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Students to discuss concerns with Napolitano in on-campus meeting

By Kristen Taketa

October 10, 2013 6:33 pm

University of California President Janet Napolitano will meet with more than a dozen UCLA students Friday to discuss several student concerns, such as undocumented student demands for Napolitano, revenue solutions for the UC and support for graduate students.

The committee of students invited to talk with Napolitano over lunch include UCLA undergraduate and graduate student government representatives, as well as student leaders from the Muslim Student Association, Bruins for Israel and the undocumented student group, Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success, known as IDEAS, said Avi Oved, internal vice president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council. Oved will be one of the attendees at Friday’s luncheon.

Leaders from the Student Initiated Access Committee, Campus Retention Committee, the Community Programs Office Student Association and the Daily Bruin, as well as a student veteran, will also meet with Napolitano Friday.

Napolitano reached out to UCLA administration to initiate this meeting with students, and UCLA administrators decided which students to invite to the meeting.

“The intention is (to make) sure that we present President Napolitano with a diverse group of students to interact with,” said Maria Blandizzi, director of student services and initiatives from UCLA Student Affairs. “We want to make sure that … (the students) represent a wide variety of perspectives.”

Officials are keeping Napolitano’s campus visit low-profile. UCLA and UC media relations officials said they are unable to give details about Napolitano’s visit, such as when she will arrive on campus and what other students, faculty or staff she will meet.

Her visit to UCLA has not been announced by the University, and her lunch with students will be closed to the public and the media.

Several UCLA community members have already voiced opposition to Napolitano’s visit, citing concerns about her past record with federal immigration policy and how she will handle labor relations. When Napolitano was the Secretary of Homeland Security, her office deported a record numbers of individuals.

Members of the Coalition Against Napolitano and the Student Collective Against Labor Exploitation plan to host a protest against Napolitano in Bruin Plaza Friday morning, and six students demonstrated against Napolitano in front of Powell Library today.

Seth Newmeyer, a fourth-year English student and one of the protesters, said he doesn’t think Napolitano was selected democratically enough and that he wishes she would resign.

“Any president that is forced upon us in this way should be resisted on principle,” he said.

On Tuesday, students and UCLA vice chancellors who will meet Napolitano Friday held a closed meeting to decide what they would discuss with the new UC president.

Students said they would ask Napolitano about her plans for an un-earmarked $10 million in surplus left over from former President Mark Yudof’s administration, Oved said.

The committee will also ask how Napolitano plans to approach online education at the UC. Yudof attempted to advance online courses at the UC, but said he was unable to achieve his goal of establishing a large number of cross-campus, high-demand online classes.

The students also plan to discuss support for undocumented students, who have presented some of the most vocal opposition to Napolitano’s initial appointment.

“(The meeting) is a real opportunity to … take hold of the point that undocumented students … and our concerns are important,” said Seth Ronquillo, a fourth-year film and linguistics student and co-chair of IDEAS. “It’s going to be exciting to let her know the concerns we had.”

Students said they would also ask Napolitano how she plans to advance diversity at the UC, increase revenue for the University, improve access and retention, support graduate students and what she thinks about UC campus climate.

They also want to ask her how she plans to deal with the UC Student Health Insurance Plan, which has run a $57 million deficit.

Nicole Robinson, president of the Graduate Student Association, who will meet Napolitano Friday, said she thinks the luncheon will be a good time for Napolitano to answer student concerns about her appointment.

“(The students) do want to get a sense of, who is the president?” she said.

In her first two weeks as president, Napolitano has given few and general comments on her term and her appointment.

So far, she has not directly addressed the concerns many members of the UC have brought up since July about her lack of educational experience and her track record with federal immigration policy while she was the Secretary of Homeland Security. During the meetings she has had with students, she did not make any definite promises to answer the concerns they brought up with her, according to students present at these meetings.

During her term, Napolitano has met with UC student regent Cinthia Flores, student regent-designate Sadia Saifuddin, a group of undocumented students and students from UC Merced, which Napolitano visited last week.

Contributing reports from Amanda Schallert, Bruin senior staff.

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Kristen Taketa
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