UC Davis, Sacramento make a promising team

2017: Janet Napolitano explains why UC wants to raise tuition for first time in six years

University of California President Janet Napolitano told The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board that UC's six-year tuition freeze is unsustainable.
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University of California President Janet Napolitano told The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board that UC's six-year tuition freeze is unsustainable.

University of California President Janet Napolitano would be the first to admit that Linda P.B. Katehi wasn’t an ideal chancellor for UC Davis. She made embarrassingly stupid mistakes before being forced to resign last August.

But Katehi often stated her commitment to expanding on the university’s partnership with the city of Sacramento, and it’s heartening that Napolitano is interested in building on the vision.

The next chancellor, she told The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board on Wednesday, will have an interest in deepening the relationship between UC Davis and Sacramento, perhaps building on a regional plan set forth by Katehi for an injection of jobs and innovation in the city’s growing downtown.

“I think there is a real opportunity to bring Davis over the highway, so to speak, and to do more in this general economic area of California,” Napolitano said. “What I am looking for in a chancellor is someone that has the capability of doing that.”

Those words are sure to come as a relief to Mayor Darrell Steinberg and members of the Sacramento City Council, who feared UC Davis might revert to its old, insular ways and beat a hasty retreat into Yolo County. UC Davis never will abandon the city for which it’s named, nor should it. But there’s opportunity for it to become more integrated into Sacramento and the region.

“We want to invite the university to come across the causeway,” Steinberg told The Bee’s Diana Lambert, “because whether it’s food policy research, entrepreneurship around food and agriculture, whether it’s literally bringing some of their graduate programs across the causeway to Sacramento, I think we can be of great benefit to the university. And we need the university.”

For UC Davis, having a greater presence in Sacramento could help ease the housing crunch for students in Davis. For Sacramento, having UC Davis around would help provide a shot of youthful innovation and a tangible way to diversify the city’s economy.

Indeed, the university’s presence is already being felt in Oak Park, where, as chancellor, Katehi committed to a $50 million expansion of the nursing school at UC Davis Medical Center. Katehi also hoped to build a satellite campus somewhere downtown and a World Food Center, perhaps at the railyard.

The new chancellor could decide to continue with Katehi’s plan or draft a new one, Napolitano said. One possibility would be to copy the model of the UCDC Center in Washington, D.C., by putting a building downtown where more UC students would live and work in government internships, a concept Katehi embraced.

As UC Davis moves beyond Katehi’s unfortunate end, the university and the city should work to build on her vision of moving some parts of the university to this east side of the causeway.

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