President Napolitano speaks at Oakland Chamber event
President Janet Napolitano drew on UC’s long history in Oakland and outlined its current commitment to the city when she delivered the keynote address at the Oakland Chamber of Commerce’s 110th Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon on June 10.
Recalling the founding of the university at 13th and Franklin streets in 1869, she reminded the audience that California’s — and Oakland’s — commitment “to building a university we could call our own — one that would be the equal of a Harvard or an Oxford — was strong and enduring.”
To be sure the university does indeed endure, Napolitano’s goals are threefold: to continue to enroll qualified Californians from all backgrounds, to keep tuition as low and as predictable as possible, and to maintain the university as a hub of innovation.
“All of this requires a longstanding and productive relationship with our state leadership. That’s called diplomacy,” she said. “And, as it’s long been said, diplomacy begins at home. In that vein, I want to build and improve the UC central office’s relationship with Oakland.”
Napolitano offered examples of the university’s commitment to and impact on Oakland beyond its 1000-plus employees who spend time and money in the city. She noted student efforts in identifying vacant and underused public property that could be converted to urban agriculture and student research with Urban Releaf, a nonprofit that has planted 14,000 trees in the city. And she called out the student-developed Snapily , a grocery shopping app aimed at low-income, at-risk Oakland residents who lack access to healthy food near their homes.
In addition, “UC Cooperative Extension offers nutrition and wellness classes at 22 senior centers and four recovery shelters in Oakland, as well as childhood obesity training for teachers and parents, and gardening education at 28 more sites in the city.”
Napolitano told the Chamber members of the UC Oakland Initiative, which promotes volunteerism among OP staff, like working with the Alameda County Food Bank, creating a school garden at Brookfield Elementary School. She urges employees to take advantage of the four hours a month she has approved for such activities, provided they get the approval from their supervisors for time away from the office.
The partnership also provides one-time $5,000 scholarships to Oakland High School students who enroll at a UC campus. The scholarships are awarded, in part, on students’ community service efforts. Last year, the first scholarships were awarded to six students who each spent more than 600 hours volunteering in Oakland. This year’s recipients will be announced this summer.
Finally, Napolitano called on the crowd to advocate on behalf of the university’s efforts to expand access. Last fall, 272 graduates from Oakland high schools enrolled at UC, a number she would like to increase. While the recent agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown increased the state’s contribution to the university system in exchange for capping in-state tuition at its current level for two years, it did not provide funding for enrollment growth. The university has asked the legislature to approve funding to enroll an additional 10,000 California students over the next four years.
“Our university needs an active and vocal Verizon army of Californians like you,” she said, “repeatedly calling out to our state leaders on behalf of public higher education and the University of California, saying, ‘Can you hear us now?’”