My May newsletter

May 30, 2017

Dear friends and colleagues,

Commencement season is upon us — one of my favorite times of the academic year and an exciting, transformative moment for thousands of our students who have worked hard to earn their degrees.

Preserving freedom of expression

Commencement is also a time for speeches, so let me say a few words about an important issue that continues to receive much attention: freedom of expression.

There have been occasions, whether on a UC campus or colleges across the country, where students and others have shouted down speakers or set out to prevent them from speaking altogether because they disagree with a speaker’s views. This erodes our fundamental freedom of expression, and that hurts us all. The way to deal with hurtful or extreme speech is not with less speech, but with more, informed by facts and persuasive argument.

The free exchange of ideas and perspectives is the lifeblood of a university. I prefer a campus that is loud to one that is quiet, and a university environment where students and others feel included and encouraged to bring different perspectives to the fore. As university leaders, we have an obligation to foster an environment in which the expression of multiple viewpoints is respected and protected.

Federal budget update — we need your voice

There is some good news and also some potentially very troubling news out of Washington, D.C. about federal investment in education, research and healthcare programs of importance to UC.

On the positive side, the fiscal year 2017 omnibus appropriations law included bipartisan support for federal research. Budgets for the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy and other agencies that support UC research increased, were held flat, or saw only modest reductions in federal funding.

The bill also included funding for year-round Pell Grants, a UC priority for which we’ve been aggressively advocating. One of our highest priorities is ensuring that UC remains accessible to a diversity of qualified low-income students, and Pell grants play a critical role in helping us keep that promise. The New York Times recently scored U.S. colleges and universities on their accessibility, and I’m very proud to say that UC campuses claimed six of the top 10 spots.

I am deeply appreciative to all of our supporters who have joined our advocacy efforts. In all, UC advocates sent more than 10,000 letters to Congress since mid-April on the value of federally funded public research.

Recently, President Trump released his fiscal year 2018 Budget Request. It is very concerning as it proposes funding cuts to critical programs that support our students and patients and UC research that helps address some of our most pressing issues. Here are some examples:

  • More than 133,000 UC students benefit from federal financial support to pursue their education. The proposed cuts to student financial aid programs would limit their access to higher education and increase student debt;
  • The proposal to slash more than $800 billion over 10 years from the Medicaid program would be devastating, not only to patients and hospitals in California, but to those throughout the nation. This cut would make it increasingly difficult for UC health centers to continue to treat the sickest patients and serve as vital safety nets to vulnerable populations;
  • Proposed cuts to the National Science Foundation and energy science programs could slow vital UC research that mitigates the effects of climate change and helps solve many of the greatest scientific challenges that our country, and the world, confront;
  • With the proposed budget's drastic cuts to the National Institutes of Health, UC researchers might never have accomplished such medical breakthroughs as the bioartificial kidney for the treatment of end-stage renal disease, or the drug XTANDI to treat prostate cancer.

The focus now shifts to Congress. We need all of our supporters — students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and others — to let our elected representatives know how concerned we are about these proposed cuts, and to urge them to protect students, patients, and research that helps solve some of our biggest problems and improves lives.

If you’re not already involved, I invite you to join the UC Advocacy Network. Your voice really does make a difference.

Reaffirming our commitment to California undergraduates

Earlier this month, the UC Board of Regents approved a new policy that caps nonresident enrollment at 18 percent at five campuses. At our other four campuses where the proportion of nonresidents exceeds 18 percent — UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UCLA and UC San Diego — nonresident enrollment will be capped at 2017-18 levels.

I believe this policy appropriately balances UC’s long-standing commitment to put California students first and the many significant benefits that out-of-state and international students bring to our campuses. It also reaffirms our pledge that nonresident students will be enrolled only in addition to, and never in place of, Californians.

State audit

As I shared in my last newsletter, we accept, and already have begun implementing, all 33 of the auditor’s recommendations. These recommendations, largely about transparency and best practices, will be implemented thoroughly and on deadline. And we will be transparent throughout the process: We will report back at regular intervals to the Legislature and the UC Board of Regents about our progress. We have also created a website where the UC community, legislators, the news media and the public can track our progress. We at the Office of the President should and will always look for ways to improve and embrace constructive suggestions, which is exactly what we are doing with these audit recommendations.

Fostering sustainability and climate solutions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized UC as a national leader in ‘green power’ — and that’s something we can all be proud of.

For years, we’ve been working hard to make UC greener. Under our Carbon Neutrality Initiative which I launched in 2013, we committed to emitting net zero greenhouse gases from our buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025, something no other major university system has done. We are improving our energy efficiency and developing new sources of renewable energy, which already are yielding positive results. For example, our energy efficiency efforts helped save roughly $28 million in 2016 while reducing UC’s carbon footprint.

If you haven’t seen our innovative Climate Lab video series, I invite you to check out the videos here. The six-episode series, developed in partnership with Vox Media, explores global climate change issues and solutions in engaging, innovative and empowering ways, and highlights UC’s groundbreaking work to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Thanks for reading. As always, please email me at janet@ucop.edu if you’d like to share an idea or comment, and feel free to pass on this letter to friends and colleagues and invite them to sign up for future newsletters if they’d like.

Yours very truly,
Janet Napolitano