Home > Recent News, UC Davis > Katehi’s vague response to UCD community on macing students

Katehi’s vague response to UCD community on macing students

Normally this blog focuses on science related to this graduate group or any event surrounding or organized by this graduate group. But, yesterday’s event at the Quad on UC Davis campus impacts everyone who is part of the UC Davis community, which includes this graduate group.

Yesterday (Friday, 2011 Nov 18) UC Davis riot police used force to remove a group of students that had set up camp at the center of the Quad a day earlier. Setting up camp falls in line with the Occupy Wall Street movement that started on September 17th this year. The Occupy movement characterizes itself by not having a single issue or a single cause, but rather a plethora of reasons to be disgruntled with the current wealth gap. The OccupyUCD camp that was set up was largely focused on the ever increases fees for UC students. An 81% increase in tuition is scheduled by the University of California for next year. This hefty increase is a culmination of  trebling the fees over the last several years. The message UC is sending to it’s students is that they have the right of education, but with that comes a debt that will “enslave” them to lending institutions for years if not decades once they finish their degree. Of course, those students with wealthy families are the only ones who can afford enjoying an education without this future burden of debt. To protest against the fee-hikes sounds like a sympathetic cause to pursue. Previously, the UC Regents (with Mark Yudof at the helm {he also tweeted this yesterday: Quotation from an old friend: “Why do the taxpayers have to pay for it? Why can’t the government pay for it?“} and {made this statement on Facebook}) scheduled a meeting for last Wednesday, but cancelled after word that protesters might show up. Also, last week, students at UC Berkeley set up camp on campus (as OccupyCal) and just as at UC Davis yesterday, these students were removed by riot police. In a response to the force used by riot police, UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau said that the students did not engage in non-violent civil disobedience”. In other words, linking arms, which the students did, is an act of violence.

The response of UC Berkeley Chancellor was ridiculed including by Stephen Colbert in his program The Colbert Nation.

The events at the Quad yesterday did not go unnoticed in the media, as you can see/read here, here, here, and here. And part of the response came from UC Davis members itself. First off, Chancellor Katehi sent an email (see below) to the UC Davis community explaining why macing students was a necessary act.

November 18, 2011

To UC Davis Campus Community,

I am writing to tell you about events that occurred Friday afternoon at UC Davis relating to a group of protestors who chose to set up an encampment on the quad Thursday as part of a week of peaceful demonstrations on our campus that coincided with many other occupy movements at universities throughout the country.

The group did not respond to requests from administration and campus police to comply with campus rules that exist to protect the health and safety of our campus community.  The group was informed in writing this morning that the encampment violated regulations designed to protect the health and safety of students, staff and faculty.  The group was further informed that if they did not dismantle the encampment, it would have to be removed.

Following our requests, several of the group chose to dismantle their tents this afternoon and we are grateful for their actions.  However a number of protestors refused our warning, offering us no option but to ask the police to assist in their removal.  We are saddened to report that during this activity, 10 protestors were arrested and pepper spray was used.  We will be reviewing the details of the incident.

We appreciate and strongly defend the rights of all our students, faculty and staff to robust and respectful dialogue as a fundamental tenet of our great academic institution.  At the same time, we have a responsibility to our entire campus community, including the parents who have entrusted their students to us, to ensure that all can live, learn and work in a safe and secure environment.  We were aware that some of those involved in the recent demonstrations on campus were not members of the UC Davis community and this required us to be even more vigilant about the safety of our students, faculty and staff.  We take this responsibility very seriously.

While we have appreciated the peaceful and respectful tone of the demonstrations during the week, the encampment raised serious health and safety concerns, and the resources required to supervise this encampment could not be sustained, especially in these very tight economic times when our resources must support our core academic mission.

We deeply regret that many of the protestors today chose not to work with our campus staff and police to remove the encampment as requested.  We are even more saddened by the events that subsequently transpired to facilitate their removal.

We appreciate the substantive dialogue the students have begun here on campus as part of this week.s activities, and we want to offer appropriate opportunities to express opinions, advance the discussion and suggest solutions as part of the time-honored university tradition.  We invite our entire campus community to consider the topics related to the occupy movement you would like to discuss and we pledge to work with you to develop a series of discussion forums throughout our campus.

