An Open Letter Addressed to Chancellor Katehi:
I am afraid that I have been forced to write to you after watching the Town Hall forums over this last week. First of all, I would like to thank you and the members of the panels for taking the time to speak to the community.
I was a witness to the now infamous pepper-spraying incident on the Quad and have participated in numerous protests condemning such actions since then. However I have never written to you personally, trusting the words of those more eloquent than myself to express the general dissatisfaction with the actions of the police and administration.
Nonetheless I knew I had to communicate in person when I heard you invoke the Virginia Tech massacre on multiple occasions to defend a need for weaponized police forces on college campuses. When students and faculty are professing concerns and fears of the campus police, I ask you if such a reference is relevant or appropriate.
As a native Virginian, I hold a deep conviction that the events of April 16, 2007 should never become a catchphrase to conjure up fear for a broad variety of campus safety issues. Clearly, the fears I felt in the crowd on the UC Davis Quad last week were entirely different to those of a school shooting and should be respected as such.
Perhaps if I explained my personal connection to the amazing VT community, my aversion to such rhetoric would be more obvious. As a freshman at another public university in Virginia, the day of the massacre itself was marked by a deep fear for my friends on the Virginia Tech campus. Every anniversary, commemorated by current Tech students like my brother, is a somber opportunity to reflect on the sorrow that accompanies mental illness.
Not once on any of those occasions have I been comforted by the thought of more weapons on college campuses regardless of the hands that hold them. In fact, the 32 deaths of students and faculty in 2007 have prompted legislation that limited the use of guns, not broadened their application.
I realize that “Virginia Tech” is now a phrase that is used to describe the realities and challenges of administrating higher education; such notoriety has led to useful reforms such as the WarnMe system that alerts UC Davis students of safety hazards. Nevertheless, I would ask you and the UCD administration not to refer to the tragic events of another community in such an offhand manner. Just as language referencing the terrorist attacks of September 11th should not be used to support the Patriot Act, I urge all of us to avoid utilizing the massacre at Virginia Tech to explain the unfortunate events on our own campus.
Perhaps the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University could instead serve as an economic model for UC Davis; Virginia public schools facing budget cuts have managed to keep tuition within a reasonable price range, which to me, is a far higher priority than weaponizing the police.
A Graduate Student
University of California, Davis
Here you can find several questions Keith Bradnam, a project scientist in Ian Korf’s lab at the Genome Center, regarding the pepper spray incident of November 18. His main questions are:
3. What were the specific instructions to Police Chief Spicuzza regarding the removal of students and/or tents?
6. What specific instructions did Police Chief Spicuzza give to her officers?
7. What specific instructions were given to Lt. Pike – and to the second (as yet unamed) police officer who also used pepper spray?
Here you can find an article in The Atlantic questioning of the investigations into the pepper spray incident are actually independent. This is the last paragraph of the article:
After all, those students who were pepper sprayed in the face were protesting, in large part, the encroaching privatization of the university. Picking a company with Kroll’s corporate entanglements to conduct the investigation is incredibly tactless at best.
Last Monday the UC Regents board had a meeting across four campuses the day after Thanksgiving weekend after their initial meeting scheduled for November 16 was cancelled over fear of protesters. This meeting was also cut short because of protesters (news article here and here). Directly following this shortened meeting, the UC regents reconvened to discuss the pay raise for 12 of their top administrators and lawyers. Two UC Davis people were awarded lavish pay raises. Vincent Johnson, the Chief Operating Officer of the UC Davis Medical Center received a 23% pay raise (in other words he can add $103,500 to his pay check next year) and Steven Drown, a top lawyer for UC Davis received a 21.9% pay raise (in other words he can add $44,995 to his pay check next year). Keep in mind that the student protesters who interrupted the UC Regents board meeting were in part protesting the proposed 81% tuition fee hike that awaits them.
For all good measure, here you can find the SacBee’s list of State Workers salaries.
As a reminder for the graduate and professional students of UC Davis – tomorrow there is a Town Hall meeting with Chancellor Katehi and other specially for you.
Here you can find an article in The Bay Citizen looking into Bill Bratton’s advice history. Apparently, he urged Brown University to arm their campus police officers.
At the Nov. 30th meeting of the GSA many proposals concerning the events of Nov. 18th were discussed and voted upon. Outright calling for the Chancellor’s immediate resignation was voted down by roughly 70 to 30 votes, however the general assembly did vote to officially censure Chancellor Katehi. Several other proposals were approved with the general goals of incorporating graduate students into police oversight committees, and calling on the legislature to undo or mitigate the negative effects of Prop 13 on educational funding.
More updates to follow, you can always check the GSA website for more information. Don’t forget to attend the Graduate Student Townhall meeting with Chancellor Katehi at 6 PM in 66 Roessler Hall. This is your chance as a graduate student to be heard!
BMCDB GSA Rep, Gordon Walker