My September newsletter

September 26, 2017

Dear friends and colleagues,

The beginning of the academic year is always an exciting time at a university. New students arrive on campus after working hard to get there and returning students come back to a place that’s become their second home. The depth and breadth of opportunity offered to our students is what distinguishes UC as a world-class university.

Supporting first-gen students on the path to success

This fall we are expanding to all 10 UC campuses our popular “First Gen” outreach to students who are the first in their family to attend college. Nearly 900 of our faculty members who were also first generation have signed up to mentor and support these students. For those with no family background in higher education, seeing the university as a place where they are welcomed and can succeed as others have in the past — including their professors — is a crucial first step. These mentorship efforts complement existing programs on every UC campus that provide academic counseling, financial advising and assistance, and networking opportunities.

We’re proud of the fact that systemwide, 42 percent of our undergraduates, and 45 percent of our incoming freshmen, are first-generation college students. So are four of our 10 current chancellors and hundreds of our faculty and staff members. In a time of deepening inequality, UC is leading the way with a comprehensive approach to preparing, enrolling and graduating large numbers of first-generation students, driving social and economic mobility across California and the nation.

Upholding DACA

We are continuing our efforts to support all undocumented members of our community and responded quickly to preserve the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, including by assisting undocumented students enrolled at UC with their legal needs. We are urging anyone in the UC community whose permit expires between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 to apply for an extension by Oct. 5, 2017, in order to gain another two years of protection from deportation. This appeal has been aided by the generosity of Bay Area non-profit The Mission Asset Fund, which is offering grants to cover the renewal application fee for those students. Those funds are limited, and I urge anyone eligible for renewal to apply for this grant right away: As was previously announced, UC also has filed suit in federal court to block the Trump Administration from terminating DACA.

Free speech on campus

While some have questioned UC’s willingness to host diverse political viewpoints on its campuses, UC leaders have consistently supported the right to free speech by our students, faculty, staff and invited speakers. I have written about the importance of open debate at educational institutions, which is why I fully support Chancellor Carol Christ’s decision to launch Free Speech Year on the UC Berkeley campus.

The way to deal with extreme, unfounded speech is not with censorship, it is with more speech, informed by facts and persuasive argument. Rather than silencing objectionable speakers, we must teach UC students to think critically about what they hear. As Clark Kerr, the George Washington of the University of California, said, “The university is not engaged in making ideas safe for students. It is engaged in making students safe for ideas. Thus, it permits the freest expression of views before students, trusting to their good sense in passing judgment on those views. Only in this way can it best serve American democracy.”

The benefits of cross-border collaboration, and the future of NAFTA

Last week, academics, policymakers and business leaders came together at a forum hosted by UC and Tecnológico de Monterrey to discuss the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the state of U.S.-Mexico relations.

This is a critical discussion we must have, amid talk at the federal level of ending NAFTA. Since NAFTA’s creation, trade has more than tripled among the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Over half a million California jobs depend on trade with Mexico.

As I wrote in my recent LinkedIn post, I firmly believe that cross-border collaboration enriches not only our economies, but our cultures and quality of life. Knowledge and ingenuity are borderless, and the exchange of academic ideas and research is absolutely vital to our economic prosperity and our progress as a society. That’s why UC continues to work collaboratively with Mexican institutions to build and strengthen partnerships, ensure the free flow of academic and research knowledge, grow our linked economies and solve shared challenges like climate change. Through these collaborations, the UC-Mexico Initiative aims to improve the quality of life on both sides of the border.

Other notable news

Before I wrap up, I want to quickly highlight some additional important UC news:

  • UC hosted its inaugural systemwide public service law conference: “Civil Rights in the 21st Century,” Sept. 23–24 at UCLA's Luskin Conference Center. The conference, which stems from the UC Public Service Fellowship program and is a capstone experience for the first group of summer and post-grad UC Presidential Fellows, featured hundreds of law students, recent graduates, faculty members, lawyers, and nonprofit professionals working on important issues like immigration, homelessness, access to counsel, water rights, and veterans’ issues. I want to thank UCLA for hosting the event and helping to make it a success.
  • Our five academic cancer centers have formed the UC Cancer Consortium, an alliance that reflects a new model for research and treatment and will focus on precision medicine, clinical trials, population health science, best practices in harnessing big data to improve health and political engagement for public benefit.
  • We continue to make good progress on implementing the recommendations from the state audit issued in April. This month, we announced systemwide policy changes that will enable the university to better align its policies and procedures with best practices and to more effectively manage costs.

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

Yours very truly,

Janet Napolitano