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Friday, April 19, 2024

Chancellor May hosts three UC presidents at winter colloquium

The panelists discussed topics ranging from college accessibility to the role of the UC president

By CAROLINE VAN ZANT — campus@theaggie.org

UC Davis Chancellor Gary Mary hosted current UC President Michael Drake as well as former presidents Janet Napolitano and Mark Yudof at his quarterly colloquium on Feb. 24. The current and former UC leaders discussed college affordability and accessibility, COVID-19, the value of a college degree and the UC president’s role in addressing police on campus, climate change and other pressing social issues of the day.

May acted as a moderator for the panel and began by asking his guests to introduce themselves. Yudof, who has a background in constitutional law in addition to experience serving as president of the University of Minnesota, served as UC president from 2008 to 2013. Napolitano became UC president in 2013 after serving as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama. Her successor, Drake, has previously served as the president of the University of Ohio and the chancellor of UC Irvine.

During the introductions, a member of the audience stood up and projected the words “Free Palestine” onto the curtains behind them. The protester was promptly escorted out of the room by a Mondavi Center employee. 

Next, the panel discussed college affordability. Napolitano noted that in her tenure, she had only raised tuition by 2% and noted that one third of tuition dollars go toward financial aid. Yudof discussed the Aggie Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which covers tuition and fees for students whose families have an annual income of less than $80,000. Drake explained why he supported a proposal by the UC regents to increase tuition for the 2022-2023 school year. 

“As we raise more tuition we actually have more money that goes into financial aid actually lowering the debt burden on those lower income families,” Drake said. 

May brought up a survey conducted by the American Association of Colleges and Universities which found that 40% of Americans are skeptical about the value of the college degree. All three panelists championed the value of a college degree for economic and social development. 

“I don’t want to be crude about it, you probably will make more money, but you’ll probably live longer, you’ll vote more often, you’ll know more about culture and art, and the history of the country, religion, philosophy […] those are important things too,” Yudof said.

Next, the panelists were asked what role they believe the UC president and the UCs themselves have to play within a larger social context. 

 “A university ought to take on some of the big issues of the day […] it should engender discussion, debate and dialogue, but at the forefront it should be thinking about how to prepare the next generation to deal with these issues,” Napolitano said.

May then shifted topics and asked the panelists to advise those who may be interested in becoming a UC president. Addressing the students in the room, Drake said it is important to work hard and remain open to all the possibilities, rather than hyperfocus on one specific career goal.

May asked the panelists to name their proudest accomplishments as UC presidents. Drake listed navigating COVID-19, increasing diversity on campus and reinventing campus safety. Napolitano said her proudest moment was suing the Trump Administration over its infringement of DACA, a program which she pioneered during her years in the Obama Administration. Yudof, who served at a time when the UC system was reeling from the Great Recession, said that even though the UC raised tuition and cut pay during these years, the institution survived. 

May concluded the event by asking the panelists what makes them hopeful for the future. Drake pointed to increases in diversity and accessibility at the UCs as well as scientific advancements like the COVID-19 vaccines and CRISPR technology. Yudof and Napolitano shared similar points of view about the character of the UC community.

“We should allow ourselves to take some pride in the immense amount of talent at the university, from students, to staff, to faculty […] it is the kind of community that I think will permit our country to keep moving forward,” Napolitano said.

Written by: Caroline Van Zant  — campus@theaggie.org

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