On the heels of a string of controversies surrounding UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, the UC Student Association voted to demand her resignation at its April 15 meeting.
In November of 2011, during Katehi’s tenure, police pepper-sprayed protesting UC Davis students. On April 13, the Sacramento Bee reported that UC Davis spent at least $175,000 on consultants to dilute search results related to the 2011 incident. Previously, Katehi had been criticized for serving on the boards of for-profit corporations, which may have created a conflict of interest in her position as chancellor.
Katehi’s latest actions were the last straw in a series of missteps, leading to demands for her resignation, said Kevin Sabo, UCSA president, who said that the UCSA felt the money used to polish the campus’s image could have been better spent.
“You could pay for 12,000 lunches, … you could pay students’ monthly rents,” Sabo said. ”You could’ve hired three financial aid counselors.”
In a statement released Monday, Katehi justified the hiring of firms that specialized in “search engine optimization” as a way to paint a more complete picture of the campus for potential donors.
“None of our communications efforts were intended — or attempted — to erase online content or rewrite history,” Katehi said in the statement. “At UC Davis, we live with the lessons of 2011 every day.”
In protest of Katehi’s actions, UC Davis students occupied the the fifth floor of Mrak Hall, where Katehi’s office is located, for more than 35 days.
The immediate goal of the protest was to demand the resignation of Katehi, but the protesters “really want to bring light to all the issues … the systemic issues of our administration, of the greater UC system,” said Ali Soleimani, one of the protesters.
Faculty at UC Davis are divided in their support of Katehi.
Neil Schore, UC Davis professor of chemistry, pointed toward Katehi’s achievements, such as the money Katehi has funneled to the school through her connections. He added that he feels Katehi is being unfairly targeted, as many other administrators have not been scrutinized for serving on various boards.
“What’s going on here is missing a lot of potentially important points people aren’t getting information on.” Schore said. “It really concerns me … that this is a little bit of a witch hunt.”
But Eddy U, UC Davis associate professor of sociology, said the various errors Katehi made through the years were not in line with her role as chancellor of a public university.
“How can you serve a private company whose purpose is to make money and at the same time (be) an educator in public education that tries to do the most for the students,” U said.
Katehi had served in paid positions on the boards of DeVry Education Group and John Wiley and Sons before she came under fire for conflicting interests.
William Tierney, a professor at USC who serves on the board of King Abdulaziz University, on which Katehi had previously served, said Katehi seems to have made an “egregious error in judgement” and lost the confidence of the faculty. King Abdulaziz University faced criticism for aggressively recruiting highly-cited researchers to increase its standing.
“She might be able to hang on to her job, but I don’t see how she can resolve the lack of confidence and develop a working relationship with the faculty,” Tierney said in an email.
Sabo said students have very little say in the hiring of chancellors, even though chancellors serve as representatives of the campus community.
“We definitely realize that the problem doesn’t lie fully in Chancellor Katehi or the administration or even the UC system, it goes deeper than that,” Soleimani said. “We just believe that this is the first step to get the ball rolling.”
The UCSA also plans to review UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks regarding the campus’s consistent mishandling of sexual misconduct, Sabo said.
“This isn’t the case of a bad apple, this is an entire system, a bad orchard,” Sabo said.