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Katehi, chief huddled with 13 on decision to remove camp

Deanna Johnson, an Occupy UC Davis participant, takes down her tent Saturday afternoon on the UCD Quad. With final exams over, protesters had removed all but about 16 tents from the Quad by Saturday. Some have spoken of staying over the holiday break, but plans are to have Occupy UC Davis be “back with a bang” when the winter quarter starts on Jan. 9, said Bernie Goldsmith, a local attorney active with the protesters. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

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From page A1 | December 11, 2011 |

In the hours before police marched onto the Quad to clear the Occupy UC Davis encampment, Chancellor Linda Katehi consulted with members of her cabinet, attorneys and staff representing student affairs and communications.

In response to a request from The Enterprise, UCD released the names of those who took part in meetings and teleconferences in the hours leading up to the decision to remove the tents from the Quad on Nov. 18.

Katehi has publicly apologized and taken responsibility for what happened next: the arrest of nine students and one alumnus and the pepper-spraying of about a dozen more protesters.

The chancellor has sought to clarify, however, that any instructions she gave to police Chief Annette Spicuzza were not delivered one-on-one.

Instead, Katehi has said, they came during discussions by an “emergency team” that held “multiple” conference calls on Nov. 17, the day on which Occupy UC Davis set up its camp.

That “team” amounted to an ad hoc group of administrators and staff who took part based on their availability, UCD spokesperson Claudia Morain said. Along with Katehi and Spicuzza, other participants in the meetings and calls about the encampment included some or all of the following:

* Provost Ralph Hexter and Marie Carter-DuBois, an assistant executive vice chancellor who serves as Hexter’s principal adviser;

* John Meyer, vice chancellor for administrative and resource management, and Robert Loessberg-Zahl, institutional analysis director;

* Fred Wood, vice chancellor; Griselda Castro, assistant vice chancellor; and Emily Galindo, associate vice chancellor, all of student affairs;

* Cynthia Harrison Barbera, executive director of strategic communications; Mitchel Benson, associate vice chancellor for university communications; and Morain, director of UCD News Service;

* Chief Campus Counsel Steve Drown and Senior Campus Counsel Mike Sweeney; and

* Associate Chancellor Karl Engelbach, Katehi’s chief of staff.

Morain declined to speak in any detail about what was said during the teleconferences.

She said Saturday that the same administrators sometimes take part in similar calls when “something comes up and needs addressing” quickly. Morain described them as “thoughtful and deliberative” discussions during which the chancellor has the ultimate say.

In an interview with The Enterprise on Nov. 22, Katehi said recent police actions at UC Berkeley, including a video of police on that campus jabbing student and faculty protesters with batons, did come up during the teleconferences.

“We were very specific that it has to be peaceful and not like Berkeley,” Katehi said. “In a peaceful way, (Spicuzza) was only supposed to take the equipment down, not disperse the crowd, not remove the students.

“We also told her specifically she should not do anything if there were too many students or they were too upset or whatever the environment was that would not allow them to (remove the tents). That’s what she got from me.”

In a letter protesters received a few hours before police moved in, Katehi expressed concern about their health and safety, as well as the presence of nonstudents in the encampment.

Meyer, the administrator who oversees the police department, has described similarly what was asked of Spicuzza during the teleconference.

“Once these actions begin, however, … there is great discretion given to officers both for their safety and the scene, to make decisions in the field,” Meyer told students at a town hall meeting.

In a letter to the campus, Wood has called Nov. 18 the “darkest day” in his 30 years with the campus. Hexter, who arrived at UCD to take his post as second in command on Jan. 2, called the pepper-spraying “shocking and saddening.”

“We’ve seen how much can go wrong when we allow confrontation to take the place of dialogue,” Hexter told faculty at a town hall meeting.

UCD administrators have since refused to speak in detail about what took place, now that several investigations — including a probe that could lead to criminal charges — are under way.

One of the administration’s chief critics, English professor Nathan Brown, said Saturday that with whom Katehi spoke was beside the point — because, ultimately, she chose to follow UC Berkeley’s lead and send in armed police, with similarly disastrous results.

It was not until three days after the incident, on Nov. 22, Brown noted, that Katehi said that she expressly told Spicuzza not to use force.

“I’m sure that the administration will close ranks around the chancellor,” said Brown, who has led the call for Katehi to resign. “As far as I’m concerned, she’s responsible for what happened. She has said that in print, and I agree.”

Morain declined to say whether administrators discussed a response to a possible Occupy encampment earlier than Nov. 17. “Those are details that will come out in the course of the investigation,” she said.

On Nov. 15, after a rally on the Quad, about 50 protesters spent the night in the lobby of Mrak Hall, the campus’ main administration building.

Two tents were briefly set up outside, then, but a student affairs representative spoke with protesters who agreed to take them down, Morain said.

Among those who took part in the conference calls on Nov. 17, Spicuzza, Harrison Barbera, Engelbach and Morain were observed standing and watching at least some of the police action the following afternoon.

Two investigators from the firm Kroll Security have begin questioning witnesses about what happened. They are assembling information for a fact-finding report being compiled by Kroll’s chair, William Bratton, former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Bratton’s report, expected by the first week of January, will then be turned over to a task force led by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso. That group will make recommendations to Katehi and UC President Mark Yudof.

Katehi continued to meet with faculty and students last week.

Meanwhile, with final exams over, protesters had removed all but about 16 tents from the Quad by Saturday. Some have spoken of staying over the holiday break, but “I doubt it,” said Bernie Goldsmith, a local attorney active with the protesters.

Dutton Hall will be cleared out and “broom-cleaned” sometime Sunday, the 13th day protesters have occupied the building. Goldsmith said protesters also were hiring a professional window cleaner.

Occupy UC Davis plans to be “back with a bang” when the winter quarter starts on Jan. 9, Goldsmith said.

— Reach Cory Golden at [email protected] or (530) 747-8046. 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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