Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Janet Napolitano will be a good leader for the University of California, despite objections from immigration activists about the large number of deportations during her tenure as the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.
"She works for the president of the United States. Her job is to execute in that position the policy of the chief executive officer. Those were the president's policies," Newsom, who serves on UC's board of regents and is acting governor while Gov. Jerry Brown is on vacation in Europe, said in a phone interview with The Bee this morning.
"They were particularly effective on the deportation side to a degree we haven't seen in recent history. But it was not a policy, I believe, ... that emanated from Janet Napolitano. I believe that policy came from the White House."
Newsom said he had received 700 emails from people concerned that Napolitano's track record on immigration makes her a bad fit for UC, which serves a diverse population that includes students who immigrated to the United States both legally and illegally.
Some immigrant students are planning to protest Napolitano becoming the next UC president at tomorrow's meeting in San Francisco where regents are scheduled to vote on her nomination.
Regarding concern from some faculty that Napolitano lacks the academic credentials necessary for the top job at UC, Newsom said "a fresh set of eyes" would be good for the university.
"An outsider's perspective at this stage is needed," he said. "We can't continue to do what we've done. As extraordinary as this system is, it's just not sustainable as we have currently conceived it."
Napolitano's experience in leadership - as governor and attorney general of Arizona, in addition to her position in Obama's cabinet - is more important for the job of UC president than a career in academia, Newsom said.
"Good people can disagree, but I think it's a very healthy choice."
UC has not yet revealed how much Napolitano will be paid. That information will be made public tomorrow after regents approve her nomination. Outgoing UC President Mark Yudof gets a salary of nearly $600,000 plus additional perks that brought his total compensation above $800,000 in 2008-09. Napolitano makes $199,700 a year as the head of Homeland Security.
Newsom said he'd been briefed on her proposed UC compensation package and that it is "in the ballpark of what I think is reasonable."