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UCD faculty speak out about Katehi

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From page A1 | November 22, 2011 |

Assistant professor Nathan Brown speaks to the crowd gathered on the UC Davis Quad during Monday's rally. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

Just below the level of outrage voiced by UC Davis students over Chancellor Linda Katehi’s recent actions is that of the UCD faculty.

And that voice could be heard loud and clear at the Occupy Rally that took place at noon Monday on the Quad.

“There is no place on our campus for administrators who order the use of force against peaceful protesters,” said Nathan Brown, assistant professor of English, during his speech that drew waves of cheers from the crowd of approximately 5,000 people.

“What will depose this authoritarian administrator is not letters or petitions, it is your direct action on this campus,” continued Brown, who authored the letter that went viral over the weekend calling for Katehi to resign.

“That direct action must continue until the chancellor resigns. The chancellor has said that it is not appropriate for her to resign at this time. We know that the chancellor is not a very good judge of what is appropriate.”

After Friday’s pepper-spraying of student protesters and the subsequent letters Katehi sent to the UCD community in response, several faculty groups wrote statements of their own, expressing disapproval of how the chancellor handled the situation.

No faculty member has garnered more attention than professor Brown, a board member of the UC Davis Faculty Association, whose letter calling for Katehi to resign was supported by the entire board.

The association, which lobbies for faculty members’ salaries and benefits among other things, is made up of 112 members of the UC Davis Academic Senate.

But the senate, which represents the entire faculty, has not publicly announced its position.

According to Linda Bisson, a professor of viticulture and enology who chairs the UCD Academic Senate, said the group’s executive council voted unanimously Sunday to convene a special committee to investigate Friday’s events and the chancellor’s actions that led up to those events.

“The findings of the special committee will be made public,” Bisson said before Monday’s rally. “We are also having a special representative assembly meeting, which will be scheduled for sometime next week, to which the chancellor has been invited to have a discussion with the faculty.”

Bisson pointed to many initiatives Katehi has undertaken since becoming chancellor in August 2009, achievements for which she had wide faculty support.

“I think she was doing a good job under very difficult circumstances,” Bisson said. “There was support for the 2020 growth initiative and her restructuring of the budget, especially, to make it more transparent.

“(Also), her interest in not shrinking and still building the faculty, that is growing, so that we have more flexibility in what we’re doing at both research and teaching. That is also strongly supported by the faculty.”

Bisson was not able to provide a timetable for when the special committee will return with its analysis.

Beyond the UC Davis Faculty Association, another group called for Katehi’s resignation at the rally on Monday.

Members of the UC Davis English department read a statement on behalf of many of its professors.

“The faculty of the UC Davis English department supports the board of the Davis Faculty Association in calling for Chancellor Katehi’s immediate resignation,” read Seeta Chaganti, associate professor of English, “and (also) for a policy that will end the practice of forcibly removing nonviolent student faculty, staff and community protesters by the police on the UC Davis campus.

“Given the demonstrable threat by the University of California Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to the safety of students, faculty, staff and community members on our campus and other in the UC system, we propose such a policy include the disbanding of the UCD PD.”

David Buscho, one of the students who were pepper-sprayed by police, placed an online petition calling for Katehi’s resignation on the website www.change.org. As of Monday afternoon, more than 70,000 signatures had been posted.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, an online progressive activist group, also sent the UC Faculty Association’s statement calling for Katehi’s resignation to the committee’s members. According to Neil Sroka, press secretary of the group, the committee has collected more than 12,000 signatures of support.

Other independent UCD professors voiced their displeasure with Friday’s events at Monday’s rally.

Jack Milton, professor emeritus of mathematics, walked over to the Quad after his logic and proofs course at Haring Hall. He had nothing positive to say about Friday’s actions.

“It’s an absolute outrage,” Milton said. “I’m ashamed to be a faculty member. The police should not have been there in the first place in riot gear; you’re asking for trouble.”

Ian Blake, assistant dean of the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, spoke as a UCD graduate and staff member.

“I’m a former student here so I’m offended by what the police have done, and whoever is responsible should go,” Blake said.

Longtime staffer Joy Fergoda, a librarian in the Women’s Resources and Research Center, was carrying a handmade sign high over her head: “30 Yr. Staffer Supports Students — Who Authorized Pepper Spray? Fire Them!”

“I was horrified by the events on Friday,” Fergoda said. “I wanted to be here in solidarity with the students and everyone else involved and be in solidarity with their ongoing struggle.”

Campus spokeswoman Pat Bailey said Katehi will begin meeting with faculty groups and student organizations in the coming days, but she declined to offer any schedule.

— Reach Tom Sakash at tsakash@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

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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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