Law students denounce Napolitano commencement speech

|
(119)
NOAH BERGER/AP FILE PHOTO

University of California President Janet Napolitano deported thousands of undocumented citizens in her time as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Now, UC Hastings College of Law students want Napolitano deported from their graduation ceremony. 

Current and past UC Hastings students launched a petition protesting an upcoming graduation commencement speech from Napolitano, who oversaw what some say are record deportations in the United States. 

The Change.Org petition against the speech minces no words in denouncing her role in seperating families from their homes, and from each other. 

"As Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Ms. Napolitano spearheaded inhumane policies, including wide implementation of so-called 'Secure Communities,' a deportation program notorious for its conflation of the criminal and immigration systems," the petition states. "Her actions have caused profound tragedy to members of the Class of 2014, their families, and members of the Hastings community at large."

Napolitano was hired on as president of the University of California system last year, sparking protests from undocumented student rights groups up and down the state, which we've covered previously ["Undocumented and Unafraid", 11/13]. Two student groups, Hastings Students for Immigrants' Rights and Hastings La Raza Law Association, initially voiced concern over the choice of Napolitano as commencement speaker. When their outcry fell on the school adminstration's deaf ears, the students reached out to Hastings alumni for help. 

"I was immediately concerned," Noemi Gallardo, a 2012 Hastings alum told the Guardian. "Students are investing a lot of money in their schooling, and graduation is a celebrant time," she said, except now families who are immigrants, or children of immigrants, will have their commencement given by one of the most controversial figures in their community.

"Bringing Napolitano celebrates scare tactics and harmful policies," Gallardo said.

Gallardo and a group of alumni launched the petition and an open letter to Chancellor and Dean Frank H. Wu, which was signed by 15 Hastings student organizations, including the Hastings chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The petition garnered more than 300 individual supporters in its first few days. 

Napolitano speaking to these students makes about as much sense as asking asking Mitt Romney to give a speech to Occupy Wall Streeters. Maybe that's why Gallardo's inbox was overflowing with students asking for help in stopping Napolitano from giving the speech.

"I've received phone calls, emails, Facebook messages," Gallardo said. She and a group of fellow Hastings alum sat down for a meeting on Napolitano with Frank H. Wu, chancellor and dean of UC Hastings. 

Gallardo and alum hoped Wu would back down on the decision, but instead he's doubled down. Wu issued a statement to students and posted it publicly on the UC Hastings website. 

"I would like to acknowledge those from the UC Hastings community who have raised this issue—some of whom have had loved ones deported," Wu wrote. "As the child of immigrants myself, I have experienced the effects of restrictive policies for determining who may become a citizen....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."

But caveats aside, Wu ended the letter by reasserting his commitment to Napolitano as commencement speaker. "We do not shy away from the controversy that is integral to the progress of the law," he wrote. "In this spirit, I look forward to welcoming University of California President Janet Napolitano to the stage for Commencement on May 10."

For Gallardo, denouncing Napolitano as commencement speaker is not just political, it's personal.

She's a first generation American, and her parents are both from Mexico. "We lived very humbly," she said. She's worked in the immigrant community for close to a decade, from legal work to translations. She now runs a policy consulting group that works closely with nonprofits, adressing language access, legislation and education issues affecting minority communities. 

"This," she said, "hit close to home."

Students, alumni and their supporters also spoke out against Napolitano's speech via Twitter using the commencement hashtag #UCHastings2014

Comments

The so-called Secure Communities policy was implemented under Ms. Napolitano's watch, so she is largely responsible for tearing hundreds of thousands of families apart by deporting many tax-paying, hard-working, community-centered, and otherwise law-abiding folks without any "criminal" records. Immigration law violations are civil, not criminal offenses.

Posted by UC Hastings Alumna on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 8:44 pm

Is this a normal for all UC Hastings alums? You can't answer a rebuttal to your arguments, so you jump off to something else?

All you're saying is that everyone should be allowed into this country. If they come in illegally, just give em a fine.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 27, 2014 @ 9:16 pm

OK - we get that you object to the "Secure Communities" program.

Please specify the immigration laws that you approve of, and are willing to enforce.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 4:04 am

and not obey from progressives.

A clarifying question.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 11:46 am

support, but they want a pass on any laws they disagree with.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 12:15 pm

What taxes does an illegal worker pay? Sales tax?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

Janet Napolitiano is great choice for UC Hastings graduation speaker. She lead a very large federal agency that has helped to keep this country safe since 2002. She was also a champion for higher education as Governor of Arizona. As a fellow Santa Clara alumni and an employee at UC Hastings, I will be happy to welcome her to our graduation ceremony.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 8:31 am

As a Hastings alum (and yes, gainfully employed!), I am so proud of the graduating class and the larger Hastings student body and community for stepping forward and demanding that Hastings rescind Janet Napolitano's invitation to present the keynote speech at commencement this year. Commencement is a time for celebration, and having Napolitano speak is honoring her for her contributions to society. Whether or not you agree with her expansive deportation policies as the head of Homeland Security, there is no doubt that she enacted unfair laws with ferocity and execution that was until then unprecedented.

