A.S. Slate Politics Distracts from Fulfilling Campaign Promises

Three days into new UC President Janet Napolitano’s tenure, the only real change for UC students is that our afternoons are now filled with essays and our bags with crumpled-up syllabi. Tuition hasn’t shot up, there are no metal detectors blocking the entrance to Center Hall, nor are UCPD officers storming into Hi Thai and rounding up students for deportation.

This is in contrast to Napolitano’s beginning with the nine-undergraduate-campus system, which was met with protests and demand-making on campuses statewide. On our own campus, Geisel Library was dressed in a “No to NapolitaNO” banner on Monday.

It is important to consider, before you paint your next “Napolitano must go” lawn sign, that Napolitano, as the first female head of the UC system, is doing a very different job than the one she had at the beginning of this calendar year. Napolitano’s new digs will require her to approach her job with a different mindset, as the goal of running the best university system in the country is very different than protecting the citizens of the United States of America.

Predetermined sentiment toward Napolitano as UC president and criticism based on her record at the Department of Homeland Security is unfair, as she hasn’t had a chance to demonstrate her plan for the system at this point.

This is not to say that there are not any marks on her record that are concerning. Her tenure at Homeland Security left some questions on the direction of her leadership. While Napolitano is great at identifying her goals (like her support for the DREAM Act and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers), she hasn’t always been able to translate those goals to a concrete result (as shown by the department’s record-setting 400,000-plus deportations in 2012).

Some marks on her record are certainly concerning, though as UC chief, Napolitano will need to focus on the major issues that affect UC students, like affordability, accessibility and diversity — and not, as some have suggested she will, “how many students can we deport?” In a state that now allows undocumented students to receive state funding for education, it seems that we can safely assume Napolitano will not work to make the UC community more exclusive as far as citizenship goes.

The former Arizona governor has no formal background in education administration, but it is far too soon to launch a vote of no confidence at her. The search committee that selected Napolitano was led by the UC Board of Regents, the same body that, just this summer, nominated UC Berkeley senior Sadia Saifuddin as the new student regent-designate.

Both the choices of Saifuddin for the student regent job and Napolitano for Queen Bee demonstrate the Board of Regents’ renewed efforts to hear more diverse student voices at UC headquarters in Oakland and strengthen its internal administration. Many of the regents will be termed out of office in the next year or two, and this will provide the governing board with a new opportunity to reevaluate the system’s priorities. Napolitano at the helm has the potential to help determine the first steps for achieving the UC system’s goals.

Napolitano was never going to fix everything in three days, and with a relatively light agenda for the first few weeks, it will still be a while before we see the real Napolitano Doctrine.

We should give her a chance to be the effective leader she promises to be. But should she take the system in the wrong direction, we’ll be wearing NapolitaNO shirts as well.

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