While there are some UC Davis faculty members and students who do not believe Chancellor Linda Katehi should step down after Lt. John Pike pepper-sprayed peaceful student protesters on November 18th, many on campus want her to resign immediately. The English Department condemned the police brutality almost immediately after the incident. Shortly thereafter, as first reported here at HyperVocal, members of the Physics Department also released a statement calling for her resignation.
Pike’s unwarranted and shameful pepper-spraying “party” has now become a meme. After a number of unnerving news reports of both police and civilians using pepper spray recklessly on Black Friday on shoppers (yes, shoppers, not occupiers), my editor here even suggested that pepper spray be named TIME magazine’s “Person of the Year.”
Even though Katehi has some faculty cheerleaders defending her, she remains a target of criticism both on and off campus for her role in the Pike incident. This most recent statement has close to 80 signatures from faculty members in various departments and states:
Chancellor Katehi showed poor judgment before the pepper-spray incident by sending the police to remove tents without first personally engaging the Occupy UC Davis students; in so doing, she ignored alternative models for positively moving forward with the activists, as exemplified by actions at Duke and Columbia, or more recently with Occupy San Francisco. She displayed a dangerous ignorance or disregard for the potential for violence given brutal police action against Occupy protests at UC Berkeley, and in Oakland and other cities. After the incident, following a halting progression of public statements, she claimed to accept responsibility with her words, but in deed distanced herself by directing blame and questions to the police and a vice chancellor. Additionally, the stated rationale to remove the tents (student safety) is belied by more than a week of peaceful, safe encampment. Finally, the pepper spray incident has triggered an undeniable international storm of negative discussion and images of the campus and Chancellor. This makes her role as chief public spokesperson for the university difficult at best. In particular, we believe she lacks credibility to advocate for the Occupy students’ legitimate concerns (accessible, affordable quality university education without crushing student debt and better post-baccalaureate economic opportunity).
Although we know many of our faculty colleagues continue to back the Chancellor while the investigations are underway, we are compelled by the evidence available now and support the pending submission of a petition to the Davis Academic Senate calling for a formal vote of no confidence in her leadership.
Obviously, the pressure on Katehi to resign continues, and more signatures are being added to this statement. While she may be looking forward to the end of the semester, and hoping things will die down, chances are she will quit on her own or be pushed out by the regents in the near future.
Cryn Johannsen is the founder and executive director of All Education Matters (AEM). She is currently writing a book about the student lending crisis and how this mess can be fixed. Read her full HyperVocal archive here, and make sure to follow her on The Twitter @cjohanns.