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Faculty leaders censure Katehi

UC Davis police officers begin taking down an Occupy UC Davis encampment on the campus Quad on Friday, Nov. 18. The situation quickly grew more tense and resulted in the pepper-spraying of seated demonstrators, captured on video that went viral. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

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From page A1 | May 03, 2012 |

The UC Davis Academic Senate Executive Council has censured Chancellor Linda Katehi for her handling of the Nov. 18 pepper-spraying of student protesters.

A special Senate committee urged a call for the resignation of Katehi, Vice Chancellors John Meyer and Fred Wood, as well as recently retired Police Chief Annette Spicuzza.

After reviewing the committee’s findings, the 34-member Executive Council stopped short of calling for resignations “at this time.”

Instead, it censured Katehi for “failure to perform adequately the tasks of her office and failure to provide clarity, candor and trustworthy accounts in relation to the events of Nov. 18.”

The committee’s report and the council’s letter, which ask for an action plan from Katehi by June 1, were posted on Wednesday morning. The administration posted a new list of proposed actions and reforms at nearly the same moment.

Academic Senate Chair Linda Bisson said that by reprimanding Katehi, a member of the Senate, instead of calling for her resignation as chancellor, the Executive Council felt that it had the best chance to bring reform to the campus and UC system as a whole.

“Our goal is to have a campus that allows this type of dissent and treats people with respect and is inclusive,” she said. “What it came down to is, the existing (chancellor) has pledged to do what we want to do and change things. As one person put it, ‘Give her enough rope. If she hangs herself, fine. If she doesn’t, it’s all to the good for all of us.’

“The fear goes that if you bring in someone new, they won’t be committed to make those changes. This is a chance to effect meaningful change throughout the system with respect to how we approach student unrest and protests on the campus.”

UCD spokesman Barry Shiller said neither Katehi nor other top administrators would comment on the reports in detail until all are in.

“To the extent (censure is) there to clarify that there were serious mistakes made, the chancellor has personally — I honestly can’t count how many times — said she’s accountable for what occurred,” Shiller said.

‘Dysfunctional’

The committee found “a dysfunctional organizational structure that values public relations over candor and its own self-interest over the interests of the campus community or the reputation of the institution.”

“Specifically, we are concerned with the professionalization of the administrative group, which has produced a deep divide between the administration and the rest of the campus.”

While Katehi has publicly apologized for the incident, the committee wrote that she “fell short of the standard of accountability required of someone in this type of leadership role” needed to move the community forward. A “less-than-forthcoming accounts of events” by her administration also has bred mistrust.

“Chancellor Katehi’s lack of candor, consistency and clarity in the aftermath of the events has undermined the community’s trust in her leadership,” the committee wrote.

It called her performance before, during and after Nov. 18, when police cleared a day-old Occupy UC Davis encampment, arresting 10 people and pepper-spraying about a dozen others, “woefully inadequate.” Katehi “failed to perform competently as the chief executive officer of the campus.”

The Executive Council endorsed the formation of a police oversight board, at the committee’s suggestion, as well as two other groups: one to assure oversight of reform recommendations, the other to address freedom of expression on campus.

The council also backed Katehi’s newly formed Campus Community Council, which the administration has said would bring different factions together. The Executive Council said it did so provided that group “will form a true advisory team in which dissent is welcome.”

The council said it will monitor closely whether “progress has been made toward meaningful change” and “actively consider the faculty’s confidence in the chancellor’s leadership.”

‘Pattern of inaction’

The Senate’s special committee based its recommendations in large part on a review of 190 pages of reports by a student, staff, faculty and alumni task force, headed by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, and a fact-finding report by an outside security consultant, Kroll Associates Inc.

The task force and Kroll laid the blame for the incident on both administrators and police for poor communication, acting without legal standing and repeated planning and tactical errors.

The committee broke from the task force in one important respect — it wrote that it did not view the mishandling of the Occupy encampment as a special circumstance.

Explained its chair, Julia Simon, “The committee was very concerned that there’s been a pattern of incidents and investigations and recommendations — and no action. … Our most important contribution is the oversight, making sure that these things actually happen.”

The committee cited a failure by campus leaders and police to make changes after a November 2009 sit-in at Mrak Hall led to 53 arrests, after which faculty proposed a police review board, and the occupation of a UC Berkeley building yielded a report on how better to handle protests.

