Objection is mounting to the nomination of Janet Napolitano as the next University of California president, with students and immigration activists planning to protest against her at Thursday's meeting of the governing Board of Regents in San Francisco.
As the head of the national Department of Homeland Security, Napolitano is the face of the nation's immigration policy, a role that is making her unpopular with some UC activists. In her first two years as Homeland Security secretary, the United States deported more undocumented immigrants than ever before, the federal government announced in 2011. She also oversaw the so-called "Secure Communities" program that allows law enforcement and immigration officials to share fingerprints of arrestees.
While she wouldn't be the first politician in the country to take the reins of a university, some California faculty are unhappy that someone with a thin academic background is in line to take UC's top job.The UC Board of Regents has become a corporate dominated body that increasingly approaches it's responsibilities as though it is running a profit making business rather than a public educational institution. In the face of class cuts and steep tuition increases they have continued to insist on the necessity of paying executives salaries and benefits comparable to those on Wall St. They think that they are in competition with Goldman Sachs for the best talent. In their eyes Napolitano's qualifications are determined by her connections to the security state and not by any academic expertise.
"Napolitano is contrary to every other president that UC has ever had. It seems to be a sign that they want to make a change, but it's not clear what that direction is," said William Drummond, a professor at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.
There is a similar trend underway at many other top tier educational institutions. It reflects the shift in perspective on the purpose of an educational institution. Instead of seeing it as an investment in human capital for tomorrow, it must now takes it place as a cog in the neoliberal globalized corporate state.