Thoughtful comment on an Editorial in the SacBee
Today an Editorial was published on the website of the Sacramento Bee arguing that the resignation of Chancellor Katehi would be an overreaction. The Editorial is a good read, but there is also a very nice comment in the comment-section by Brian Hanley, which is posted below:
Brian HanleyWell, I must ask you if you really think that she, personally, wrote those emails?
She is far too busy to actually compose them herself. If she did, I would be very surprised. She probably looked at them, but not necessarily. I do not know exactly how much of a delegator she is. An effective executive does a lot of delegation or they cannot do their job, and that includes “press release” kinds of stuff. I followed those emails also, both the one to staff (although I am not staff) and the one to alumni. They are “blah blah” emails of the boilerplate type.
In the first hours of Friday, she probably heard something, and the first thing she would do is ask, or have her staff ask, the police chief what was up. It was Friday. Like most people, I am quite sure she wanted to get home, or perhaps off to something she had planned that evening. Nobody schedules a blowup like this. Nobody ever thinks first that it could have been a police brutality situation.
The chief certainly told her (or her staff) that it was routine, and appears to have made false statements to the chancellor to cover for a favorite member of her staff who had screwed up. The chief also overdid the police presence. And it appears that this police chief, from what the gay former officer had to say, had played favorites for a guy who had gotten used to overuse of force. So I think that is where the problem is, not with Katehi who is relatively new.
For a boss to instantly presume that a high ranking subordinate is at fault is very bad management. A boss that does that will not accomplish much. You have to trust your staff or get rid of them. But first you trust them, and only after having it proven otherwise do you directly question their judgment.
In other words, it can take a while for things to percolate up. I was at the rally and I totally feel for the students. I am personally glad that this generation is starting to find its voice. I support their protest. And I think that they need to redirect it where it really can do something – at the presidential election. That is where their money is. And being able to afford an education is what the original protest was about.
While Chancellor Katehi is not a warm public persona, I have every reason to think that she was totally sincere. Not many people would stand for an hour while being denounced by a crowd of thousands. I am sure that she “got it” while she was there if she didn’t get it before. She is quite bright. But she isn’t a great public speaker. I would warn the students that having a good speaker who can make them feel warm and fuzzy should be viewed with grave caution. Some of the worst politicians are excellent that way.
In terms of response, one might think that the chancellor has ability to fire at will, but with UC’s HR policies, she doesn’t. She did the most she can do. If she went over the line on HR policvy, and fired outright the police officers put on leave, they could sue and probably win. If they sued and likely won – then she would be in much more serious trouble. Because she could then be faced with staff who had been reinstated against her wishes – not a situation any boss wants to be in. And the students would be in a worse position than ever. What would happen at the next protest then?
My honest, well thought over opinion, is that the students should ask Katehi to stay. They have a chancellor who has listened to them, and has learned something important. If they get rid of her now, they will be throwing that away. The next executive to take her spot is not going to do a lot different, and is very likely to be worse. Switching bodies will be a PR stunt, not one with actual content.