Home > Recent News, UC Davis > Another Open Letter but now directed to students and faculty

Another Open Letter but now directed to students and faculty

An Open Letter to My Students and Colleagues at UC Davis:

A lot has been said so far about who is responsible for the horrific violence on campus last week. A lot of blame is being passed around, and it’s all pretty accurate. But I’d like to take a different approach, if I may, and offer our students, my students—and yes, you are all my students whether I’ve had you in class or not—an apology on behalf of the faculty.

That’s right. An apology. Not just because there weren’t as many of us with you on Friday, getting arrested and pepper spray down our throats, as there were at Berkeley. But because of something bigger.

Because we left the wrong people in charge.

You see, with few exceptions, the people running this campus up in Mrak Hall think of themselves as administrators, not as educators. Because, with few exceptions, these are people who haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in years, if not decades, if ever. These are people who don’t have you guys. They don’t have students to remind them every single day on this campus why they are here, simply by stopping by their offices with a friendly, “Hey, Professor, I just had a question about something…” These are people who don’t have you all to keep them humble by (to use a personal example) reminding them that they almost forgot to collect the paper that’s due in class today, or pointing out the typos on their final exams.

No, instead, what we have are people who end up thinking of you as data points and dollar signs, rather than as whole human beings, whose hearts and minds we as a faculty have the honor and privilege of shaping into the future of our state, our nation, and our world. (And I assert that no one who thought of you as whole human beings could possibly have called in armed riot police to deal with a peaceful protest, tents or no tents.)

So how did it get this way? Of course it’s complicated, but one answer is that, as faculty, we’re busy. I know, you hear that a lot, right? “We’re busy.” But it’s true. We expend a lot of energy on our research. And the vast majority of us put a lot of time and effort into our teaching too. Because we care about you. We do. But there’s a whole host of other things, administrative things, that go into running a university, that we as a faculty have had less and less to do with over the years. Things like budgets. And efficiency reports. And “Resource Management.” And the truth is that most of us hate those things, and we’re perfectly happy to let someone else deal with all of it.

As it turns out, though, there’s a kind of power in those things. Big power, actually. Money power. And in many cases that power wasn’t just taken from us, we gave it away, all too gladly.

You know, it wasn’t malicious. We thought it would be fine, better even. We’d handle the teaching and the research, and we’d have administrators in charge of administrative things. But it’s not fine. It’s so completely not fine. There’s a sickening sort of clarity that comes from seeing, on the chemically burned faces of our students, how obviously it’s not fine.

So, to all of you, my students, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry we didn’t protect you. And I’m sorry we left the wrong people in charge.

And to my colleagues, I ask you, no, I implore you, to join with me in rolling up our sleeves, gritting our teeth, and getting back to the business of running this place the way it ought to be run. Because while our students have been bravely chanting for a while now that it’s their university (and they’re right), it’s also ours. It’s our university. And as such, let’s make sure that the inhuman brutality that occurred on this campus last Friday can never happen again. Not to our students. And not at our university.

Cynthia Carter Ching

Associate Professor of Learning and Mind Sciences

Director of Undergraduate Programs, School of Education

University of California, Davis

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Categories: Recent News, UC Davis
  1. November 21, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    You are an honor to your profession. I would be proud to be one of your students.

  2. bev
    November 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Thank you for standing up! speaking up! thank you !!!

  3. MaSh
    November 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Leave it to a science professor to make the first educated, well-written, and humble open letter on the subject that does not make baseless accusations, call for unnecessary action, or overstep its bounds. Finally, a voice of reason.

  4. Kelsey
    November 22, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Many thanks you for this powerful letter. It is difficult to know how or when to get involved, but you have eloquently expressed why it is so important. As a student in the UC Davis School of Education, it is a privilege to have you as part of the faculty.

  5. LauraF
    November 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you so much for saying what I have been thinking. We need the administration of UC to come from within, from our committed students and faculty. The biggest problem of all is the lack of faculty members on the UC Regents. There are two non-voting faculty members. Other than that the members of the UC Regents include: the former CEO of Paramount Pictures. The CEO of Wachovia. And so forth.

  6. November 23, 2011 at 2:24 am

    Thank you for speaking out, for speaking truth to power. Now it is time for those in leadership role to accept the burden of their responsibility – beyond saying “I’m sorry”. My hope is the Chancellor of UC Davis has the courage to resign; to model the moral courage of taking responsibility for the unnecessary violence against the non-threatening civil disobedience of students last week at UC Davis. By doing so she may become a role model for leaders in this country to act with a courage that reflects a commitment to justice that transcends their ego needs or role.
    As a parent of two children who graduated from UCDavis, and as a former academic, I am deeply concerned about the response “protocols” that your UC Davis Chancellor allowed for campus police response to non violent civil disobedience from the student body. Allowing campus police to initiate responses that create pain into political dialogue that was non threatening is not acceptable. Campus police are there to secure the security of their constituents, not to threaten their security. The Chancellor stated that the police were following “protocol”; and it is her responsibility to determine whether this “protocol” is constitutional, humane, necessary. If she gave this responsibility to her subordinate she needs to be held accountable for this decision. Responsibility flows up the chain of command. From my perspective it is time we stop passing the buck in terms of responsibility, blaming subordinates. Leaders need to be held accountable for actions and decisions of subordinates.
    As a parent of of alumni of UC Davis, as a former academic, as a former police psychologist and as a citizen of the State of California I implore the Chancellor to submit her resignation and use this opportunity to inspire her constituents to justice. Verona Fonte, Ph.D.

  1. November 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm

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