Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Letter from Dean of Social Sciences George R. Mangun

Dear students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends of UC Davis,

I join President Yudof and Chancellor Katehi in condemning the use of pepper spray on students who were engaged in non-violent protest on November 18, 2011. This action was deplorable and unacceptable, and is not in line with our university’s Principles of Community or the academic freedoms that our campus holds dear.

For those directly affected, I offer my sympathy. I also wish to acknowledge that many others on campus have been hurt by this affair, even if they were not on the quad that day. It is important that all students, faculty and staff members feel safe and supported at UC Davis. Although this terrible event has shaken the sense of security that many have enjoyed, I want to reassure all that UC Davis is safe, owing to our shared determination that it be so. How can I be so confident? I was on the quad last Monday during the first rally, and I saw the campus stand together, peacefully, with determination. I am incredibly impressed by the courage and dignity shown by our students during and following the incident.

In addition, I am confident that the independent investigations currently under way will result in a better understanding of how we can ensure both campus safety and freedom of expression in the future. I endorse Chancellor Katehi’s request of President Yudof that an independent investigation be conducted from the Office of the President. I further welcome the separate investigations to be conducted by Academic Senate and others.

I am very pleased to witness the leadership shown in the Division of Social Sciences by departments who have expressed their opinions and concerns over the incident. The activities planned by the faculty and students to provide venues for scholarly discussion are laudable.

Severe reductions in state support of higher education and the resultant increases in tuition are some of the major concerns that protestors and non-protesters share. I do not know of anyone on campus, in the administration, the faculty, the staff or the student body, who is not deeply concerned about the future of California public higher education. One of the most passionate voices of concern has been that of our Chancellor herself.

Over the past two years, Chancellor Katehi has repeated in many settings, public and private, that our university must not decline. I have seen for myself the grim determination in her eyes to save public higher education for future generations. Perhaps because she is an alumna of the University of California; perhaps because she does not want to see the greatest university in the world falter; perhaps for other more personal reasons related to her experiences in her country of birth, Greece, and its troubles in higher education; perhaps for all of these reasons and more (I believe) the Chancellor is dedicated to this important effort.

Part of Chancellor Katehi’s plan has been explicit – focus on our students. She has repeatedly stated that the campus must renew its commitment to our students. I have heard her speak on many occasions in support of our students, their opportunities, and their liberties.

While there have been calls from many for the Chancellor to resign, given what I now know, I personally do not believe this is what is best for UC Davis. She has shown strong leadership over the past two years during the worst crisis in California’s higher education history. I believe she is the person we need to bring UC Davis through the ongoing economic crisis. I also believe she will help us all get through the present crisis by working with the campus, not separately from it.

I condemn the appalling actions taken by police against non-violent protestors on the quad. We must take the incident and learn from it. We must take actions that will ensure that such events can never again trouble this campus. We must carefully review administrative and police policies and question how our campus can become a model for safety, security and civil liberty.

I encourage everyone to make their opinions known, regardless of what those opinions may be. We are fortunate to have excellent role models to follow in this regard – the students of UC Davis.


George R. Mangun, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology and Neurology
Dean of Social Sciences
College of Letters and Science

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