UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s Letter To Alumni And Friends

UC Davis

UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi just published a letter regarding the Friday 18 November 2011 incident at UC Davis that involved protesters, police, and pepper spray. No need to summarize the events here (many videos are available on YouTube).

Just read the latest letter from Chancellor Katehi (emphasis mine). Previous letters can be read at Sacramento Bee.

November 20, 2011

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Friday was not a day that would make anyone on our campus proud; indeed the events of the day need to guide us forward as we try to make our campus a better place of inquiry, debate, and even dissent. This past week our campus was a site of week-long peaceful demonstrations during which students were able to express their concerns about many issues facing higher education, the University of California, our campus, our nation, and the world as a whole. Those events involved multiple rallies in the Quad and an occupation of Mrak Hall which ended peacefully a day later.

However, the events on Friday were a major deviation from that trend. In the aftermath of the troubling events we experienced, I will attempt to provide a summary of the incident with the information now available to me and the steps we will follow going forward.

After a week of peaceful exchange and debate, on Thursday a group of protestors including UC Davis students and other non-UC Davis affiliated individuals established an encampment of about 25 tents on the Quad. The group was reminded that while the university provides an environment for students to participate in rallies and express their concerns and frustrations through different forums, university policy does not allow such encampments on university grounds.

On Thursday, the group stayed overnight despite repeated reminders by university staff that their encampment violated university policies and they were requested to disperse. On Friday morning, the protestors were provided with a letter explaining university policies and reminding them of the opportunities the university provides for expression. Driven by our concern for the safety and health of the students involved in the protest, as well as other students on our campus, I made the decision not to allow encampments on the Quad during the weekend, when the general campus facilities are locked and the university staff is not widely available to provide support.

During the early afternoon hours and because of the request to take down the tents, many students decided to dismantle their tents, a decision for which we are very thankful. However, a group of students and non-campus affiliates decided to stay. The university police then came to dismantle the encampment. The events of this intervention have been videotaped and widely distributed. As indicated in various videos, the police used pepper spray against the students who were blocking the way. The use of pepper spray as shown on the video is chilling to us all and raises many questions about how best to handle situations like this.

To this effect, I am forming a task force comprised of faculty, students and staff to review the events and provide to me a thorough report within 30 days. The task force will be chosen this week and convene immediately to begin their work. As part of this, a process will be designed that allows members of the community to express their views on this matter. In addition, I will hold a series of meetings and forums with students, faculty and staff to listen to their concerns and hear their ideas for restoring civil discourse to the campus. In the interim, two UC Davis police officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave following their use of pepper spray.

Related to current policies, I am asking the office of Administrative and Resource Management and the office of Student Affairs to review our policies in relation to encampments of this nature and consider whether our existing policies reflect the needs of the students at this point in time. If our policies do not allow our students enough flexibility to express themselves, then we need to find a way to improve these policies and make them more effective and appropriate.

Our campus is committed to providing a safe environment for all to learn freely and practice their civil rights of freedom of speech and expression. At the same time, our campus has the responsibility to ensure the safety of all others who use the same spaces and rely on the same facilities, tools, environments and processes to practice their freedoms to work and study.

I spoke with students this weekend and I feel their outrage. I am deeply saddened that this happened on our campus, and as chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident. I pledge to take the actions needed to ensure this does not happen again. I feel sorry for the harm our students were subjected to and I vow to work tirelessly to make the campus a more welcoming and safe place.

Linda P.B. Katehi

[photo via Karin Higgins/UC Davis]

7 Replies

  • As a UC Davis Alumni I am shocked and outraged by the brutal
    treatment of peaceful UC Davis student protestors. I am further disgusted by
    the faux action the university is taking. An “investigation of the
    incident” is code for “we are going to do nothing now and in the long
    run.” My faith in what I believed UCD stood for (personal growth and
    discovery through education and action) has been shaken to the core. Only when
    the police chief, Chancellor Katehi, and those who carried out the action are
    fired, will my faith once again be restored. Until that day comes, UCD; do not
    call for me as an alumni to contribute monetarily to the school.

  • Oh, boy! A task force is going to convene! There will be meetings and forums! All designed to make people think their voice is heard while nothing changes.

    • No I don’t. It is about police brutality and anyone who requests police in riot gear over peaceful students following the complete take down of tents is not capable of the leadership of a university campus. I was simply giving an example, and that if her words of taking responsibility are not a smoke screen of hot air then I was suggesting her actions should demonstrate that taking responsibility for negigent decision making should be followed up with docking her pay.

  • This sounds like more hot air. You can repeat your words about ensuring a safe campus, but  only your actions will convey your true position on this matter. Actions are the only real way to communicate your position. If you really cared, you, Katehi, would dock your pay for such absence of leadership that occurred during these events. Your inability to make responsible decisions isn’t even worth the    $400K+  pay scale value that you applaud yourself with for the mediocre job you continue to demonstrate and provide to the UC Davis campus. Your pay scale in no way should be greater than the United States President and you must hold yourself accountable not only for your bad decision making of Friday 11/19/11 events but accountable to the people of UC Davis by respectifully allocating funds into student programs and services and out of the banks and pockets of administrators like yourself.

    We don’t pay tution to make your wallet fatter, we pay tuition and deserve the quality of education and student services that deserve at UC Davis. You, Katehi, best remember that.

    • The wealthy think tanks will work tirelessly to diffuse the “Occupy” movement across the nation with hollow rhetoric.  There needs to be more change, and less empty rhetoric.  Our nation is in debt to the Chinese for trillions because of oil wars started on false pretenses; make the oil companies pay the Chinese debt out of their record profits every quarter and they will think twice before starting more wars which enrich Republican owned defense industries.

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