Linda Katehi’s resignation should serve as 1st step

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.

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  • Michael Arlen

    If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, or if for any other reason the link provided in my previous post does not work in your browser, the text of the article cited is provided below:
    The University of California Will Lose A Valuable Teaching Opportunity If Chancellor Katehi Is Removed!
    August 7, 2016

    These are contentious times. And, during such, we all too often reach for quick relief with hard and fast resolutions.

    Unfortunately, knee-jerk reactions seldom look as promising with the vantage of hindsight. That which provides immediate relief, seldom brings lasting, long-term results and almost never breeds the fruit of opportunity, which more creative calculations might bear.

    UC Davis’ Chancellor, Linda Katehi, admittedly crossed some gray lines concerning potential conflicts of interest when she agreed to serve on the Boards of two organizations. One was a publisher of textbooks, which was doing business with the UC; the other, a Trade School, which probably promoted her involvement on their Board to prop up the appearance of their own academic standing.

    Discovery of her participation in these outside groups caused her suspension. In addition to the potential for collusion, some concern was directed towards whether she should even have time to be involved in the direction of other organizations, when so much is left to be done at the UC.

    Truth be told: One of the biggest reasons why Chancellor Katehi has been so successful in bringing industry investment to UC Davis, is precisely due to the industry connections she has made through her involvement with industry trade groups. From that vantage point, her involvement on other Boards, with other business leaders, makes a lot of sense. There are steps that could be taken, to ensure integrity is maintained while interacting with parties that might have some interests that are aligned with the University and others, which might pose a conflict of interest.  Discourse of those precautions ought to be the subject matter emanating from this discovery, not dismissal.

    I think we may miss a valuable teaching opportunity if we simply discredit Chancellor Katehi and remove her from office.

    The move for her ouster was rooted in a local politician’s desire to grab some headlines during an election year. The media inflamed the situation by publicizing how much the Chancellor was compensated by the UC, and how much more she received for her services on various Boards outside her job These are hard times…and the astronomical sums drew attention, and became the cue for the less fortunate to take-up their torches and pitchforks.

    At a time when the UC needs seasoned influencers to bring opportunities to the University, is not a time to extinguish the brilliance of a rising star. This is the time to harness her talents to promote the pitfalls of conflict of interest, while also evangelizing the rest of the UC in how to successfully engage Industry without stumbling into the pitfalls of conflict of interest.

    I realize that the mob’s desire for systemic change ritualistically chooses crucifixion as their cautionary tale. But more elevated thinking, the type we’ve come to expect from the UC, ought to see this as a teaching moment. 

    We would be much better served if Chancellor Katehi were given the additional task to go on a UC road show with Conflict of Interest experts. This could become an excellent means to ensure that others in positions of influence, better understand how to navigate the lay of the land, without stumbling into conflicts of interest.

    Whether you work for the University, a business, or the Government, the potential of encountering conflicts of interest have become pervasive in our competitive society. Campus Officials, Students and the business community at large could benefit from being schooled in how to proceed on a more righteous path. Those in public office also need more training in the field of Conflicts Of Interests. This could become a growth opportunity for continuing education at the UC!

    If handled correctly (and by correctly, I mean differently…), Chancellor’s Katehi’s mistake could yield HUGE opportunities for all the UC Campuses.

    Here’s my alternative resolution outline:
Since the UC is a teaching institution, why not let this become a teaching opportunity:

    1 Let all the UC’s Chancellors & Department Heads attend periodic ACOI (Avoid Conflict of Interest) meetings.

    2 Let each UC Campus formalize a safe “sounding board,” where ideas could be vetted as they present themselves; and win-win solutions could be found for those thorny opportunities before they become problems.

    3 Develop courses in which to share this subject matter with the students, Administration’s rank and file, and the surrounding government and business communities.

    The alternative resolution, outlined above, would offer a more positive and enduring check against troublesome conflicts of interest in the future, than the Chancellor’s removal and shame!
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Michael Arlen is an entrepreneur, creative catalyst, persuasive consensus-builder, ombudsman, and tech wrangler who is well versed in Law, Politics, Psychology and Business Administration.
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  • Michael Gardella

    Alex, I’m wondering why you didn’t address this issue in our local student newspaper, the Cal Aggie (either on-line or in-print), instead of posting your comments in a newspaper outside of our community. If UC Davis doesn’t have the resources to support a summer edition of the Cal Aggie maybe that’s something that you can address with your role as the “President of the Associated Students of the University of California, Davis”.

  • lspanker

    I’m reading a lot of vague pronunciations about something or another. Any specifics?

  • Nunya Beeswax

    And yet Katehi continues to hold a position on the UCD faculty. Let’s call this the Choudhry Effect…

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