I ask all members of the campus community for their support in ensuring a safe environment for all members of our campus community.  We hope you will actively support us in accomplishing this objective.

Linda P.B. Katehi

Although safety and health concerns are brought up, there was no mention of specifically what kind of health concerns these might have been. The only mention of safety concerns was that people from outside the UC community were part of the encampment. Neither was there any mention of what attempts were made to solve the problem in a non-riot police manner (unless a 3 minute warning counts). An invite for discussion on issues related to the Occupy movement seem a little late, as several OccopyDavis initiatives have already taken place.

Finally, in an open letter Professor Nathan Brown (UCD English faculty) asked Chancellor Katehi to step down after the macing incident that took place yesterday, as you can read below.

18 November 2011

Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Linda P.B. Katehi,

I am a junior faculty member at UC Davis. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and I teach in the Program in Critical Theory and in Science & Technology Studies. I have a strong record of research, teaching, and service. I am currently a Board Member of the Davis Faculty Association. I have also taken an active role in supporting the student movement to defend public education on our campus and throughout the UC system. In a word: I am the sort of young faculty member, like many of my colleagues, this campus needs. I am an asset to the University of California at Davis.

You are not.

I write to you and to my colleagues for three reasons:

1) to express my outrage at the police brutality which occurred against students engaged in peaceful protest on the UC Davis campus today

2) to hold you accountable for this police brutality

3) to demand your immediate resignation

Today you ordered police onto our campus to clear student protesters from the quad. These were protesters who participated in a rally speaking out against tuition increases and police brutality on UC campuses on Tuesday—a rally that I organized, and which was endorsed by the Davis Faculty Association. These students attended that rally in response to a call for solidarity from students and faculty who were bludgeoned with batons,hospitalized, and arrested at UC Berkeley last week. In the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, those protesters had linked arms and held their ground in defense of tents they set up beside Sproul Hall. In a gesture of solidarity with those students and faculty, and in solidarity with the national Occupy movement, students at UC Davis set up tents on the main quad. When you ordered police outfitted with riot helmets, brandishing batons and teargas guns to remove their tents today, those students sat down on the ground in a circle and linked arms to protect them.

What happened next?

Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.

What happened next?

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

This is what happened. You are responsible for it.

You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt. Faculty get hurt. One of the most inspiring things (inspiring for those of us who care about students who assert their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly) about the demonstration in Berkeley on November 9 is that UC Berkeley faculty stood together with students, their arms linked together. Associate Professor of English Celeste Langan was grabbed by her hair, thrown on the ground, and arrested. Associate Professor Geoffrey O’Brien was injured by baton blows. Professor Robert Hass, former Poet Laureate of the United States, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, was also struck with a baton. These faculty stood together with students in solidarity, and they too were beaten and arrested by the police. In writing this letter, I stand together with those faculty and with the students they supported.

One week after this happened at UC Berkeley, you ordered police to clear tents from the quad at UC Davis. When students responded in the same way—linking arms and holding their ground—police also responded in the same way: with violent force. The fact is: the administration of UC campuses systematically uses police brutality to terrorize students and faculty, to crush political dissent on our campuses, and to suppress free speech and peaceful assembly. Many people know this. Many more people are learning it very quickly.

You are responsible for the police violence directed against students on the UC Davis quad on November 18, 2011. As I said, I am writing to hold you responsible and to demand your immediate resignation on these grounds.

On Wednesday November 16, you issued a letter by email to the campus community. In this letter, you discussed a hate crime which occurred at UC Davis on Sunday November 13. In this letter, you express concern about the safety of our students. You write, “it is particularly disturbing that such an act of intolerance should occur at a time when the campus community is working to create a safe and inviting space for all our students.” You write, “while these are turbulent economic times, as a campus community, we must all be committed to a safe, welcoming environment that advances our efforts to diversity and excellence at UC Davis.”

