University presidents are in unique and powerful positions, overseeing institutions that are supposed to protect and foster free critical inquiry, and serve as safe-zones for the pursuit of intellectual investigation, open debate, and dissent. That’s why it’s particularly disturbing to witness the transformation of Janet Napolitano from DHS director to university system president.
In September 2013, former director of the Department of Homeland Security Napolitano became the president of one of the nation’s largest public university systems, the University of California. In her role as president of the UC system, Napolitano oversees almost 19,000 faculty members and over 200,000 students, as well as a staff of nearly 200,000.
Soon after she started the job, Napolitano embarked on a “listening and learning” tour of all the UC campuses. She was reportedly met with protest by immigrant and undocumented students, who did not forget that their university president once steered the biggest deportation ship in the history of the United States. (The Obama administration will soon have deported two million people, most of whom were kicked out of the country during Napolitano’s reign at DHS, the parent organization of ICE.)