My October newsletter

October 26, 2017

Dear friends and colleagues,

Fall term is in full swing on our campuses, and we are also busy on many fronts addressing important issues. In this month’s newsletter, I am pleased to update you about a number of our programs and initiatives.

First, though, I want to extend my sympathy and support to those who are impacted by the recent California fires. Many members of the UC community and their loved ones were evacuated for their safety, and many of our neighbors and friends have lost their homes. The effects of this tragic situation will likely be with us for a while. UC stands ready to help, including through its medical facilities and resources such as campus employee assistance programs and counseling services.

National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement

Today I announced the establishment of the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement at the UC Washington Center in Washington, D.C., as part of a concerted educational, research, and advocacy effort focused on the First Amendment’s critical importance to our democracy. This effort reflects UC’s public mission — and obligation — to not only educate students and conduct groundbreaking research, but also serve as a training ground for an educated, engaged citizenry.

In today’s social and political climate, the issue of free speech couldn’t be more important to our nation’s colleges and universities. Incidents of violence, intolerance and attempted speech suppression raise serious questions about whether traditional views of the First Amendment will continue to prevail on campuses. Many people — from students, to faculty, to the president of the United States — have suggested restricting speech and speakers. Others have expressed significant concern about what such restriction would mean for the nation’s universities, and civic discourse more broadly. The center provides an outlet to grapple with these and other core questions and changing views on the First Amendment.

Key to the center’s efforts will be the creation of a fellowship program that will draw from leading public policy thinkers, legal scholars, social scientists, journalists, and others. The application to join the first class of fellows will become available on Nov. 10, with the first class of fellows starting in January 2018. We anticipate their work will form the basis for a national conference in 2018 that will bring together university presidents, elected officials, student leaders and others to explore these issues and develop new approaches for engaging and educating students about the critical role of the First Amendment in this country.

I look forward to sharing more about this with you in the coming months.

Partnering with the State to improve protections for domestic violence survivors

As we recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I am pleased to report the passage of UC-sponsored legislation that closes a loophole in the law affecting the confidentiality of survivors of domestic violence. Under this loophole, advocates for survivors of domestic violence at public institutions — such as UC — could be compelled to testify in court cases, unlike domestic violence counselors at private institutions. This has hampered the ability of California public institutions to offer the same degree of confidentiality for a survivor of domestic violence as they could for a survivor of sexual assault. The promise of confidentiality is absolutely vital to encouraging survivors to come forward for help. The legislation UC sponsored, SB 331, authored by State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brown. It is our sincere hope that this new law will encourage more survivors at UC and other colleges to seek help for dating and domestic violence issues.

On the road with UC’s affordability message

It’s application season, and I, along with chancellors and senior leaders from all 10 campuses, am once again visiting California high school students to make sure they know UC is affordable and accessible. In this annual effort, Achieve UC, we focus on schools with large numbers of high-achieving students in communities with relatively low college-going rates. The goal, in part, is to allay concerns about cost and access that can cause qualified California students to rule out a UC education — or worse, cause them to forego college altogether.

Three-quarters of California undergraduates receive some financial aid, and more than half qualify for the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which covers not only tuition but provides financial assistance for housing, books and other costs for students from households with incomes of $80,000 or less.

We are often joined on these trips by UC alums from the community we’re visiting, from authors to astronauts. Their inspiring stories remind audiences: Students like you are thriving on UC campuses every day and going on to do amazing things after they graduate.

Global Food Initiative: Impact Beyond UC

In 2014, I launched the UC Global Food Initiative to address how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population that is expected to reach 8 billion by 2025.

We’ve made significant progress, from committing $3.3 million to develop and implement food security action plans at each UC campus to establishing a student fellowship program to provide opportunities for original research, internships and leadership training. More than 230 fellows have been named so far.

At UCLA, we established a Good Food for Local Schools website, featuring resources related to healthy and sustainable pre-K through 12th-grade school food options. It is publicly available to anyone who works in or with schools on childhood nutrition issues.

Thanks for reading. Please email me at janet@ucop.edu 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