The UC Board of Regents approved former U.S. Department of
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as the new president
of the University of California late last month, amidst controversy
over Napolitano’s expansive experience in the political sector. As
the 20th president of the UC system, Napolitano is also the first
female to receive this position since the University’s founding 145
years ago. Her succession into presidency replaces former UC
President Mark Yudof, who served the University for over four years
and will resign from office to teach law at UC Berkeley once
Napolitano begins her tenure in September. Despite being an
unconventional pick for presidency since her field of federal
government expertise lies outside of academia, Napolitano said she
is excited for the tasks to come during her upcoming term. “I am
humbled by your support and look forward to working with you to
build further on the excellence of UC,” Napolitano said in a press
release. Before approval, Napolitano was one of 300 other
candidates for the position, and her nomination was a unanimous
decision by the search committee. Once in office, Napolitano will
be oversee all 10 campuses, six medical centers and three
affiliated national labs included in the statewide UC system,
according to a press release issued by the UC Office of the
President on July 18. UC Regents Chair Bruce D. Varner said in the
release that Napolitano’s political experience as the governor of
Arizona from 2003 to 2009 makes her well qualified for the
position. “She appreciates the importance of public research
universities, faculty scholarship and research and UC’s role in
shaping California,” Varner said in the release. “I am confident
that she has the background and attributes needed to build upon the
excellent work of her predecessor, Mark G. Yudof, and to lead the
university forward to even greater achievements.” As the third
Secretary of Homeland Security, Napolitano focused on national
efforts to identify and tackle potential threats facing the
country, and her work tackled issues including border security,
illegal labor and immigration laws, terrorism and natural
disasters. According to the UCOP press release, Napolitano
established an investment of over $2.2 billion into
state-of-the-art developments and research solutions at national
labs and universities in the country while in the Cabinet. She also
reached out to academic institutions and created the Homeland
Security Academic Advisory Council, which incorporates leaders from
over 20 universities and colleges in the U.S. Student Regent
Cinthia Flores was not part of the selection process, but said
Napolitano’s background could assist in the UC’s advocacy efforts
in Sacramento, while also presenting other challenges. “I think her
experience managing and administering a large agency will help her
in her new role,” Flores said. “Yet, her previous role has raised
several concerns amongst students. In particular, students have
expressed concerns of her potential involvement with police
enforcement and immigration policies.”