SAN FRANCISCO — University of California President Janet Napolitano focused on future challenges for the 10-campus system rather than her health as she opened a governing board meeting Wednesday, a week after being hospitalized for side effects from her cancer treatment.
Napolitano, 59, urged the board of regents to approve the first tuition increase in seven years, a proposal they will vote on Thursday. She also reiterated a pledge that UC campuses will remain “safe, welcoming and inclusive” for students in the country illegally on the same day President Donald Trump announced moves to build a wall along the Mexican border and block federal grants from immigrant-protecting “sanctuary cities.”
Napolitano, a former Arizona governor and U.S. homeland security secretary, did not mention her hospitalization or her health condition but looked well and indicated that she is focused on her work.
“I look forward to leading the University of California together with the regents, chancellors, faculty, staff, students and alumni during these exciting times of growth,” Napolitano said.
In a public comment session before her remarks, several speakers wished Napolitano well and said they hoped she was feeling better.
The meeting came a week after Napolitano’s office announced she was in the hospital, making her condition public. A statement from her office said she was diagnosed with cancer last August.
Napolitano returned to work last Friday and has resumed a full schedule, according to her office, which has not said what type of cancer she is battling or specified the complications that caused the hospitalization.
She kept the chairwoman of the board of regents informed throughout her treatment, which is nearly complete, the university said. The rest of the board learned of Napolitano’s diagnosis in a telephone call last Tuesday, followed by an email from Chairwoman Monica Lozano, shortly before the news was released.
Napolitano, who previously was treated successfully for breast cancer, was a two-term governor of Arizona, serving from 2003 to 2009, before leaving to join President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. She was secretary of the Department of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013.
As UC president since 2013, Napolitano has fought for additional money for higher education, but state funding has shrunk as enrollment increased.
“We have done more with less, but at a cost,” Napolitano said.
The tuition increase would fund faculty hiring, more courses, expanded financial aid and construction of more dormitories to keep up with record-high enrollment, she said.
In-state undergraduates pay $12,294 a year in tuition and fees. The proposal calls for a $282 increase in tuition and $54 boost in fees, bringing the new total for California residents to $12,630 for the 2017-18 school year.
“I am asking the board of regents to approve this proposal when it is voted tomorrow,” Napolitano said, calling it a “moderate inflation-based adjustment” that would mark the first tuition increase since 2011.