On Jan. 28, UC President Janet Napolitano hosted the first of a series of live online Google Hangouts. Student representatives from five UC Schools made up a panel that could ask questions and give feedback during the Hangout. There was also a chat for those watching online to comment and ask questions.
During the web talk, Napolitano said that the series was the result of many students asking to learn more about the updates that the UC Office of the President (UCOP) is making to the school system.
“This is part of our ongoing efforts to be in touch with students, both undergraduate and graduate, on issues like tuition, assistance for graduate students and professional school students, diversity and inclusion, sustainability and all the other initiatives that we have under way,” Napolitano said.
The web chat focused on issues such as job training for graduate students, in-state tuition for student veterans, financial aid, textbook prices and aid for undocumented students.
Questions from the chat box were chosen by UCOP representative Sarah Fidelibus and given to Napolitano to address. Many of the questions asked by students in the chat box regarded Napolitano’s previous occupation as Secretary of Homeland Security.
UC Davis University Affairs Director Dillan Horton said there is still a lot of concern surrounding Napolitano’s previous occupation and her opinion regarding AB 540, a law that allows for undocumented students to attend college in California.
“Students still want a response on AB 540 students,” Horton said. “We’re wondering if Napolitano will take accountability.”
A large focus of the web talk went to Napolitano’s initiative to allocate $5 million to undocumented students. The money will go towards financial aid for undocumented students who are enrolled in the UC because of AB 540.
The panel consisted of UC Student Regent and UC Irvine School of Law student Cinthia Flores, UC Riverside graduate student Lewis Luartz, President of the Student Veterans Organization and UC Santa Barbara student Paul Malone, Board Chair for the UC Student Association and UC Berkeley student Safeena Mecklai and Daily Bruin reporter and UCLA student Kristen Taketa.
UC spokesperson Brooke Converse said that UCOP reached out to members of the UC Student Association (UCSA) and students Napolitano had met during her visits to create the panel. The panel will change during the next web talk, as will the discussion topics. Future talks will feature faculty and staff, as well as other students.
Horton said that the student panel was put together quickly, which is why it was difficult for UC Davis students to get involved. Another possible reason that UC Davis students were not included in the panel is their limited involvement with UCSA.
“It seems disingenuous that student leaders who often have the opportunity to participate with Napolitano were on the panel,” Horton said. “But we don’t know what kind of panel would show up if students were chosen randomly.”
Aneil Dhillon, president of Davis Regents Scholars Society, does not think representation in future web talks will be an issue.
“UC Davis should get involved and I don’t think we’ll get neglected,” Dhillon said. “There will be significant activism if we do.”
Horton said he is glad that Napolitano is reaching out to students with the web talks. He said that more campus visits will also be a great help in connecting students to the UC President and staff.
ASUCD President Carly Sandstrom also said that visits to campus are important.
“I do appreciate the fact that she is reaching out to students and letting them know what she is working on,” Sandstrom said. “However, I do hope that there continues to be more candid dialogue with students, not just through using social media.”
UCOP recently released a newsletter for students to keep up with policies, initiatives and news. Subscriptions require a name and email, and the newsletters come out monthly. The date for the next Hangout is still undetermined.