Inconsistencies in accounts given to investigators also were “deeply troubling,” the committee wrote.

Split votes

Members wrote that they were “deeply divided” about whether to recommend personnel changes.

The committee included six Academic Senate members, as well as representatives of the Academic Federation, Graduate Student Association, Law School Student Association and Staff Assembly. A seventh faculty member and an Associated Students of UC Davis representative could not see the report through because of scheduled conflicts.

Weighing in

Members of the special committee were Senate members:

Julia Simon, who teaches French;

Colin A. Carter, agricultural and resource economics;

Roland Faller, chemical engineering and materials science;

Richard Grosberg, evolution and ecology;

Margaret Johns, law; and

Ari Kelman, history;

as well as David Masiel of the Academic Federation, Zack O’Donnell of the Staff Assembly, Matthew Zimmerman of the Graduate Student Association and Scott Judson of the Law School Student Association

Only Senate members voted on personnel changes, however.

They voted 3-2 to ask for Katehi’s resignation and 4-1 to ask for those of both Meyer and Wood, with one member abstaining each time. The vote to ask for Spicuzza’s resignation was 3-0 with three abstentions.

Meyer is the vice chancellor for administrative and resource management. Katehi recently removed from his oversight the Police Department, placing it under Provost Ralph Hexter. Wood is the vice chancellor of student affairs.

“Some people on the committee felt that it wasn’t appropriate for us to make these kinds of recommendations,” Simon said. “Others felt uncomfortable making these kinds of recommendations. And then, there were people who felt very passionately one way or the other about what should be done.

“The differences of opinion really come from disagreeing what the best course of action is after what’s gone on.”

The special committee was in “complete agreement” on its other recommendations. They include:

* Setting clear benchmarks for progress, including regular public reports.

* The formation of the freedom of expression group by fall 2012 to help put into place time, place and manner rules for protest, with faculty sharing responsibility for making rules and possible punishments clear to students.

* Immediate work on a consultation process with faculty leaders, noting that the Executive Council was informed by Katehi that police action to clear an encampment from the Quad was already under way.

* Replacing by fall 2012 Katehi’s ad hoc leadership team with a permanent, more representative group with clearly defined operating rules.

* Writing guidelines ensuring that parties receive clear orders and understand them. Investigators found that leading up to the pepper-spraying, Spicuzza and the police were given little more guidance than any action should not be “another Berkeley,” a reference to a protest on that UC campus in which police jabbed protesters with batons.

* Forming a police and emergency management review board by fall 2012, immediately updating the campus emergency management plan and clearly defining police and civilian authority.

Proposals posted

Katehi has said her administration’s plans for change will take into account both the Senate special committee’s report and a systemwide UC report on policing protests, a draft of which is due out on Friday.

Shiller said much of what the committee recommended is reflected in the proposals the administration posted on Wednesday. He called it an “unintended convergence” that the proposals, which address the Kroll and Reynoso reports, were placed online on the same day the Academic Senate published its report.

“Some of the things (the Senate committee members) have recommended will easily flow into our proposals and the rest of it will be given strong consideration,” Shiller said.

“We all share the broader goal of making sure what happened last November never happens again.”

Many proposals the administration has offered for public comment have been announced earlier by Katehi, including an independent audit of the Police Department, policy reform and better training for police and administrators.

Others added more detail. For example, an effort to better connect the campus community might include “establishing a critical race and gender institute with a mission of encouraging faculty to engage in research at the intersections of race, gender, ethnicity and such public policy issues as access to affordable education, health care, diversity, economic development/disparities, internationalization of higher education, etc.”

Shiller said Provost Hexter has begun holding twice-weekly formal meetings of campus leaders, including faculty representatives, to address planned or ongoing protests or other issues of concern.

The Senate’s special committee stressed that for protests, “police should be the option of last resort, even when the intention is not to use force because of the ever-present potential for situations to escalate.”

This is not the first time that faculty have weighed in on the pepper-spraying.

Many professors, including the board of the 112-member Davis Faculty Association, called for Katehi to step down after the incident. In February, however, the larger Academic Senate rejected a vote of no confidence in the chancellor by a vote of 697-312.

Online: http://academicsenate.ucdavis.edu, http://demonstrationreviews.ucdavis.edu

— Reach Cory Golden at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden

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Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
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