UC Hastings will celebrate its Commencement for the Class of 2014 on May 10. This ceremony, to be held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in our Civic Center neighborhood, is our most important academic celebration. I look forward to joining all of our graduating students as well as their families and friends. The new University of California President, Janet Napolitano, is our official speaker.
UC President Napolitano has a distinguished record of leadership. She was Attorney General of Arizona, before serving two terms as Governor. President Barack Obama named her to his Cabinet as the Secretary of Homeland Security. On September 30, 2013, she became the 20th President of the University of California, overseeing 10 campuses, five medical centers, three affiliated national laboratories, and a statewide agriculture and natural resources program.
I write today to share with you concerns that have been raised by some members of our community about UC President Napolitano. I have offered to them the opportunity to add a link to their petition on our website. In particular, criticisms have been expressed regarding President Napolitano’s actions in her former role as Secretary of Homeland Security.
Most importantly, I would like to acknowledge those from the UC Hastings community who have raised this issue—some of whom have had loved ones deported.
As the child of immigrants myself, I have experienced the effects of restrictive policies for determining who may become a citizen. As a lawyer working on a pro bono basis, I did my best to protect the rights of all persons in the campaign against Proposition 187 twenty years ago. As a scholar who has written on these subjects, I have argued for constitutional principles to apply at the borders just as they do within the nation. And as Chancellor and Dean of this law school, I want to be unequivocal: I am proud that we have trained advocates for a cause who wish to stand up and speak out. We will do our utmost to protect the free speech rights of those who wish to share their opinions, while ensuring that the dignity of the Commencement ceremony is maintained.
Our process for selecting a Commencement Speaker has depended on input from all stakeholders. As we begin each academic year, I reach out to the Associated Students of UC Hastings (ASUCH), the Faculty Executive Committee, the governing Board of Directors, and the Foundation Board of Trustees, to ask that each body designate representatives to serve on the Commencement Committee that offers advice and counsel. Joined by the Director of Student Services and the Assistant Dean who heads the Alumni Center, we convene to consider various candidates.
Each member of the Commencement Committee is asked to reach out and engage with their respective constituencies to discuss the possibilities. They are regarded as equals in the deliberations. When we meet, we compile a list of individual names along with categories such as alumni who are federal judges. We discuss these possibilities, and people express their preferences. Due to the sensitivity of our choice, the list itself is confidential.
This “short list” serves as the basis for making a decision. During my tenure, every Commencement Speaker—including UC President Napolitano—who has appeared on stage has been someone who appeared on our collective list. I have engaged in further consultation with not only the Cabinet but also professors before extending any invitation.
This past fall, people suggested President Napolitano. We received only the most positive remarks about her. In addition, we were mindful of our unique relationship to the University of California as its original law department.
It is worth noting that UC Hastings extends invitations to the University of California Office of the President to our Commencement every year. This is standard operating procedure, because the University of California is the authority that formally confers the degrees our graduates have worked so hard to earn. The UC President typically sends a delegate, the UC Provost, who is the chief academic officer of the system (parallel to our own Provost). Although we always have been proud of our status as an independent institution, we also are proud to be affiliated with one of the greatest systems of higher education in the world.
While UC Hastings strives to create a welcoming community, we do not shy away from the controversy that is integral to the progress of the law. In this spirit, I look forward to welcoming University of California President Janet Napolitano to the stage for Commencement on May 10. It is an occasion that presents an opportunity to show what our core value of academic freedom means: our ability to respect one another and engage in the processes that have made America a diverse democracy.
- Frank H. Wu
Frank H. Wu
Chancellor & Dean