UC President Napolitano holds UC-exclusive interview

Courtesy of Taylor Sanderson/UCSD Guardian
Courtesy of Taylor Sanderson/UCSD Guardian

On Sept. 30, UC President Janet Napolitano met with student newspaper representatives from each of the UCs to commemorate her first year in office and to discuss goals for the upcoming year. She discussed a broad variety of topics ranging from possible tuition increases, the UC’s continuing investment in fossil fuels and efforts to support undocumented students.

On the topic of state funding, Napolitano was disappointed when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a budget proposition that included $50 million in funding for the University of California. “I thought it was like Lucy yanking away the football,” she said, referring to a character from the comic strip Peanuts. Napolitano reaffirmed that the UC has freezed tuition three years in a row, but the lack of state funding may cause tuition to be in flux. “The state allocation for the university is not what we would hope and that does put heavy pressure on the tuition dollar … we may have to look at a tuition increase again.”

Napolitano also promised that she was looking at different methods of revenue than just tuition and state appropriation. She recently announced UC Ventures, a fund to pursue investments in UC research, connected to private enterprises. She remains convinced that the fund will become a viable source of income for the UC system: “UC Ventures augments, supplements and complements basic research and everything we do on the research side,” she stated, in response to controversy that these new ventures may compromise the integrity of UC research.

Nevertheless, she was questioned about the practicality of the recent pay raises for four of the UC chancellors (including UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox), despite the tough economic environment. “There’s never a good time to do it,” she said, referring to the pay raises. “We want to get the very best chancellors we can get. So we have to pay more. Most of our chancellors have actually taken a pay cut to be here … So the notion is: You know what, we’re the University of California. We compete with the best.”

Napolitano also discussed other controversial topics such as fossil fuel divestment, which encourages the University of California to sever its $10 billion in financial holdings from the fossil fuel industry. “We reject the notion that divestment is really the only and best thing to do. It becomes a bumper sticker … I think we can be much more substantive than only divestment.” She said that the University of California was vetting future investments so that they met Environmental, Social and Governance standards.

On the topic of undocumented student financial aid, Napolitano was ambitious in producing a more welcoming community for these student populations. “What I’m trying to do is … to make sure that students have an equal experience,” she said about desires to create a pathway for undocumented students to attain financial aid equivalent to federal aid. In Sept. 2013, Napolitano dedicated $5 million to support undocumented students throughout the UC system. At UC Riverside, the funds will go to hire a full-time program coordinator this year to provide counseling and support for undocumented students, who only receive state, but not federal, financial aid.

“What I’m going to focus on in year two is filling in,” Napolitano concluded the interview. “You know, this next year I don’t see announcing so many new initiatives as I see implementing the ones that we’ve begun.”

For a transcript of the full interview, please visit here.

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