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Janet Napolitano: a militarized president for a militarized university

The Department of Homeland Security is a cabinet-level department with a budget in the tens of billions of dollars, and fills the role of the Defense Department's domestic counterpart: while DoD sends tanks and guns to Baghdad, Kabul, Tel Aviv, and Seoul, DHS sends tanks and guns to Detroit, Chicago, Washington DC, and Los Angeles. One of DHS' primary roles is the militarization of police departments across the country, through a combination of terrorism-related training programs and cheap military surplus hardware (everything from high-powered rifles to armored personnel carriers and tanks).

This militarization has resulted in more deaths and injuries at the hands of police as response to crimes and disturbances escalates dramatically. It has also meant a windfall for defense contractors as they expand their range of domestic offerings, including unmanned aerial drones.

Today we learned that current Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will be tapped as the new President of the University of California system. In many ways, the UC red carpet has long been rolled out for her: the militarization of campuses against their own students (which has reached a new crescendo since OccupyCA, OWS, and the infamous pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis) the expansion of government and military contracts, and the ever-growing size of the administrative bureaucracy means that she'll likely find her new digs pretty familiar. As the LA Times put it:

Napolitano’s nomination by a committee of UC regents came after a secretive process that insiders said focused on her early as a high-profile, although untraditional, candidate who has led large public agencies and shown a strong interest in improving education.

UC officials believe that her Cabinet experiences –- which include helping to lead responses to hurricanes and tornadoes and overseeing some anti-terrorism measures -- will help UC administer its federal energy and nuclear weapons labs and aid its federally funded research in medicine and other areas.

What the Times doesn't mention is that some of those federal agency dollars are coming right from DHS itself.

We can't glean much about Napolitano's educational priorities beyond her tenure as governor of Arizona from 2003-2009.

During her time as governor, tuition at ASU went up 58%, much higher than the average 4-year public university's increase of 19% over that same period. (That being said, once Secretary of State Jan Brewer took over after Napolitano's DHS apppointment, tuition increases only got worse.)

While her appointments to the Arizona Board of Regents include the first Native American to the Board (LuAnn Leonard), they also include Dennis Deconcini and Anne Mariucci. Deconcini is a high-powered lobbyist, whose firm has the distinction (aside from representing such good citizens as Monsanto, Eli-Lilly, Pfizer, and the MPAA) of owning the domain LobbyCongress.com. Mariucci was head of Del Webb Corporation, a giant firm that builds retirement homes across the country, and later got into the private equity business. In 2011 she joined the Board of Directors of the Corrections Corporation of America. CCA, naturally, has spent millions lobbying DHS.

As Democratic governor in a state with a solidly Republican legislature and little worry about having to sign actual progressive legislation, Napolitano certainly talked a decent game. In 2008 she said she wanted to freeze tuition for in-state students, and guarantee a free ride to any Arizona student with at least a B average through high school (and a clean disciplinary record — problematic due to the racist and abelist discipline systems in most public high schools).

While Mark Yudof's tenure as current UC President is thankfully very nearly over, Napolitano's selection reinforces how tough the road ahead will be for student organizers. Her selection is in some ways a defensive response by the Regents against the pressures they face, both from Sacramento and from the very people who make up the University of California — the students, faculty, and staff. If she can manage to on the one hand get the legislature to widen the gates of privatization, and on the other squash insurgent activism on UC campuses, it will be a dream come true for the Regents. Thankfully, there are plenty of committed and organized Californians who stand in their way.

EDIT: Updated to reflect her position as President, not Chancellor. Thanks katminka!

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