Amid protests from students, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was named the 20th president of the University of California system Thursday afternoon.
The nomination of Janet Napolitano prompted concerns from UC students who said they believe her history of enforcing immigration laws and deporting millions of people would only scare students out of the university system.
“She is a very powerful figure for anti-immigration legislation and her coming here will make our community feel really unsafe,” said UC Berkeley student Rosa Hernandez, who is from an undocumented immigrant family. “I don't want my brother going to a university where he feels unsafe because of his status.”
Student protests disrupted the special meeting Thursday at UC San Francisco's Mission Bay Campus, with about a dozen students chanting “undocumentation is not a crime, Napolitano it's not your time” and shouting “shame” before the board of regents voted on the appointment.
In total, four students were detained for unlawful assembly for not dispersing following a police order. One other student was escorted out of the meeting after jumping the ropes to approach the regents following 40 minutes of public comment.
Though Napolitano had opposition, she had support too. Members of the board of regents praised Napolitano's leadership credentials, including her federal position as well as her tenure as governor of Arizona.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said students raised very important concerns but he thinks Napolitano will prove everyone wrong.
“I think what we have in front of us is a remarkable person of character,” Newsom said. “I think she is someone who will exceed expectations.”
Following her appointment, Napolitano — who also becomes the first woman to hold the UC president's job — told the regents she was excited to begin.
“I'm not a traditional candidate for this position, I do not come from an education background, but I have spent 20 years in public service advocating for it,” she said.
Napolitano will take charge of the 10-campus system by the end of September. Her compensation package includes $570,000 in annual salary and a $8,916 yearly car allowance, along with monthly retirement account contributions equaling 5 percent of her pay. She also will receive $142,000 in relocation assistance and live rent-free in university housing.
The entire package, though, is 10 percent less than her predecessor, Mark Yudof, recieved. But regents say it was Napolitano's choice and not a gender-related payment issue.
“You do these jobs for the passion of the work,” Napolitano said.