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UC Chancellor Katehi Apologizes Amid Calls for Her Resignation; “I Know You May Not Believe Anything I’m Telling You, And You Don’t Have To”

| November 22, 2011
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Chancellor Linda Katehi (Photo: UC Davis)

These are perilous times for government officials forced to wrestle with the protests roiling the Bay Area and beyond. Mayor Jean Quan’s approval rating, for instance, headed toward Gov. Rod Blagojevich levels after her ambivalent handling of the Occupy Oakland protests.

The recent Occupy-goes-to-school events have fueled even more outrage over police tactics than that engendered by cops aggressively sparring with protesters in cities. Videos of UC Berkeley and Alameda County Sheriff officers thrusting batons into students and dragging them by the hair prompted Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to issue a statement of regret and launch an investigation into excessive force by police. Today, he released an audio message in which he apologized and took full responsibility for what occurred.

But the video of UC Davis officers non-chalantly pepper-spraying seated student protesters in the face as if applying a second coat of paint has provided a particularly disturbing image of what, on the surface at least, appears to be gratuitious and callous confrontation of young people by law enforcement.

The university put Campus Police Chief Annette Spicuzza on administrative leave pending an investigation into the incident, and also suspended two officers involved, one of whom has become a humiliating-if-clever meme on the web, not to mention a target online.

But the controversy has also swept up Chancellor Linda Katehi, who is under mounting pressure from students and faculty members to resign.

I know you may not believe anything I’m telling you, and you don’t have to.

- Chancellor Katehi to students

Yesterday, on KQED Radio’s Forum program, Katehi said about the incident: “It happened and it was unacceptable. In fact, what I saw on the video has been horrific, and it’s really not representative of our campus…It was completely unacceptable what happened.” (Audio and transcript of that show here.)

At a student rally later in the day, Katehi apologized for the incident in front of thousands of students.

The Sacramento Bee reports:

In a surreal scene, Katehi waded into the massive crowd and stood silently for about an hour listening as students – including several who were pepper-sprayed – denounced her for sending in the police last week.

“I was blinded for about 30 minutes,” 19-year-old Evka Whaley-Mayda told the crowd. “I was in excruciating pain. … I should not feel unsafe at my own university.”

Katehi looked forlorn at times as she heard students describe the incident. Then, with students chanting, “Let her speak,” she made her way through the crowd, only to be delayed briefly because others were ahead of her in line.

Finally, with some students booing and others shouting, “Be respectful,” Katehi walked up the stairs to a makeshift stage and told them she was sorry. Full article

The student newspaper, The California Aggie, continues…

“I am here to apologize. I feel horrible for what happened on Friday. If you think you don’t want to be students in a university like we had on Friday, I am just telling you, I don’t want to be the chancellor of the university we had on Friday,” Katehi said, fighting back tears.

“Our university has to be better than it is, and it needs all of the communities to come together to do that. We need to work together,” Katehi said. “And I know that you may not believe anything that I am telling you today and you don’t have to. It is my responsibility to earn your trust.”

The Sacramento Bee has video from yesterday’s event, including Katehi’s remarks and some students’ hostile response.

Here is a video of her full address, in which she also says the following:

“I know you may not believe anything that I’m telling you today, and you don’t have to. It is my responsibility to earn your trust. I only have to say one thing. There is a plaque out there, that speaks about 17 of November, of 1973. And I was there. And I don’t forget that. So I hope I will have a better opportunity to work with you, to meet you, to get to know you, and there will be many opportunities in the next few weeks to do that. Thank you.”

Nov 17, 1973

“There is a plaque out there, that speaks about 17 of November, of 1973…I don’t forget that,” the chancellor said.

What happened on that day?

The Athens Polytechnic Uprising, when the Greek government sent a tank onto a university campus to confront a mass protest of students and workers against the military junta. At least 24 civilians were killed.

KQED’s Cy Musiker today asked Lynn Tierney, the associate vice president of communications for the UC system, what Chancellor Kathehi’s connection to the incident was.

“She’s from Greece,” Tierney said. “She was a student at Athens Polytechnic university when police came through the doors in a tank. She experienced that and she’s not going to let anything like that happen on her campus.”

(Update 2:40 p.m. A UC Davis spokesperson tells me that when Katehi pointed and said “there is a plaque out there,” she was pointing, at least metaphorically, toward Greece, not to anywhere on the campus.)

