PD Editorial: A hasty path to vote on UC president

By the end of the day, the University of California may have a new president.

A positive development? It may be.

Then again, maybe not.

If you're puzzled as we are, or if this entire discussion seems rather sudden, you're not alone. The university is racing ahead at a rate uncharacteristic of institutions of higher learning or state government in general.

Janet Napolitano's surprise nomination was announced only Friday. Six days later, the Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on her appointment to succeed Mark Yudof as head of the 10-campus UC system.

What's the rush?

Yes, Napolitano is a widely known public figure. What isn't clear, unless you settle for the bromides offered by a selection committee that operated in private, is what makes this public figure the right person to lead the nation's most prestigious public university.

She's presently secretary of Homeland Security. Before joining the Obama administration in 2009, she served as U.S. attorney, attorney general and governor in Arizona.

In those jobs, she has demonstrated political savvy and administrative ability — important skills for the head of a university with 230,000 students, 190,000 staff members, five medical centers, three national laboratories and an annual budget of $24 billion.

However, she isn't a traditional choice, a point conceded in a statement issued by the committee that selected her. In some circles, the choice is downright controversial.

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