I will leave it to my colleagues and every reader of this letter to decide what poses a greater threat to “a safe and inviting space for all our students” or “a safe, welcoming environment” at UC Davis: 1) Setting up tents on the quad in solidarity with faculty and students brutalized by police at UC Berkeley? or 2) Sending in riot police to disperse students with batons, pepper-spray, and tear-gas guns, while those students sit peacefully on the ground with their arms linked? Is this what you have in mind when you refer to creating “a safe and inviting space?” Is this what you have in mind when you express commitment to “a safe, welcoming environment?”

I am writing to tell you in no uncertain terms that there must be space for protest on our campus. There must be space for political dissent on our campus. There must be space for civil disobedience on our campus. There must be space for students to assert their right to decide on the form of their protest, their dissent, and their civil disobedience—including the simple act of setting up tents in solidarity with other students who have done so. There must be space for protest and dissent, especially, when the object of protest and dissent is police brutality itself. You may not order police to forcefully disperse student protesters peacefully protesting police brutality. You may not do so. It is not an option available to you as the Chancellor of a UC campus. That is why I am calling for your immediate resignation.

Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students. I deduce from this discrepancy that you are not, in fact, concerned about the safety of our students. Your actions directly threaten the safety of our students. And I want you to know that this is clear. It is clear to anyone who reads your campus emails concerning our “Principles of Community” and who also takes the time to inform themselves about your actions. You should bear in mind that when you send emails to the UC Davis community, you address a body of faculty and students who are well trained to see through rhetoric that evinces care for students while implicitly threatening them. I see through your rhetoric very clearly. You also write to a campus community that knows how to speak truth to power. That is what I am doing.

I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.


Nathan Brown
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Program in Critical Theory
University of California at Davis

Let’s hope that civility and restrained use of force comes back to UC Davis soon, as well as open dialogue and the capacity to protest peacefully. No one benefits from what happened yesterday or last week at Berkeley or what didn’t happen this week (the cancelled UC Regents meeting). UC and UC Davis can and should do better.

Associated Press article.

Update 2:
Although the 81% fee hike does not affect graduate students directly, it does affect us indirectly. Our PIs are paying our tuition fees, so they have to cough up the extra money from their grants. Grants are increasingly hard to obtain because of more researchers applying for grants that are not growing, resulting in percentage-wise less grants application being approved.

Update 3:
Here you can sign a petition in support of the open letter of professor Nathan Brown (this blog does not endorse this petition, merely informing the reader of its existence).

Categories: Recent News, UC Davis
  1. Kasia
    November 19, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    An excellent article. Thank you.

  2. Gordon Walker
    November 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks for posting Nathan’s letter, he certain expresses some pretty strong sentiments. Not sure Katehi should immediately resign, but she certainly owes all students a real apology and a promise that is kind of brutality will not happen again on our campus. Looks like CPGSA will be alot more interesting this year than we had anticipated…

    • Kasia
      November 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm

      Completely agree about the non-apology.

  3. November 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    This is the video people should really watch instead of the national and local news clips since they edit the hell out of them and are very selective in what they show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmJmmnMkuEM&feature=share
    Pepper spray is very, very painful and is no joke. That officer is obviously not trained for situations like this and whoever made the call to spray the students or if he did it out of his own volition definitely endangered himself and the rest of the officers there, and I think they’re very lucky the student body didn’t resort to violence (kudos to the students for maintaining a nonviolent demonstration) because we can see how badly things can turn out – just watch the Penn State student riot again from last week.

  4. November 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    @Gordon – I agree with both points you bring up. Her response as posted did not really help diffuse the situation and I think it might only result in more (and larger) protests. So far for trying to safe money (as she points out in her letter) by breaking up the small encampment.

  5. Kasia
    November 19, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I have written a letter to the Chancellor and copied the Grad Assistant to the Chancellor, expressing my opinion. I don’t want her to resign over this, she is a good Chancellor – however, the situation should not have happened as it has and they really need to make sure it doesn’t happen ever again. Don’t know how, but seriously, never again.

  1. November 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm
  2. November 19, 2011 at 10:37 pm
  3. November 20, 2011 at 9:41 am
  4. November 15, 2014 at 8:28 pm

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