolitano will garner respect from UC faculty.

“She is not an academic person, not a scholar, and has never published anything,” Wagner said. “She doesn’t have anything that the president of the University of California should have. The UC is the largest and best public university system in the country, but there is not a lot of money right now, and she doesn’t bring anything to the table.”

Opponents to Napolitano’s nomination cite concerns about her record on immigration and academic experience., an organization for undocumented students, has created a petition to stop the nomination. In a letter to the regents, they said that under Napolitano’s policies and President Barack Obama’s term, 1.5 million immigrants have been deported.

UCLA alumnus Diego Sepulveda, who is attending the regents’ meeting to speak against the nomination, said that the university has put a great deal of effort into making it possible for undocumented youth to pursue higher education and receive financial aid. He said he fears that Napolitano’s appointment will stagnate the progress that has already been made.

“She has done so much harm in the immigrant community, and the UC system has a large number of immigrant students,” Sepulveda said. “How is her experience relevant to the education of our UC students?”

Ju Hong, a UC Berkeley alumnus, said that Napolitano’s nomination showed the UC Regents’ lack of leadership in failing to engage with the public and students in the selection process. He also expressed concerns about the impact that Napolitano’s appointment would have on undocumented students at the university, citing federal programs like Secure Communities under Napolitano’s leadership.

“My friends were caught up by her system,” Hong said. “It’s very tragic that they appointed to her as president, and I’m very afraid of restriction in this education system.”

Contact Sasha Costello at [email protected]