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Students press UCD administrators on police actions

An estimated crowd of one thousand people attended the town hall meeting. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

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From page A1 | November 23, 2011 | 7 Comments

Letters, press releases, news conferences, public appearances, television interviews, local newspaper coverage, national newspaper coverage, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, after Tuesday night, a student-run town hall meeting.

The latter is the latest in an attempt by Chancellor Linda Katehi and UC Davis to address the acrimony voiced since Friday, when campus cops arrested and pepper-sprayed unarmed Occupy UC Davis protesters.

In front of a close-to-capacity crowd of more than 1,000 people Tuesday at Freeborn Hall, Katehi shared the stage with several university officials, including acting Police Chief Matt Carmichael, to respond to the concerns of the campus community.

“I want to truly apologize to the entire community for the appalling use of pepper spray,” Katehi said in her opening remarks. “It betrayed our values and did not reflect well on this university.”

She also announced that she will request that the charges be dropped against the 10 protesters arrested by university police. In addition, she said any medical expenses incurred by those hurt will be refunded.

Also on Tuesday:

* Plans began taking shape for three investigations into Friday’s incident, from the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, UCD Academic Senate and William Bratton, former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The campus also plans to hire a consultant to evaluate its Police Department.

* Legislators announced a Dec. 14 hearing to examine the recent use of force on the Davis and UC Berkeley campuses.

* A general assembly of more than 150 protesters passed a vote of no confidence in the chancellor. The protesters also are demanding that the chancellor’s office be run in a more democratic way, with recall votes allowed for sitting chancellors.

* At the new camp on the Quad, Katehi said tents could remain while the task force works, as long as everyone is peaceful and safe.

She also asked students for their help in maintaining a civil discourse when a handful of University of California regents come to campus Monday to take public comment. Occupy UC Davis has called a general strike for the same day.

* UCD’s elected student government leaders have asked the California Attorney General’s Office to look into what happened Friday.

* One day after members of UCD’s English department called for Katehi’s resignation, a majority of the physics department faculty did the same.

The professors wrote that they appreciated the chancellor’s work to maintain the university in difficult budgetary times, but that “this incident and the inadequacy of your response to it has already irreparably damaged the image of UC Davis and caused the faculty, students, parents and alumni of UC Davis to lose confidence in your leadership.”

* In a letter to The Enterprise, 10 members of the economics department wrote that they felt it premature to call for resignations — but that those responsible must be held accountable.

Many of the community members who attended the meeting Tuesday evening were still looking for a place where they could lay the blame for Friday’s events, but culpability seemed to jump around the room.

After a student asked why Katehi ordered armed police officers onto campus to disperse the peaceful protest, the chancellor, who has received more than 100,000 requests for her resignation via online petitions, explained that the police were not acting under her orders when they pepper-sprayed and arrested students.

“The police do not report to me,” Katehi said. “(The department) reports to the vice chancellor for administrative and resource management (John Meyer). The only thing that a chancellor can do is to make a decision of whether the police needs to have, in that particular case, the dismantling of equipment (the encampment).

“Beyond that I don’t have the right to direct the police to do anything. As a matter of fact, the University of California protocol specifies that I do not do that.”

Katehi’s response yielded a pair of names. The first was that of UCD’s police chief, Annette Spicuzza, whom the university placed on administrative leave on Saturday. She did not attend the meeting.

The other was John Meyer’s.

He was sitting in the crowd listening to the town hall meeting with the rest of the UCD community at the outset, but after Katehi pointed to him as the administrator who manages the campus Police Department, audience members requested his presence on the stage.

At the podium, Meyer detailed everything he and his staff considered leading up to Friday’s events.

“There was some concern, frankly, about if (the encampment) really grows and if there’s a large number of non-affiliates (people not associated with the campus),” Meyer said.

“We had the police chief go in and ask that those tents and encampment be removed and the general direction was (that) we don’t want to see scenes like we saw at UC Berkeley, but we do want to take action.

“We talked about the decision to try to see if police could engage in that, but if the scene became too difficult we didn’t think it was going to end as it ended, that if there was conflict that we were pulling back and not to have it go where it went,” Meyer continued.

“Once these actions begin, however, I have to tell you that, as the chancellor has referred, there is great discretion given to officers both for their safety and the scene, to make decisions in the field.

“We can all probably stipulate ‘Was this the right decision? Is it compliant with policy?’ That is all going to be revealed through some of these reviews.”

Meyer’s comments redirected the spotlight to the campus Police Department, and perhaps specifically to Spicuzza and Lt. John Pike, the incident commander seen pepper-spraying the students in the viral video that drew worldwide attention and 2,000 to 5,000 people to campus Monday. (Pike and another officer also have been placed on leave for their actions.)

It was Katehi who took the brunt of Tuesday’s questioning, however.

Chuck Parker, an undergraduate student who was arrested Friday, asked what the university plans to do to make the campus a safer place at which to protest.

“I want to know what you’re doing right now, today, to make sure that students have the right to protest, the right of free speech and have the right to do that safely,” he said.

Responded the chancellor, “I can tell you that we are going to have to make changes. I can tell you that right now and those changes will be implemented in a way that allows for peaceful demonstrations.

“There is going to be a very broad discussion about that,” she continued. “I can tell you this: It’s not going to be my decision of how it has to be, it will be a decision that will come out of many voices. But I can promise to you that there is going to be a process that brings those voices forward.”

