Tuesday, October 22

Napolitano tries to bridge gap with students during UCLA visit

UC President Janet Napolitano walks by student protesters on her way into Bruin Plate for her lunch with student leaders.

UC President Janet Napolitano walks by student protesters on her way into Bruin Plate for her lunch with student leaders. Neil Bedi / Daily Bruin

While protesters marched outside and called for her resignation, University of California President Janet Napolitano met with 22 students on Friday to listen to their concerns and questions as part of her tour of the UC system.

Students protest during UC President Janet Napolitano's first visit to UCLA on Friday.
Alex Hu / Daily Bruin
Students protest during UC President Janet Napolitano’s first visit to UCLA on Friday.
Napolitano did not make any promises for policy actions at the meeting, but she said she would look into various issues the students addressed. The topics ranged from increasing student diversity and establishing scholarships for undocumented students to raising revenue for the UC and expanding support for graduate and veteran students.

UCLA was Napolitano’s third UC campus visit in her first two weeks as president. She said she is focusing her first weeks in office on “just walking around” the University campuses to familiarize herself with them.

“I’m hoping these visits are the first of many,” Napolitano said to students at the luncheon. “I like being on campus; I like explaining, I like listening. It helps me focus my energies.”

She met with dozens of students, faculty and staff over the weekend, including members of the UCLA Staff Assembly and players from the women’s basketball team, said UC spokesman Steve Montiel. She flipped the coin at the UCLA vs. Cal football game. She sat in on a small Fiat Lux seminar about Indian law cases and gave the students insight from her experience as an attorney.

“(Her visit) made me feel like I could relate to her a little bit,” said Annakai Geshlider, a first-year world arts and cultures student in the Fiat Lux seminar that Napolitano visited. “She was definitely personable. She thanked each student after they spoke and she was respectful to each one.”

Her visit wasn’t met with complete welcome. While Napolitano spoke with students at Bruin Plate, about 30 protesters marched and chanted outside the dining hall for her resignation. They said her appointment was not democratic and she lacks academic experience. Protestors also cited concerns about the large number of deportations that occurred while she was the head of the Department of Homeland Security.

“(Napolitano’s appointment) is a symptom of an undemocratic institution. Her past experience doesn’t show her as being qualified,” said Janel Preciado, second-year biochemistry student and protest organizer.

Even though she does not have academic experience, Napolitano said her experience leading large, complex organizations will help her be an effective leader and advocate for funding for the UC. She added she has a good working relationship with Gov. Jerry Brown, and that she thinks the UC has an ally in Brown.

Napolitano said at the luncheon that she is looking to engage more with students and establish a good relationship with them. She said she has been looking into opening an online forum for students to submit their questions and plans to meet with the UC Student Association, which represents UC students and student governments, every quarter.

“I’m not going to tweet or Twitter or whatever – just saying,” she said, laughing. “But I want to expand the way I can converse with students … I think I’ll be a better president if I can have a good relationship with students.”

Napolitano also said her office is already looking to increase diversity at the UC, one of the concerns brought up during the luncheon.

“The reason I’m here is because this is important to me,” Napolitano said. “We’re going to keep on this – big time.”

During her Friday luncheon, Napolitano also said her office is already looking into alternative revenue solutions to present at her first UC Board of Regents meeting next month. She added that philanthropy will become increasingly important for the University, and she told students she will focus on being a “public advocate” and work to garner support for the UC. Online courses, however, won’t be reliable as a revenue solution, she said.

“That online education is a silver bullet and will solve all our funding problems – I don’t think anyone believes that anymore,” Napolitano said.

When students brought up the concerns some undocumented students have about her presidency, Napolitano said she is an advocate and supporter of undocumented students.

She pointed out that as Secretary of Homeland Security she implemented deferred action, a policy that grants temporary protection from deportation to certain individuals, and lobbied for the federal DREAM Act, which would grant permanent residency to undocumented individuals if they meet certain conditions. Napolitano said she already asked her UC office to look into finding a solution for undocumented graduate students, who cannot receive pay while working as teaching assistants because they have no Social Security numbers.

“She definitely was always mentioning that she wants to bridge the gap with students … I’m trying to bridge that gap too,” said Seth Ronquillo, a fourth-year film and linguistics student and co-chair of the student group for UCLA undocumented students called IDEAS, who was at the luncheon with Napolitano. “We expect the best out of her and we expect to hear further updates … (and) hopefully maybe making a better impression in our community.”

Napolitano said she plans to visit UCLA again in the next few months.

“I think this is a great time to be at the (UC). I think this is the best public university system anywhere and I think we can make it better,” Napolitano said at the end of the student luncheon.

“I’ll do what I can to work with you. This won’t be my last visit to UCLA,” Napolitano said in farewell to the UCLA students at the end of their meeting. “I wore my blue jacket, and I want to wear it again.”

Contributing reports from Jillian Beck and Chandini Soni, Bruin senior staff.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.

  • Todd

    Protesters wished to discuss topics ranging from “…increasing student diversity and establishing scholarships for undocumented students to raising revenue for the UC and expanding support for graduate and veteran students.” How about all chocolate dinners, subsidized Vespas, personal trainers and greater access to tee times at Bel Air CC?

    • yourestupid

      How about we just not pay her 500K/year while building a 150 million buck hotel on campus in a budget crisis while we’re ripping of our workers and have more than tripled tuition since 2002?

      • William

        Good idea. Let’s stop paying her the equivalent of 2 dollars per student so that we can lower tuition. Seriously, 500k is a drop in the bucket for the UC System.

      • Kendi Kim

        From what I can tell, the UC system pays staff very well, compared to other institutions with similar job categories, with good benefits too. (I didn’t say best, so please don’t bite my head off) While some staff do complain about their employment, I don’t see them leaving their jobs for better work elsewhere — and that is because they know that for the same type of job position, the UC system pays well.

        I’m not trying to be offensive, but firstly, my intuition here tells me that I think there are some people who get a little jealous of people who make 500k salaries period. The lesson here, is to consider that there may be a reason why some people make more money than others, and before we pick on petty details, let’s try to understand the whole issue first.

        Secondly, tuition isn’t decided by one person. I don’t think it’s fair to blame Napolitano for the tuition hikes.

        Thirdly, wealthy people aren’t the enemies here — though some wealthy people can be. But it isn’t their wealth alone that should make them deserving to be hated. For example, I don’t hate Monsanto because they are a wealthy corporation – I hate them because they provide food for more people than this earth can sustain naturally.

        What we should look at, is the merit of the individual character, and also the merits of their ideas. Instead of mentioning salary at all (I mean, is that what everyone is really riled up about?), how about mentioning the real problem?

        Let’s just say it out loud, in the open. Why hide it behind some cheap excuse about salary? And I am going with my gut-insight here, so please correct me if I’m wrong (and state why, so I can be educated).

        #1. There are some (not all) latino students on campus, who don’t like Napolitano because of her stance towards undocumented immigrants from Mexico.

        #2. There are some other students (not Latino) who believe that ALL people are born equal, though we know that this is not true. Equality is only to be expected within a very limited, and specific boundary.

        #3. There are also some other students, who believe that ALL people should have equal outcomes in life, even though this sort of thinking would go against the concept of merit and excellence.

        I have a very different opinion about the way the world should be. I will always be for excellence and beauty, because it is the way of warriors, and like my goddess Athena, I am for the way of the warrior. I think that these students protests against Napolitano are morally wrong, weakly supported, and are grossly misinformed.