EDITORIAL: Janet Napolitano left her mark on the UC system

Janet Napolitano

By Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

 (Editor’s note: Opinion pieces are published for discussion purposes only.)

When Janet Napolitano was named president of the University of California six years ago, skeptics were quick to raise their voices against the selection of a former Arizona governor and U.S. secretary of Homeland Security. They worried that her appointment would send a terrible message to the university’s many undocumented students. A UC Santa Barbara English professor blogged that her lack of academic experience rendered her unqualified, adding that “being a political heavyweight is not a qualification for being a university president.”

Maybe not. But it sure didn’t hurt.

Napolitano, who announced this week that she will leave her job next August to teach at UC Berkeley, has been exactly the kind of tough, politically savvy leader UC needed during a particularly rocky time. She squared off with then-Gov. Jerry Brown, a tough, politically savvy leader himself who showed every sign of not being a big supporter of UC. He had signaled his attitude during his first administration when he suggested that UC professors should earn lower salaries because they derived “psychic income” from their jobs.

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