In another development today, the university’s English Department faculty has posted a call for Katehi’s “immediate resignation” on its home page.

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Category: Education, Law

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  • Moravecglobal

    UCPD take direction from and report to the Chancellor: Condem the Chancellor not the police. Every qualified California student should get a place in University of California(UC) system. That’s a desirable goal for a public university. However, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau displaces Californians qualified for education at Cal. with $50,600 tuition Foreigners.
    Paying more is not a better education. UC tuition increases exceed the national average rate of increase. The UC Board Of Regents jeopardizes Californians attending higher education by making UC the most expensive public university.
    Self-serving tuition increases are used by UC President Mark Yudof to increase the pay of 80,000 eligible faculty & others. Payoffs like these point to higher operating costs and still higher tuition for Californians. Instate tuition consumes 14% of Ca. Median Family Income! UC is hijacking our kids’ futures: student debt.
    I agree that faculty in higher education and senior management, like Yudof and Birgeneau, should consider the students’ welfare & put it high on their values.
    Deeds unfortunately do not bear out the students’ welfare values of UC Berkeley Birgeneau’s senior management and the UC Board of Regents.
    Opinions to UC Board of Regents, email marsha.kelman@ucop.edu

  • Moravecglobal

    Focus on the issue of increases in tuition. University of California Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau hijack’s our kids’ futures. I love University of California (UC) having been a student & lecturer. But today I am concerned that at times I do not recognize the UC I love. Like so many I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failures of Regent Chairwoman Lansing, President Yudof, Chancellor Birgeneau from holding the line on rising costs & tuition increases
    Chancellor Birgeneau has molded Cal. into the most expensive public university. Paying more is not a better education.
    Californians are reeling from 19% unemployment (includes: those forced to work part time; those no longer searching), mortgage defaults, loss of unemployment benefits. And those who still have jobs are working longer for less. Faculty wages must reflect California’s ability to pay, not what others are paid.
    Current pay increases for generously paid University of California Faculty is arrogance. Instate tuition consumes 14% of Ca. Median Family Income!
    Paying more is not a better education. UC Berkeley(# 70 Forbes) tuition increases exceed the national average rate of increases.
    UC President Yudof, Cal. Chancellor Birgeneau($450,000 salary) dismissed many much needed cost-cutting options. They did not consider freezing vacant faculty positions, increasing class size, requiring faculty to teach more classes, doubling the time between sabbaticals, cutting & freezing pay & benefits for chancellors & reforming pensions & the health benefits.
    They said such faculty reforms “would not be healthy for UC”. Exodus of faculty, administrators? Who can afford them and where would they go?
    We agree it is far from the ideal situation, but it is in the best interests of the university system & the state to stop cost increases. UC cannot expect to do business as usual: raising tuition; granting pay raises & huge bonuses during a weak economy that has sapped state revenues & individual Californians’ income.
    There is no question the necessary realignments with economic reality are painful. Regent Chairwoman Lansing can bridge the public trust gap with reassurances that salaries & costs reflect California’s ability to pay. The sky above UC will not fall when Chancellor Birgeneau is ousted.

    Opinions? Email the UC Board of Regents marsha.kelman@ucop.edu

  • Charlie Hendrickson, UC Davis Law 1989

    Freedom of speech is the foundation of our democracy. To think that a peaceful demonstration by youth is physically and violently beat back on a university campus– shameful. What is the lesson U.C. Davis teaches its students?

    The U.C. Davis Law School is the Martin Luther King School of Law– an institution named for a man who changed the nation, and the world, based on his exercise of civil disobedience and free speech rights. And now the University that trades on his name tramples his principles.

    • Anonymous

      Cops report to and take direction from camous chancellors. Campus chancellors(Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) earn big bucks to take responsibility for campus cops etc.

      Oust UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and UC Davis Chancellor for applying violence to their students protesting increases in tuition and student debt

  • magic johnson

    to use the word ‘sparring’ is erroneous and offensive.

    peaceful protesters are being attacked by police.

    there is no sparring.

    this is not a boxing match.

  • Anonymous

    University of California campus chancellors vet campus police protocols. UCPD
    report to chancellors and take direction from their chancellor.

    UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and UC Davis Chancellor are in derelection
    of their duties.

    UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and UC Davis Chancellor need to quit or be
    fired for permitting the brutal outrage on students protesting tuition increases
    and student debt

    Opinions? Email the UC Board of Regents marsha.kelman@ucop.edu