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Moving forward: Lessons and reforms to create a stronger university

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From page A6 | November 20, 2012 |

By Linda Katehi

The events that unfolded on our Quad last November shook our campus, spinning us into an extended period of soul searching, introspection and a determination to learn from the past.

As difficult as this has been for us all, I believe that today we are a stronger and more open university because of it. We are also better prepared for whatever emergency and nonemergency situations may arise on our campus. Please allow me to explain why.

As chancellor, I will always consider myself fully responsible for what happened last Nov. 18 and for improving and reforming other areas of campus leadership that needed attention.

Like other universities around the country, UC Davis was embattled by repeated reductions in state funding and the steep fee increases that followed.

As turmoil and protests on campus increased, members of our community were hungry for an open and honest dialogue about how to best navigate the crisis. While our administration struggled to react and respond, some saw us as disengaged and remote.

For more than a century, UC Davis has been dedicated to outstanding scholarship, research and public service in a climate of mutual respect and collegiality. The freedom to exchange and express diverse points of view has been central to our charge as a student-centered public university.

With the help of wide-ranging input from the campus community, our own rigorous self-examination and thoughtful outside review, we have ushered in significant reforms and improvements in many areas to keep us on the path that has established UC Davis as one of the nation’s top public research universities.

Our Police Department has undergone a top-to-bottom review. Policies, training protocols and operations have been updated and enhanced.

Emergency response operations have been upgraded. We have created an integrated, multilevel emergency management team with clear delineation of roles and responsibilities.

All members of the team have participated in executive-level public safety training and simulated exercises.

I established a Campus Community Council to provide a regular, dedicated forum for campus stakeholders to share insights with campus leaders, and to know they are being heard. Additional reforms are forthcoming.

These are important steps, but work remains. Our Academic Senate is studying ways to enrich freedom of expression on our campus. Others are reviewing opportunities to appropriately involve students, faculty and staff in police oversight.

To ensure that progress continues, I recently invited 20 people, including California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, state legislators Lois Wolk and Mariko Yamada and a prominent ACLU attorney, to serve on a task force to evaluate our efforts. That group will issue public reports in March and again in June.

As someone who loves this university and cares deeply for the well-being of everyone associated with it, I also knew it was important for me to rededicate myself to spending more time with students, faculty and staff. I am now hearing firsthand their aspirations and concerns.

A year after one of our darkest days ever, I am confident UC Davis is on its way to being a national model for tolerance and mutual respect. We cannot rest until we complete the task.

— Linda Katehi is chancellor of UC Davis. This piece was published Thursday in The California Aggie.

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