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UC Hastings Graduation Speaker Draws Protests, Petition

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Janet Napolitano.

Her list of accomplishments is long: Ex-Attorney General and two-term Governor of Arizona. Former Secretary of Homeland Security. Current president of the University of California system.

For now, Napolitano is set to be the commencement speaker at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco -- a decision which has led to an online petition, an angry social media campaign from current and former students, and other protests.

Why? As Secretary of DHS, she was responsible for mass deportations of undocumented immigrants. That may fly in Arizona, but it definitely will raise eyebrows and picket lines in California.

The Alleged Sins

According to a piece on the San Francisco Bay Guardian's blog, as the DHS head, Napolitano was responsible for deporting thousands of individuals during her tenure. The Phoenix New Times, using far more inflammatory language, called her actions "ethnic cleansing" and placed the figure in the 2 million range.

Oddly enough, as Governor of Arizona, a notoriously anti-immigrant state, she took a more moderate path, vetoing some of the state's more extreme immigration bills and focusing her attention on employers of illegal immigrants and criminals, not on immigrants generally.

UC President

Last year, Napolitano stepped down from her post as the head of DHS in order to take a more lucrative gig: president of the University of California system. The not-unanimous appointment was, unsurprisingly, met with protests, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Hastings Graduation Speaker

This should've came as no surprise to Dean Frank Wu, but students were equally unexcited about the prospect of Napolitano speaking at the law school's graduation.

Already, a petition has gone up, requesting that Napolitano be removed from the day's festivities. The petition has been signed by students, alumni, and numerous student organizations. Concerned students have also met with the dean, who addressed the issue in an open letter.

The long-winded letter describes Dean Wu's personal and professional history with immigration, then describes the selection process that was used to choose Napolitano as speaker. He finally wrapped up the note by stating:

"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."

In other words, "No." Expect protesters at the commencement ceremony.

What are your thoughts on the controversy? Since many have already flocked to Twitter with a #uchastings2014 hashtag, why not join the fun and tweet us @FindLawLP with your input?

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