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Editorial: Give Katehi a chance to lead

By
From page A6 | November 22, 2011 |

Calls for UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s resignation rang out repeatedly Monday during the Occupy UC Davis rally on the Quad. We understand the sentiment, registered in the wake of last week’s shocking pepper-spraying of nonviolent student protesters.

However, we’re not ready to join the chorus of voices demanding that she step down.

KATEHI HAS LOST the students’ trust. Indeed, she acknowledged as much during her brief remarks Monday. She also has lost the trust of some faculty; the board of the Davis Faculty Association and the professors and instructors in the English department are the loudest voices demanding her resignation.

It remains to be seen whether she can regain that trust and lead the university out of this crisis. We’re willing to give her that opportunity.

Katehi asked for just that on Monday, saying she welcomes dialogue with faculty, staff and students over the coming days and weeks. Part of that dialogue must be a frank discussion about the chain of command when law enforcement officers are called to the scene of a protest. Friday’s confrontation is just the latest in a string of troubling incidents involving nonviolent protests in the past couple of years.

In fact, that discussion should focus on the need for confrontation at all. Students are justifiably frustrated about rising tuition costs; so are university administrators. Those involved surely must see that they do not have to be adversaries. Indeed, they should be working together to raise a united voice in the halls of the state Legislature and U.S. Congress, in the media, in the community — anywhere and everywhere they can be heard.

IN OUR VIEW, Katehi missed important opportunities to talk with students before police were called in, when the Occupy crowd numbered 50 instead of 5,000. These students are devoted to communicating; it’s time that university leaders started listening.

The students did their part Monday, giving the chancellor respectful silence during her remarks. Now is the time to talk, clear the air, acknowledge mistakes and begin to rebuild trust.

Katehi has been relentless in her drive to raise the university’s profile nationally and internationally. Now, unfortunately, she must bring the same zeal to cleaning up her own house.

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