Monday, December 12, 2011

Majority of Davis Faculty Association (DFA) opposes DFA Board's call for Katehi's Resignation

In an earlier post, I noted that the Davis Faculty Association (DFA) Board had called for Chancellor Katehi's resignation the day after the pepper spraying without polling its 145 members (including myself) and that some members felt that it should have done so first. Many members were also upset that the media failed to distinguish between the position of the DFA board and the DFA membership and, even worse, implied that the DFA represented "the faculty" rather than a mere ten percent of the faculty (which is actually represented by the Academic Senate). In my view, both the DFA and the Academic Senate should have disabused the press of this notion. In response to this discontent, the DFA begin surveying its members on November 23 (five days after November 18). And yesterday (three weeks after November 18) the DFA Board released the results: Only 45% of members responded and, of those, the majority opposed the DFA's call for Katehi's resignation.

DFA board chair Scott Shershow's letter reporting the results is below. Shershow reports that the Board's decision to ask for Katehi's resignation was not unanimous. He also notes that three members of the Board have recently resigned and two have been replaced by new members appointed by the Board. At least one of these resignations, that of Board chair (at the time), Bob Rucker, was related to Rucker's opposition to the Board's call for Katehi's resignation. Though Rucker resigned three weeks ago, the Board only informed the membership of this resignation yesterday. And only in the most indirect way: Shershow does not name Rucker as one of the Board members who resigned and does not reveal that his resignation was prompted the DFA statement on Katehi.

None of this is very democratic or transparent, especially when compared with the inspiring example of the Occupy General Assemblies.


Letter from DFA Board Chair Scott Shershow

On November 19, 2011, in the immediate aftermath of the pepper-spraying of non-violent UC Davis students protesting tuition increases, the DFA board issued a statement calling for the immediate resignation of Chancellor Katehi, and calling for an end to “the practice of forcibly removing non-violent student, faculty, staff, and community protestors by police.”

In the last two weeks, we surveyed the DFA membership for their opinions of the board’s action. Sixty-four members responded (out of a total membership of 145). On the first question, regarding our call for an end to the policy of using the UCD police to suppress demonstrators, 58 members approved and 4 did not approve. On the second question, regarding our call for the Chancellor’s resignation, 34 members did not approve, and 29 approved. (A few respondents did not answer both questions.) The opinions expressed in the comment portion of the survey varied widely. Some members expressed enthusiastic support for the Board’s action, praising the DFA for assuming a leadership role in this pressing issue. Some others expressed strong disapproval of the Board. In particular, some members claimed the Board’s decision was “premature,” suggested that the membership ought to have been surveyed first, or noted the fact that some media outlets reported that this was an action of the DFA in general.

Several members asked for more information about the Board’s process. It should be noted that the DFA acts by majority vote of its Board in accordance with the organization’s by-laws. In this specific case, on the Saturday following the pepper spray incident, the Board debated its response via email. A majority voted to release the statement on the DFA website, in response to what we deemed an extremely urgent and quickly-evolving situation.

In making this decision, the Board majority took into strong consideration the initial statement of Chancellor Katehi in which she blamed the protestors for the violence, as well as her second statement in which she acknowledged ordering in the police. We also took into consideration a similar, less publicized event that took place in 2009 where UCD police in riot gear were sent in to Mrak Hall to remove peaceful protestors of tuition increases and faculty and staff furloughs, resulting in several injuries and 52 arrests.

Finally, we were especially mindful of the brutalization of students and faculty at another peaceful demonstration at UC Berkeley nine days earlier. In the wake of this event, it seemed to us that the Chancellor had every reason to anticipate something similar here, and that, under these circumstances, her decision to order armed police onto the campus in the context of a peaceful demonstration was absolutely unacceptable.

The DFA Board’s action, was, to our knowledge, the first explicit statement of faculty solidarity with the students involved, and was portrayed in the initial wave of press reports as representing faculty support for their students. Some reports simply ascribed the statement to “the DFA,” whereas the statement itself clearly notes that it comes from “the board of the DFA.” It should be noted, however, that according to our by-laws, the elected board does have the duty to act for the Association.

The Board has met twice to evaluate developments since its statement on November 19. A majority continues to stand by its initial statement to uphold its support for the student movement in general. We are not encouraged by the Chancellor’s statements and apologies, which appear to have shifted according to the needs of the moment, nor by the revelation of a new Chancellor's "advisory board" filled with corporate CEOs. Chancellor Katehi has already publicly stated that she is fully responsible for the pepper-spraying incident. We agree, and therefore continue to call for her resignation.

DFA board members are elected at a yearly election in the spring, in accordance with the bylaws. Two current members were appointed by the board to fill two vacancies caused by two of three recent resignations. The board wishes to fill the remaining vacancy, and we encourage any member who wishes to help steer future board decisions to nominate him or herself.

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