Moreover, I am proud of the Hastings students who are fighting back against an institutional decision they do not believe in. I am not worried about them becoming "broke" "unemployed" or "future baristas." These are EXACTLY the type of lawyers that Hastings proudly trains. Leaders and champions for social justice, no matter how unpopular the cause.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 11:00 am

case. That might involve a so-called "public interest" agenda but it can also mean fighting against that, as necessary.

Again, we don't train and pay you to write laws. We train and pay you to enforce them. Get over yourself.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 12:13 pm

A good lawyer represents her client to the best of her ability. A great lawyer uses the law to create social change.

Also, lawyers don't enforce laws. That's for judges and law enforcement.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 3:43 pm

Dear "Guest" (if that is your real name) lawyers do represent people who hold views and do things that the lawyer does not agree with. However, a lawyer is also a citizen and has the right to speak out and use their free speech to better society and their community. As an alumnus of UC Hastings, I feel we have a special duty and obligation to ensure that our school continues to represent the highest traditions and values of the legal community and society at large.

Your assumption that lawyers do no write laws is completely ignorant of how legislation is written, and not all lawyers "enforce" laws. On the contrary, many lawyers protect citizens against arbitrary or unfair enforcement of laws. Your total lack of understanding of the legal profession and what this petition is about undermines your critique and makes me more confident that its petition, and its core supporters, including prominent immigrant lawyer Leah Chen Price, are justified in standing up for immigrants (past present and future immigrants) who were unfairly treated by the Napolitano tenure.

Posted by Steven G. - Class of 2010 on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 3:51 pm

You mean: "standing up for ILLEGAL immigrants who you FEEL were unfairly treated by the Napolitano tenure". Fixed it for you.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

A good lawyer represents her client to the best of her ability. A great lawyer uses the law to effect social change for the better.

Also, lawyers don't enforce the law. That's for judges and law enforcement.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

Helping drive down wages by making it so there is a greater low income labor pool is "for the better."

Posted by Guest on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 4:58 pm

I am a graduating Hastings 3L. Let me share my experience as a student. If you disagree with the ideological groupthink you will be personally attacked and ostracized. I once heard of a student emailing my con law professor informing him that another student's use of the term illegal immigrant was racist and he ought to reprimand the class (as an aside to ward off personal attacks: I come from a family of immigrants, not that this detail ought to matter).

My generation is obsessed with groupthink and signalling their compliance with groupthink on social media. They mostly just sit and browse the internet during class and then all day after class. I expect younger people will be even less capable or interested in independent thought or contrarianism. It is a very high school like mentality ("He said WHAT?! What a nerd").

Diversity to them means everyone must believe exactly the same thing. If you voice a dissenting opinion they will make a disgusted sound, turn and walk away.

The biggest surprise about law school is how few of the people there care at all about law itself, not to mention public policy, the history of ideas, etc. The second biggest surprise is that few of the students enjoy the give and take of open debate. They prefer reciting pieties. I worry that our society is turning into a secular theocracy. SF is like Jean Calvin's Geneva, complete with its original sin (you cisgendered white male oppressor you), predestination myth, code of correct thought, and burning of heretics (Brandon Eich must be destroyed!) Its just sad.

However, as noted above, it makes them very weak minded, lazy, and easy to out-compete. It is a lot better to be the most conservative person around (which in this context just means basic economic and historical literacy combined with a sense of personal responsibility) than the most left wing person around, as I used to be in my hometown in Socal.

I will not be attending commencement because I don't want to sit and politely listen to the protestors screaming for an hour.

Posted by Alex L on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 6:37 pm

This is a Hastings graduate who's going to go far - independent-thinker and self-motivated compared to the rest of the brats who spend all their time whining.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

forced self criticism.

The teacher should call out the student for using bad language, then the student should proclaim his or her Moaist principles, then do some lengthy self criticism for the assembled red guard.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 7:26 pm

Alex - You've got a lot of ideas in your post. Setting aside the merits of this petition, I think your argument is full of a lot of logical fallacies. You paint everyone with a broad brush, and hold yourself out as the last Aristotle on campus. You also clearly unaware (or simply fail to mention) of the many conservative organizations on campus, including the prominent Federalist Society. And you talk about Hastings students as a monolithic group, ignoring the most obvious self-described fact about you: you are a Hastings students. You are trashing your degree, which is your right, but if you held such disdain for your colleagues, perhaps you should have figured that out before 3L year.

