Our objections to Napolitano’s presidency begin with the very process by which she was selected. Her appointment was announced to the public suddenly at the end of a secretive, closed-door process conducted by the UC Regents, themselves an undemocratically selected body in no way bound to the will of the students, faculty, or workers of the UC system, but riddled with conflicting private interests that include the increasing militarization of UC campuses. It is hardly a coincidence that the Regents’ search led them to the head of an organization that also notoriously thrives on secrecy and militarism. This collaboration marks an alarming acceleration of the degradation of democracy—not only at the university level, as students and workers are deprived of the right to meaningful participation in their schools’ governance, but also at the state and national level, as the sovereignty and independence of education are explicitly handed to agents of privatization and militarization.
Napolitano began her experience with “public” education in her gubernatorial campaign to expand “oneof the nation’s largest…charter schools,” a movement that has left K-12 public schools ravaged across the nation. This laid the neoliberal foundation for later atrocities that made Arizona—and especially its school system—an infamous beacon of racist inequality. As the head of DHS, Napolitano mainly interacted with higher education only to channel ever more of its research and funding away from the public good and towards surveillance and war. She has implied that she will continue her regime of surveillance and privatization by hastening the forcing of online education upon the UC.
Also, for a university that claims to be pro-immigration, the choice of Napolitano is quite odd. During her tenure as the top administrator of the Department of Homeland Security, she oversaw the deportation of nearly 1.5 million immigrants—the most in any American administration. Furthermore, she implemented policies that further militarized the borders, and she expanded U.S. drone and surveillance programs. In the face of these facts, the appointment of Napolitano is a glaring contradiction to the UC’s supposed immigrant-friendly stance. Napolitano has proven that she is no friend of immigrants, and if the UC really were an advocate of immigrant rights, then the Regents would revoke her appointment.
As a former Governor of Arizona and Secretary of Homeland Security, Ms. Napolitano may be an expert at running large organizations, but she does not have the depth of experience with and investment in California public education that befits a leader of the UC system. The UC was built and funded by the residents of California to educate new generations of Californians. As students, we want the leader of our universities to be a California educator, one who has dedicated a lifetime to California pubic higher education and reflects our values. The shocking choice of such an imperial privateer, whose salary will triple as she becomes the head of a supposedly public institution, to lead a state school ravaged by austerity is only conceivable when one considers that this choice was first made by an executive search firm hired by the Regents behind closed doors. The university community simply will not stand for it.
From the expansion of funding for weapons development in Berkeley labs, to the distressing investment in the Israeli occupation of Palestine, to the brutal suppression of free speech and free assembly on our campuses, we see the very ideals that draw distinguished students and faculty to the UC now fully undermined. Based upon these and other concerns, we demand that the UC administration revoke Ms. Napolitano's job offer and re-open the process of selecting the next President of the University of California. We further demand that this process take place as it should: visibly and democratically with input from all members of the university community as we search for a fit president who will be accountable to us.
UC Students and Allies in Dissent