— Enterprise staff writer Cory Golden contributed to this report. Reach Tom Sakash at tsakash@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at tsakash@davisenterprise.net, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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Discussion | 7 comments

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  • simonesimoneNovember 23, 2011 - 1:45 am

    Physics profs write: Our campus community deserves a fresh start. Glad to hear they are retiring. Yeah, your campus deserves a fresh start - without you. I am disappointed in the finger pointing. I really thought that physicists would behave with reason and have actions based on facts. They seem to have resorted to grandstanding fingerpointing nonfactual based attention seeking means. Yes, this should be looked into. Yes, it was wrong. Students and protestors (student and nonstudent) should be safe from police brutality. But acting like Linda Katehi did this directly provably at this moment makes no sense. You do your campus community a disservice.

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  • Chris LarsonNovember 23, 2011 - 2:13 am

    I watched some of the streaming coverage of Chancellor Katehi addressing the UCD community in Freeborn hall on November 22, and I was surprised to hear her bluntly state that her order to the UCD PD on Friday, November 18, stated only to remove tents, not make any arrests or use any force. If her statement today is true, it means one of two things: 1) The first conclusion (which I hope is incorrect) that can be drawn from Chancellor Katehi stating for the first time today (a full four days after the assault on students occurred) that she authorized no force/arrests, is that she is lying in a desperate attempt to save her job under mounting criticism. 2) The second, more likely conclusion, is that Chancellor Katehi was completely overwhelmed by the events that unfolded and severely misunderstood the gravity of the situation, as evidenced by her statements over the last four days. Either way, irreparable damage has been done. If Chancellor Katehi did in fact only authorize the removal of tents on Friday, November 18, then she should have immediately issued a statement clarifying her position. How much less anger would be directed towards her, for example, if in her letter to the UCD community Friday evening she had stated something to the effect of: "In accordance with UCD policy I ordered UCD police to remove an encampment on the Quad in a peaceful manner. The Police Department, in following that order, used force in arresting protesters, so we are reviewing their use of force to verify that it was justified and in keeping with our Principles of Community." However, she DID NOT MAKE THAT STATEMENT, nor anything near it. Over multiple written and verbal statements across four days, Chancellor Katehi only made vague references about the need to protect everybody's safety, an obvious contradiction to the actions taken by the UCD PD. If Chancellor Katehi really had only authorized the removal of the tents, she needed to have stated that immediately. It would not have excused the actions of the UCD PD, but it would have taken immeasurable steps in protecting the image of UCD in the international community. Her immediate distancing from the actions of Lt. Pike and others would gone a long way in preventing the dissolution of the "Occupy" movement (social injustice, and in this specific case the destruction of public higher education) into a heated argument over the use of force by police. For all of the above reasons, it is in my opinion quite clear that Chancellor Katehi is outside of her capability in running a University under times of duress. The visibility of her utter bungling of this situation is a clear indication that she is unfit to lead and must step down or be removed by President Yudoff, the Academic Senate, or whomever else may have the authority.

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  • Well SaidNovember 23, 2011 - 2:57 am

    Very well said. The administration led by Katehi has been clearly flailing and not leading. Some people shine when the pressure is on, while some crumble. This incident has seriously damaged UCD's image and no "findings" 30 days from now will change that. The damage control, and I mean damage control for the University not damage control for individual administrators, needs to start now.

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  • joe sNovember 23, 2011 - 7:35 am

    > If Chancellor Katehi really had only authorized the removal of the tents, she needed to have stated that immediately. Chris, here's the raw video of her November 19 mid-afternoon press conference: http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/video/6471913-raw-uc-davis-press-conference-on-clash-with-protesters/ Starting at 2:17 into that video, she outlines the university's policies regarding tents: "...Now, according to unviersity policies that have been around for a long time - and they have been designed for specific reasons, obviously - encampments are not allowed on our campus because they create, they bring a lot of opportunity for problems. In fact, I would say in relation to the students' safety, in relation to their health and so forth. So the policies we have is [sic] that students can come together, can rally, can have activities on the quad, can demonstrate around specific issues, but they cannot set up equipment and create a camp on the campus and stay overnight." And then at 5:00, she says the following about the intended enactment of those policies on the previous day: "...And that's when the police came to help, to help really, take the equipment down. The police did not come to disperse the crowds. They had the right to stay on the quad and continue with their discussions and demonstration or with the rally. But it was primarily to remove the equipment."

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  • joe sNovember 23, 2011 - 7:44 am

    "In addition, she said any medical expenses incurred by those hurt will be refunded." ...And by accepting that "financial reimbursement," those students might inadvertently be giving up their right to sue for *real* damages, later on. Wow. This Chancellor is just adorable. :\

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  • howard reynoldsNovember 23, 2011 - 10:31 pm

    This woman is a queen of doubletalk. She is the perfect chancellor for the Orwellian age we are enjoying. The police don't report to her; but they report to the vice-chancellor, who is directly below her in the organizational chart. She is specifically prohibited to direct the police department to do anything; but she directed them to remove the tents, not disperse the students. Clinton/Bush-esque (depending on your favorite flavor). Every day she remains at the head of this university, the more the university suffers. Governor Brown, and President Yudoff, come on. Pull the plug on this walking talking disaster of leadership failure.

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  • Deepening Chill in Berkeley: A Recap of Political Repression Against Campus Protest « berkeleynov9March 21, 2012 - 5:58 pm

    [...] WHEREAS UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi responded to the November 20th incidents on her campus by asking the Yolo County District Attorney to drop any pending charges against students.” [...]

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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