When news broke Aug. 9 of Linda Katehi’s long overdue resignation, students celebrated as if we had just won a war. From my observations, UC Davis students and faculty were relieved to see Katehi out of the chancellor’s office.
The last five months have been a tumultuous and deplorable chapter of UC Davis’ history. Katehi — who is credited for raising the profile of UC Davis — is also the source of the swelling infamy of the campus in the public’s eye. Her stubborn refusal to step down, even in the face of intense pressure, has harmed the campus she ostensibly claims to hold so dear. In her final message to the campus, she seems to have concretely demonstrated that she is more concerned about her personal reputation, rather than the general welfare of the institution and community she has sworn to have served.
In a five-page letter, she spent four pages cherry-picking excerpts from UC Office of the President investigative report on why she should be exonerated and only one page being reflective and thankful of her term as chancellor. This sort of behavior indicated to me that Katehi focused more on how she was perceived and was ultimately disconnected from the everyday reality of the students, faculty and community as a whole.
Katehi is just one battle in the war to reclaim the university. There are many other battles to be won and more administrators to be scrutinized. After the brave protests by students that sparked a storm of legislator and media attention amplifying her poor decisions, Katehi eventually resigned. It’s been proven in the court of public opinion that there is no tolerance for chancellors who misbehave. I can only hope the same fate will befall other egregious university officials.
We will not mourn or miss Katehi as chancellor.
While acting-chancellor Ralph Hexter has recently made more efforts with students, this should not be the standard we should be satisfied with. In a system of oligarchs and bureaucracy, the voice of students can easily be muffled, but I will not let us be overlooked. The stakes are too high for the future of our university.
We have to continue the fight to illuminate and shine light upon those administrators up and down the chain of command who are accustomed to working in the dark. It may be convenient for them to hide behind policy and bureaucracy, but we cannot allow those who administer our tuition and fee dollars to misuse them.
According to UC Regents Policy 7102, two out of a search committee of 17 people to help determine the next chancellor will be students. As such, my Graduate Student Association counterpart and I have both been notified of our participation. The composition of the search committee is supposed to be reflective of the stakeholders in the shared governance of the university (regents, faculty, staff and students), but having only two officially recognized students be on the committee is far from satisfactory. Going forward, I will work diligently to ensure students are given ample opportunities to voice their opinions on a chancellor they feel is best suited for Davis. I will be looking for the best chancellor for students.
What we need is a chancellor who will be an ally and champion for the 35,000-plus students at Davis. While I understand the office is incredibly complex, we cannot afford to have another leader be mired in bureaucracy and forget about the students whom our institution was built to serve and better.
Alex T. Lee is the president of the Associated Students of the University of California, Davis.