Your arguments:
"society is obsessed with groupthink" [meaning what? That left wing critiques of Napalitano are mainstream? Cite a poll please. Left wing critiques are usually the minority view in society.]

"My generation is obsessed with groupthink and signalling their compliance with groupthink on social media." [Now this a generational issue? Evidence? The like button on Facebook?]

"Diversity to them means everyone must believe exactly the same thing." [Who is "them"? Are you referring to Hastings, society at large? How did you reach this conclusion? Is Diversity of thought the only diversity you recognize? Do you honestly believe no one disagrees with each other at Hastings?]

"The biggest surprise about law school is how few of the people there care at all about law itself, not to mention public policy, the history of ideas, etc." [How did you reach this conclusion? What is the "history of ideas"?]

"it makes them very weak minded, lazy, and easy to out-compete. It is a lot better to be the most conservative person around (which in this context just means basic economic and historical literacy combined with a sense of personal responsibility) than the most left wing person around, as I used to be in my hometown in Socal."

[Bold statements about your fellow law students. Your argument also contains a moral-relativity premise, that it is okay to hold contrary views about what is right and wrong because it is actually better to disagree with whomever surrounds you than it is to believe in your ideas]

"I will not be attending commencement because I don't want to sit and politely listen to the protestors screaming for an hour. " [Your choice. I agree that her speech should not be disturbed or silenced.]

Posted by Steven G. - Class of 2010 on May. 02, 2014 @ 10:23 am

Hi Steven. I appreciate the comments. I take your point, my post was a bit overstated so I'll clarify a little.

First of all, I am as Churchill said of Atlee, a humble very man with a lot to be humble about. I don't claim any special status or pedigree. I am not the last Aristotle or even the last Petronius. More importantly, let's be clear that I don't disparage Hastings as a school. Commenting on student culture is absolutely not trashing the degree. As far as the quality of the actual legal education goes, I mostly loved it. If you take real law school classes ideology really just doesn't come up much. There's no time. The youth indoctrination is mostly in UG (By the way, let's also be clear one can still get a very good job from this law school).

I question the mindset of people who are so sure of their ideology that they impose their noble cause on 500+ people, or however many people go to this ceremony. I guess you agree it's not polite to waste everyone's times for an hour but you don't see the link to the broader Millennial political culture. A lot of your critique is that I don't present evidence and that's fair enough. I have none to give you. I haven't conducted surveys or collected data. I'm just someone who went through this school for three years.

A few quick ones:
"Left wing views are usually the minority in society" - Really? Do you think they are the minority at Hastings? Or for that matter the Bay Area?

"What is the "history of ideas?" Don't sound so incredulous- there is such a thing and its pretty entertaining if you give it a try. Helps you understand the law too.

"Who is "them"? Are you referring to Hastings, society at large? How did you reach this conclusion?" No sweeping social commentary needed here, just relating my experience with the young people I've interacted with at my school. For example, I have had the following conversation many times in the course of a political conversation- someone politely suggests a counter-argument to an orthodoxy (walking on eggshells as one must) and the student- and this weird detail is very frequent- sighs or moans demonstratively in pained irritation and turns and walks away. I just think future SF civic leaders should be more creative about policy and less doctrinaire. But maybe you think current policies are working well?

"Your argument also contains a moral-relativity premise, that it is okay to hold contrary views about what is right and wrong because it is actually better to disagree with whomever surrounds you than it is to believe in your ideas" Why wouldn't it be okay to disagree about public policy, or as you call it, what is right and wrong? I think this kind of gets to the problem. There is a sense that politics is about culturally identifying with the "good guys" side. Those who disagree are agreeing with evil people with evil values, so their views must be evil too. This is the essence of ideological groupthink. To me, it is just an empirical debate about the effects of different policies. The good intentions of the self-proclaimed good guys has often lead to bad results. I don't think the contrarian view as such is always correct but a consensus enforced by constant social pressure is dangerous and should always, always, be challenged.

You can go ahead and mock or marginalize people who disagree with you rather than listen to different views. But the truth is it is a stifling, not to say deeply boring, intellectual climate on campuses these days. Everyone is constantly worrying about what they say and how they are perceived. We have built a Penopticon that we may not be able to dismantle in our lives. BTW, I am not a moral relativist, one can critique this lockstep ideology from non-nihilist premises ("free minds, free men, free markets" comes to mind).

As an aside, I am excited to hear about a Hastings Fed Soc because I was not aware they existed! I would love some details if this is real.

Posted by Alex L on May. 03, 2014 @ 1:27 am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.