Letter details reasons for UC Davis chancellor’s placement on administrative leave

UC Davis Chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi photographed in the reading room at Shields Library on the UC Davis campus.

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UC President Janet Napolitano sent a letter to UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi on Wednesday detailing reasons for placing her on paid administrative leave.

Napolitano specifically cited in the letter concerns over a rapid series of promotions and pay raises given to Katehi’s daughter-in-law totaling $50,000 over a period of two and a half years. Her daughter-in-law, Emily Prieto, is the chief of staff to UC Davis Vice Chancellor Adela de la Torre.

Prieto was also placed as the direct supervisor of a program that includes Katehi’s son, an epidemiology graduate student who has a paid research position at UC Davis.

Napolitano also addressed accusations that Katehi had directly communicated with contracted companies employed by UC Davis to scrub search engine results related to a 2011 incident where campus police officers pepper-sprayed sitting UC Davis protesters. Katehi has publicly stated, however, that she knew nothing of the arrangement.

Napolitano also cites a complaint in the letter that “student fee revenues were misused by the campus specifically by being directed to unapproved instructional purposes.”

Katehi’s lawyer, Melinda Guzman, called Napolitano’s decision “disappointing” and referred to Katehi’s successes as chancellor in a public statement.

“This smacks of scapegoating and a rush to judgment driven purely by political optics, not the best interests of the university or the UC system as a whole,” Guzman said in the statement. “The Chancellor welcomes an independent, objective investigation and a full release of all relevant documents and public records.”

UC Student Association President Kevin Sabo said the UCSA “applauds” Napolitano’s decision as Katehi faced “unprecedented opposition” from UC student groups, state legislators and, recently, Napolitano.

I don’t know of a time that the entire UCSA had to vote ‘no confidence’ on a single UC chancellor,” Sabo said. “It’s almost impressive in a negative way how stubborn she had been in terms of removing herself.”

Looking forward, Sabo said he hoped that students would begin considering whether Katehi’s issues are individual or indicative of a UC-wide problem of corrupt administrators.

He also suggested re-evaluation of hiring processes and the accountability of senior UC administrators, suggesting that students be included in senior official hiring committees, an ongoing feedback process and student consultation for firings.

Students protested Katehi by occupying the floor where her office is located for more than 35 days and by demonstrating at a variety of campus events. On April 16, the day after the occupation of her office ended, students marched in the campus’s annual Picnic Day parade holding “Fire Katehi” signs. On Wednesday, students hung laundry lines throughout UC Davis’s quad, a metaphor for what they call Katehi’s “dirty laundry.”

“For us, it’s important to keep the momentum going, and we believe our movement has definitely been rewarded,”said campus protester Eddie Suboh. “With this action, even though it’s not the way we wanted it to go, we’re moving towards fulfilling our objective, which is increased transparency and reduction of corruption in administration.”

In a statement released Wednesday night, Napolitano announced that she would hire an independent investigator to look into these concerns and submit a report before the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year.

Anna Sturla covers student life. Contact her at [email protected].