Janet Napolitano is not a new name in the political world. She first came to prominence when she represented the since-discredited Anita Hill in her claims of sexual harassment against US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. In 1993, Bill Clinton appointed her as district attorney for the District of Arizona. In 2002, she became the Governor of Arizona, a position she left when the Obama White House tapped her for the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security.
After a number of scandals as head of the Department of Homeland Security, Napolitano resigned and was approved by the University of California Board of Regents to become the new president of the University of California school system. Since taking this position in 2013, the scandals have continued; she caused student strikes with a tuition hike, secretly installed network monitoring hardware on school computers, and is now at the center of a series of scandals including a secret 175 million dollar slush fund.
A state audit of the University of California and its 28 billion dollars in finances and assets revealed that Janet Napolitano had a secret fund of 175 million dollars, which she used to pay bonuses and retirement benefits for a small number of university administrators, payment far exceeding what other similar administrators received. Further, the fund was used to give out inappropriately exorbitant perks for employment, including $350-per-night hotel rooms, tickets to films and theater events, and publicly funded limousine rides.
Most maddening of all, this discovery came on the heels of a vote by the University of California, where a tuition hike of 2.5 percent was approved. This second tuition hike in Napolitano’s tenure as President of the UC system caused yet more protests from students in the UC system.
Just as disturbing, however, is the evidence that Janet Napolitano was manipulating the surveys sent out by the state auditor. These surveys were meant to be handed directly back to the state auditor. Napolitano instructed her chief of staff and deputy chief, Seth Grossman and Bernie Jones respectively, to instruct the schools to hand their survey responses into her office for review, after which they would allegedly be given to the auditor. Janet Napolitano made statements that it was not the time for the school system to “air their dirty laundry”.
Three of UC’s campuses edited out negative comments before handing the surveys off to Napolitano’s office, with another five actively removing negative comments and avoiding ranking Napolitano’s performance as president as “poor”.
To their credit, UC Santa Cruz attempted to follow the instructions of the state auditor, sending in their surveys without editing. Napolitano made a ‘furious’ phone call to UC Santa Cruz’s chancellor, demanding they retract their surveys, and the chancellor complied, submitting a second survey that changed many ‘poor’ ratings to ‘fair’ and ‘good’.
For their parts in the scandal, Grossman and Jones, both of whom acted on the orders of Napolitano, have since resigned. Napolitano, on the other hand, refuses to resign her position, even though she has abused the trust of the people of California and the students in the University of California system. Making matters worse, the Board of Regents have declined to remove her from the office she holds.
Spokeswoman Dianne Klein has delivered Napolitano’s message that she is taking responsibility for the scandal, but so far that ‘responsibility’ has not lead to actions to correct it, or to punish those responsible (such as Napolitano herself).
There is no word that the secret 175 million dollar slush fund will be dissolved, nor that Napolitano has learned anything about being a better steward of the money of California’s students and residents. Adding insult to injury, Napolitano’s office will receive a budget increase of 127.5 million dollars this year.
For decades, UC was free for all California residents to attend. In recent years, tuition hikes have been repeatedly suggested as a way to raise more funds, and they have passed at least two hikes since Napolitano became the president. It is apparent that Napolitano is not taking appropriate care of the system, especially when she runs a 175 million dollar secret fund that is used to play favorites and enjoy expensive perks.
UC provides its chancellors and its president with mansions that they inhabit for free, along with six-figure incomes. For that kind of money and benefits package, they deserve to have honest leadership, not leadership that plays favorites and abuses their power of the purse. And the students deserve to have a President who is not constantly involved in sleazy scandals and avoiding responsibility for her poor leadership.