UC continues search for new president amid campus closures, COLA strike

UC continues search for new president amid campus closures, COLA strike

Photo Credits: Jesse Kireyev / Aggie File. University of California president Janet Napolitano speaking during the investiture of Gary May as Chancellor of UC Davis in 2017.

Current UC President Janet Napolitano to step down this summer

The UC is in search of its 21st president who will lead and oversee all 10 campuses, five medical centers, three national laboratories as well as agriculture and natural resources programs. Current UC President Janet Napolitano is expected to step down by August 2020.

Napolitano has served as president for the last seven years and was the university system’s first female president. Napolitano made the decision to step down this past September.

“This particular chapter in my professional history has been especially meaningful,” Napolitano said in a statement. “My years with the University of California have shown me the monumental value of public higher education.”

Now, months before Napolitano is scheduled to step down, UC campuses are facing campus closures in response to the coronavirus outbreak as well as ongoing, widespread graduate student Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) protests. 

In November of 2019, Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, a female and minority-owned executive search firm, was selected to find potential candidates to fill the president vacancy. In addition, a special committee was assembled to oversee the candidate application process. The committee is composed of faculty, staff, students, alumni, chancellors, lab directors and vice presidents. 

According to the Board of Regents, the new president should have a  “demonstrated track record of advocacy for diversity, equity and inclusion and a commitment to building a University that serves the diverse population of the state of California.”

The Board of Regents planned to hold extra town hall forums early in 2020 to help advance the hiring process. The UC Board of Regents hosted its first town hall forum on Jan. 21, 2020 at UC Riverside. At the meeting, speakers expressed primary concerns they hoped the new president would address. Cecilia Estolano, the vice chairwoman of the special committee, spoke about issues important to her and others at UCR.

“I want that president to exemplify the importance of diversity of experiences, boldly moving forward, constantly innovating, taking risks and investing in those who receive the least resources,” Estolano said, according to UC Riverside’s newspaper, The Highlander.

On Jan. 27, during a town hall at UC Berkeley, the issue of climate change was brought to regents’ attention.

After a petition from UC San Diego Green New Deal was sent to the Regents in January, the board agreed that the issue of climate change would factor into their decision-making when evaluating potential candidates. Almost 2,500 people signed the petition. 

Adam Aron, a professor at UCSD, spoke to the purpose of the petition.

“The purpose is to put pressure on the selection committee,” Aron said. “Why wasn’t the issue of climate change there in the beginning? Our organization is trying to push the wider UC system to take the crisis seriously.”

It is unclear at the time of writing how the recent coronavirus outbreak will impact the selection process of the UC president. All nine undergraduate UC campuses have decided to institute online courses for the remainder of the school year.

Written by: Ally Russell — campus@theaggie.org