California Forum

Off Topic: Janet Napolitano

UC President Janet Napolitano spent an hour with The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board last week, mostly answering questions about leading the 240,000-student system, but also on topics including heading the U.S. delegation to the Sochi Olympics:

Jack Ohman: You were lukewarm toward President Barack Obama’s recently suggested federal rankings for universities. Alternatives?

Napolitano: I will put the UC ratings up against anyone. We will look very good. But some of the criteria they were floating were not very good. For example, what do graduates make on average upon graduation? What does that tell you? That would be a disincentive for schools that are producing a lot of people going into public service – journalism, for example.

Foon Rhee: You’re taking a big trip soon? How did it happen?

Napolitano: The White House called and asked if I would do it. And I was, like, “Yeah!” What an honor. I intend to represent my university and my state and support our athletes. The University of California has a long history of producing a lot of Olympians.

Gary Reed: Will you have any role in security?

Napolitano: We are briefed on security. We are cognizant of what’s going on in that area of that world. I’m a president of a university. What do I know about security?

I will see speed skating, figure skating. I will try to get up into the mountains to see a ski event. I will only be gone three, four days. It is a great delegation: Billie Jean King. I play tennis. I’m like, Billie Jean King! Figure skater Brian Boitano lives in the Bay Area. The ambassador, Mike McFaul, teaches at Stanford.

Dan Morain: What do you think of luge?

Napolitano: Luge as a sport? It is amazing. If you’re a spectator, it’s like watching a car race. And it’s cold. The sport I got into is curling. Once you learn the rules, it is very interesting.

Pia Lopez: What’s the ring you’re wearing?

Napolitano: I went to Santa Clara University. My dad (former University of New Mexico medical school dean Leonard Napolitano) went there. He died recently. It was his.

Morain: Have you found restaurants to your liking?

Napolitano: Oh my god, so many. We had a great meeting with Alice Waters looking what at we do with food, the economics of food, small farmers and doing a university initiative with her and others that bring those together. Right now it is in the brain-storming stage. But we have some really good people working on it.

Morain: Are you living in Berkeley?

Napolitano: Oakland. I have a great condo. Most days you can see to the Golden Gate. It is just wonderful.