Review: University of California President-designate Janet Napolitano

By | July 19, 2013

Review: University of California President-designate Janet Napolitano

The Honorable Janet Napolitano was appointed the 20th€ president of the University of California by the Board of Regents on July 18, 2013. She will begin her tenure as president in September 2013. Napolitano will lead a university system with 10 campuses, five medical centers, three affiliated national laboratories, and a statewide agriculture and natural resources program. The UC system has more than 234,000 students, about 208,000 faculty and staff, more than 1.6 million living alumni and an annual operating budget of more than $24 billion.

Napolitano has served as Secretary of Homeland Security since January 2009. She served as Governor of Arizona from 2003 to 2009, as Attorney General of Arizona from 1998 to 2003, and as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona from 1993 to 1997. Before that, she practiced at the law firm of Lewis & Roca in Phoenix, where she became a partner in 1989. She began her career in 1983 as a clerk for Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Napolitano is a distinguished public servant with a record of leading large, complex organizations at the federal and state levels. As the nation's third Secretary of Homeland Security, Napolitano heads a department comprised of 22 agencies and directorates, and whose missions include counterterrorism, border security, immigration, cybersecurity and disaster response and recovery. The Department supports 12 Centers of Excellence through a consortium of hundreds of universities generating ideas for new security technologies.As Governor of Arizona, Napolitano focused on education, from pre-kindergarten through public higher education. She was the first woman to chair the National Governors Association, and was named one of the nation's top five governors by Time magazine. Forbes magazine recently named her as one of the 10 most powerful women in the world.The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Napolitano was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service by the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution in 2006. In 2012, she received the Anti-Defamation League's William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award, which is given for outstanding achievements in combating terrorism, extremism and injustice.A New York City native, Napolitano grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Albuquerque, N.M., where her father was dean of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. She earned a B.A. degree summa cum laude in Political Science in 1979 from Santa Clara University, where she was Phi Beta Kappa, a Truman Scholar and the university's first female valedictorian. She received her J.D. degree in 1983 from the University of Virginia School of Law. Napolitano holds honorary degrees from several universities and colleges, including Santa Clara University, Emory University and Pomona College. In 2010, she was awarded the prestigious Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal Law, the University of Virginia's highest external honor.

via President-designate Napolitano | UCOP.

I’ve made the point that the University of California finds itself, unfortunately, in competition for funding with the Department of Defense, despite the obvious ties with and benefits to the DoD. For this reason, I find the selection of Napolitano intriguing.

Historically, a lawyer-politician who has never been a college professor, let alone a higher-education administrator, might not have been the preferred choice to lead a huge public university. But that has changed in recent years. Universities – – private as well as public — are very much creatures of the U.S. political scene, highly dependent on federal and state funds. Who better to navigate that world than former elected officials?


Since the first reaction of many will be to assume that any Secretary of Homeland Security must be a pro-war Bush supporter, I did some quick research on the ideology of the new UC President. I was pleased to learn how many of Democrat Napolitano’s views (link, link) I share:

  1. No new gun laws; bearing arms is a fundamental liberty
  2. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.
  3. Offer every parent Charter Schools and public school choice
  4. Limit our greenhouse gas emissions & focus on solar energy
  5. Undeniable link between drugs and criminal activity
  6. Provide funding for the priorities without raising taxes
  7. Help teachers undergo the necessary training
  8. No cuts in higher education funding
  9. Resources to childcare assistance for low-income families
  10. Uses term ‘man-caused disasters’ instead of ‘terrorism’
  11. Signed legislation refusing to implement REAL ID standards
  12. All Americans must have access to health insurance
  13. A progressive tax system is the only fair way to pay for government.
  14. Belief in individual liberty and capacity for self-government.

Views of Napolitano’s that I do not share:

  1. Supports the death penalty and amending statutes to allow it.
  2. We don't depend or outsource our intelligence gathering capability to the private sector. – link

Regarding the Druge Report nickname for her — "Big Sis" which slots her as a female "Big Brother" spying on citizens, she’s had this to say:

"I think that what he means is we are watching too much–kind of an Orwellian view. He's just wrong. I mean, he's just wrong. We want to be conscious of civil liberties and civil rights protections–and we are, we don't do anything without kind of running it through our own civil rights and privacy office." – link

I do not think that most citizens who go through scanners at our airports would say the DHS policy of self-policing for civil rights has been a smashing success. Also, I’m not certain of the interactions between DHS and NSA, but assuming they are on the same page under her watch, the Orwellian title has turned out to be not an unfair moniker. I mean, we all know now, thanks to the top secret PowerPoint slides leaked by Snowden, that the NSA has been partnering with private industry for many years now to spy on American citizens. Not just criminals and terrorists. All of us.

I don’t have any reason to think she’s abused data from the massive secret spying using Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Skype, AT&T, and so on, but the reason to not collect data on everyone like this is that you can’t guarantee our privacy if you do. You can’t guarantee the information won’t be leaked, misused or even falsified. Obviously information can get out of the NSA that should not. Snowden went public, but how many before him have taken information from the massive NSA spy system and sold it for profit to telemarketers, cyber criminals or foreign governments?

In summary, from reviewing her record, I’d call myself a supporter of Napolitano in most areas. Given the openness of the University of California, I don’t see her views about keeping an eye on everyone to be a problem in her new position. On the other hand, if we get any hint of something like body scanners on University of California campuses, I will support a revolt. I don’t think she’ll go there. 😉

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