UC Davis Chancellor Apologizes, Students Continue to Call for Resignation
Until last week, the University of California at Davis was best known for its top veterinary medicine school and its obsession with bicycles. But when UC—Davis campus police officers used pepper spray against nonviolent student protesters last Friday—an incident captured in a chilling video—it changed the school’s national profile dramatically.
Thousands of students and community members gathered at UC—Davis on Monday afternoon to protest the already infamous use of pepper spray on nonviolent protestors. While this use of excessive force was at the forefront of the gathering, protestors also focused on recently proposed University of California tuition increases,vandalism during a recent Students of Color conference, and the economic inequalities plaguing young people across the country.
A prime target of the protest was UC—Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi.
Dissatisfied with her statements on Friday’s police actions, students silently protested her presence on campus late Saturday night. At Monday’s protest, students were eager to hear Katehi speak and shushed members of the crowd who booed and jeered when she approached the microphone.
“I am here to apologize,” Katehi began her remarks. “I know you may not believe anything I am telling you today, and you don’t have to. It is my responsibility to earn your trust.”
A number of students in the audience continued to boo and shout calls for Katehi’s resignation as she left the stage, a sentiment echoed by other speakers at the protest.
Nathan Brown, an assistant professor of English whose open letter to Katehi has been widely circulated online, also called for the chancellor’s resignation at the rally.
“What will depose this authoritarian administrator is not letters or petitions. It is your direct action on this campus,” he shouted, prompting cheers from the crowd. “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.”
As of Tuesday morning, more than 75,000 people had signed an online petition calling for Katehi’s resignation. Mark Yudof, president of the UC system, continues to support Katehi but said in a statement that he was “appalled by images of University of California students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with police batons on our campuses.”
The two officers directly involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave along with the UC—Davis police chief, Katehi told media outlets. She also convened a special task force to investigate the use of force; state Sen. Leland Yee called the panel a “sham.”
Katehi is taking much of the heat for the incident as officers acted under her command to clear out the occupying student protesters, but she has maintained that the officers were not directed to use force.
Katehi, who makes a $400,000 salary and receives numerous other benefits including a home and a $9,000 yearly “automobile allowance,” has also faced scrutiny for her role in the highly publicized admissions scandal at the University of Illinois. During her time as provost, numerous under-qualified students were permitted because they came from prominent families or families that had made donations to the university.