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Napolitano to Trade Her Helmet for a Cap and Gown
Posted on Jul 12, 2013
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has bested career academics and school administrators to be named the next president of the 10-campus University of California system, the Los Angeles Times reports. Napolitano, who has held her post in the Obama administration since 2009, is expected to begin her new job in September.
The decision is an affirmation of the claim, common among contemporary institutional cultures, that political skills and an administrative bone are more valuable in leading an organization than intimate knowledge of its peculiar needs and concerns. That means notions of business-like efficiency and values close to the state, rather than simple educational ones, may steer the UC system under Napolitano.
“UC officials believe that her Cabinet experiences—which include helping to lead responses to hurricanes and tornadoes and overseeing some anti-terrorism measures—will help UC administer its federal energy and nuclear weapons labs and aid its federally funded research in medicine and other areas,” the newspaper said.
Sherry Lansing, a university regent and former film industry executive who headed the search committee, was glowing in her appraisal of the panel’s selection. In a statement released Friday, Lansing said: “While some may consider her to be an unconventional choice, Secretary Napolitano is without a doubt the right person at the right time to lead this incredible university. … She will bring fresh eyes and a new sensibility—not only to UC, but to all of California. She will stand as a vigorous advocate for faculty, students and staff at a time when great changes in our state, and across the globe, are presenting as many opportunities as challenges.”
Robert Powell, chairman of UC’s faculty senate, praised Napolitano’s “outstanding ability to deal with complex organizations under demanding circumstances.” He also stressed her political skills as being important. “When she goes to Sacramento” to deal with other officials, he said, “clearly the conversions will be on a different plane.”
At a time when American wealth for public services, including education, has been drained by plutocrats, public universities want leaders “who can bargain as peers with governors and legislators and also impress alumni and parents,” the Times wrote. “Napolitano will deal with Gov. Jerry Brown, who is a UC regent and has been pressing UC to move more quickly into online education and to improve graduation rates.”
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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