Extra Editorial: I still support Chancellor Katehi, but with reservations
The events from last Friday and the aftermath have been widely covered in both the blogosphere as well as the mainstream media. The request for Chancellor Katehi resignation has been very strong, especially in Open Letters, the blogosphere, Facebook, and Twitter. Maybe it is worth to look at her achievements for UC Davis so far and see if this request is reflected in her performance.
When she arrived at UC Davis in 2009 there were some reservations about her. When she was the provost and vice-chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champagne, she was believed to be involved in politically influencing the admission process. But once she was at UC Davis she worked hard and tirelessly to change UC Davis for the better. You also have to consider that she arrived amidst tough economical times and Sacramento was threatening to cut educational funds.
She created the 2020 initiative to bring in loads of money to UC Davis, which are to be used for scholarships and faculty positions. This money is not only meant to create more revenue, but also make UC Davis less dependent on the California Legislature continually slashing the budget for educational funds.
The gap between administration and students/faculty has only widened over the years, together with a perceived disconnect between the top administrators (just look at how the UC president Mark Yudof handles UC Regents meetings in the face of protests) and the students. At UC Davis there are 30,000-32,000 students and about 30,000 administrators and faculty. This would suggest that there is a 1:1 ratio between these two groups, but I doubt that many students have noticed this ratio at any point during their UC Davis career.
With the goal of bridging this gap between the two parties, she created various committees to let students and faculty voice their opinion to the administration of this campus, including the Chancellor Graduate and Professional Student Advisory (CGPSA) board. I and another BMCDB blog moderator (Gordon Walker) are currently serving on this CGPSA board.
She has created the Interdisciplinary Graduate and Professional Students (IGPS) symposium to promote and celebrate the diversity of research at this campus. Last year’s symposium was wildly successful and brought enormous amounts of good press and positive attention to the UC Davis community.
She has also forged many alliances both with national and international universities.
And much more …
And than came last Friday. Any one with a reasonable amount of common sense knows that Chancellor Katehi had no intention of harming students by sending in the police to remove the tents. This of course does not absolve her of responsibility for what did happen at the Quad last Friday. Despite initial denial, she has taken responsibility for the regrettable events that occurred. The biggest problem that has arisen out of this debacle is that she is a great administrator, but has trouble handling crisis situations where quick thinking and resolute action are required. At this moment UC Davis needs a leader and she should be that leader. Unfortunately she has not taken the reigns of her role as leader, at least not the people expected. Therefore I feel as if the UCD community believes that she is the wrong person in the wrong situation.
So, how do people think she should have responded to the pepper spraying of students. This is my take on it:
I have just heard the news that several of our students have been pepper sprayed by UC Davis police. I apologize to these students for having experienced an unprovoked incident with the police. Yes, I have ordered the police to go into the camp that was set up last night to remove the tents that were still there. This should not have come to a surprise to the camping students, as I send them a letter explaining the universities position. The use of force by two of UC Davis finest was beyond what I anticipated and I have put these two officers on administrative leave pending an investigation. Also, I have ordered the creation of a Task Force that will give me a detailed report on the events that led to today’s incident within 15 days. Again, I apologize to the pepper sprayed students and I would like to hear their stories and perspective of the event. Therefore, I would like to invite these students to my office first thing on Monday morning.
Although I am not satisfied with how Chancellor Katehi has handled the pepper spray incident, I still support her. She has done great things in the short time for she has been our Chancellor. But, my support is with reservations, as I do expect her to show the leadership her position carries and time is not on her side.
– Daniël P. Melters
Side note: I too support Chancellor Katehi and would like to see her tenure at UC Davis continue. She has accepted responsibility and apologized to students. I await to see how she handles all of the criticism and outrage coming from all the organizations on campus, and externally. Just like you would not elect a different commander and chief in a time of war, I believe it would be a mistake to oust Chancellor Katehi at this juncture.