The UC Student Association decided against a vote of no confidence in incoming UC president Janet Napolitano at its monthly board meeting Saturday.
The motion was introduced at the previous UCSA Congress board meeting by a coalition of UC undocumented student organizations and their allies. The coalition called for the UCSA, an advisory board that aims to represent students across the UC system, to take a stance against Napolitano. The board previously had passed five other demands.
Many students have expressed concern over Napolitano’s enforcement of immigration policies while she served as Secretary of Homeland Security and say her appointment will make undocumented students feel unsafe on UC campuses.
In a 9-6 split, the UCSA voted not to pass the motion of no confidence. Many board members said such a vote might strain the board’s relationship with Napolitano before she has even taken office.
“Speaking from a purely relationship-building standpoint, regardless of who is in the UC Office of the President, we need to have a relationship with them so that we can demand things for students,” said Safeena Mecklai, ASUC external affairs vice president and chair of the UCSA board. “If we set up a list of demands and she doesn’t follow through with them, that would be a time to explore a vote of no confidence.”
The UCSA board, which consists of up to three student leaders from each UC campus, created an online forum after its last meeting to gauge student opinion on Napolitano’s appointment. Some said, however, that the results of this forum were not acknowledged by the board at its meeting Saturday.
“There was no mention of the forum even though an overwhelming majority of the forum described the discomfort of students in terms of Napolitano’s appointment,” said Sean Tan, a CalSERVE senator who recently authored an ASUC bill calling for an expression of no confidence in Napolitano. The bill was introduced at last week’s ASUC Senate meeting but has yet to be voted on.
Both Tan and Mecklai said they did not expect the UCSA’s decision to have much influence on the upcoming senate vote.
UCSA board members also discussed a different resolution asking the UCSA to endorse nine demands that will be sent to Napolitano by a multicultural coalition of UC student groups. One of the demands would ask Napolitano to make the UC system a “sanctuary,” ensuring that campus officials would not enforce Secure Communities, a program implemented by Napolitano that allows police officers to turn over people they arrest to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The UCSA decided to postpone voting on the resolution until October.
“The resolution and the demands are very constructive,” Mecklai said. “They’re tangible demands, and I really encourage the ASUC to look at tangible demands because I think they’re stronger than no confidence. The fact that we didn’t even get to really consider those as a whole was frustrating.”
According to Andrea Gordillo, the campus organizing director for the Office of the Executive Vice President at UC Irvine and a co-author of both resolutions, the results of the meeting have left many students disheartened about the future of undocumented and minority students at the UC system. Gordillo questioned whether the board was acting on behalf of the students it represents.
“I don’t really believe in that organization anymore,” Gordillo said.