Thursday, January 5, 2012

Will UC Davis Faculty Vote No Confidence in the Chancellor? #OccupyUCDavis #UCDavis #Katehi

In January, members of the UC Davis Academic Senate (i.e. the entire faculty) will vote on the following three resolutions related to the November 18 pepper spray incident:

A) “lack of confidence in the leadership of Chancellor Katehi”

B) “1) condemnation of both the dispatch of police and use of excessive force in response to non-violent protests on November 18, 2011; 2) opposing violent police response to non-violent protests on campus; 3) demanding that police deployment against protestors be considered only after all reasonable efforts have been exhausted and with direct consultation with Academic Senate leadership.”

C) Resolution B PLUS “acceptance of Chancellor Katehi's apology” and “expression of confidence in Chancellor Katehi's leadership and efforts to place UC Davis among the top public universities in the nation.”

More details about the voting procedure and the timing of the vote will become available on January 9.  Proponents and opponents of the resolutions will have an opportunity to circulate statements of their position. 

Many faculty who support the no confidence resolution hope that it will lead to the Chancellor’s resignation or removal.  The case for resignation has been made most prominently by English Professor Nathan Brown, immediately after the event and more recently.  Brown argues that police violence against student protestors was not “a mistake” but a deliberate, and repeated, tactic for suppressing the political content of the protests—opposition to the privatization of the UC (the growing orientation of the university to business and market logics and the notion that education is a private rather than a public good).  He notes that that the Chancellor has accepted “full responsibility” for the events of November 18 and argues that this requires her to step down.  The Physics department letter argues that sending the police should have been a last resort in light of police violence at other Occupy protests, that sending the police after only one day of encampment violated the commitment to civility in the UC Davis “principles of community,” and that the Chancellor’s response in the aftermath of November 18 has not restored trust in her leadership.  A faculty letter organized by Physics Professor Daniel Cox argues that the Chancellor “displayed a dangerous ignorance or disregard for the potential for violence,” claimed responsibility while trying to shift it to her subordinates, and lacks credibility to advocate for the students’ legitimate concerns about affordable education and economic opportunities after graduation.

Opponents of the no-confidence resolution have made several arguments.  Law School Dean Kevin Johnson argues that out of respect for due process no action should be taken until the investigations have run their course.  A faculty statement organized by Entomology Professor Walter Leal expresses support for the Chancellor without making much of an argument.  Daniel Melters, a graduate student in plant biology, argues that the Chancellor performed well prior to November 18 and should stay in office despite her poor performance on that day and afterwards. And the feminist web site, The New Agenda, argues that the Chancellor is being scapegoated because she is a woman.

Many faculty members have told me that although they are appalled by the Chancellor’s decisions on November 18 and her performance afterwards, they believe that the anti-privatization movement at UC Davis will be more successful against a contrite and compliant Chancellor than against a new one appointed by UC President (and privatization proponent) Mark Yudof.  In other words, her replacement could be worse.  I share this view but am willing to be convinced otherwise.  In addition, this logic becomes more powerful in the presence of a credible drive to obtain Katehi’s resignation.

Some faculty (most notably, Walter Leal) have argued that the focus on Katehi is distracting from the “real” issue—tuition hikes.  But others argue that the “real” issue is privatization and the repression of free speech by the 99 percent.  For excellent statements on these issues see Christopher Newfield,  Wendy Brown, and Robert Reich.

I signed the petition seeking a vote of lack of confidence in the Chancellor because I wanted to make sure that she felt strong pressure to make things right. At the same time, I am not yet sure how I will vote given my point above about the possibility that a new Chancellor might be even more committed to privatization.  I think the Chancellor's decision to send the police to the quad was a grave mistake--especially given police violence at other Occupy events and especially the beating of students and faculty one week before at UC Berkeley.  I also think the Chancellor's performance in the aftermath of November 18 leaves much to be desired.  Her initial statement was terrible.  It attempted to justify the decision, claimed that there was "no other option" and showed no remorse for the events of that day.  The Chancellor has now stated that she had not seen the video before she sent out the first letter and that she instructed the police not to remove the students or use force.  She has apologized and pledged to seek dialogue with the protestors and the rest of the university community.  She has attended a lot of meetings.  She showed courage in addressing the rally on the quad on November 21 but the various town hall meetings have been disappointing. At these meetings, speakers were chosen by lottery, ensuring that Katehi’s most prepared, articulate and passionate critics were kept off the mike (except when they ignored the lottery—as some did).  Speakers were also required to limit their comments to two minutes while the Chancellor took as much time as she wanted to reply.  Even more disappointing, the Chancellor has declared that she can no longer discuss the specific details of November 18 because there are investigations under way--yet she has freely discussed such details when doing so was to her advantage (for example, stating that she instructed the police not to use force). The administration also released a fact sheet that showed the same tone deafness as the Chancellor's initial statement, and the UC Davis house organ, Dateline, published an inflammatory article on the damage done by the protestors at Dutton Hall.  This article was later toned down after faculty complained.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the faculty vote.  Unfortunately, the press and most of the public are under the false impression that most faculty want Katehi to resign, and they may end up disappointed.  In fact, most faculty have not stated their views on the issue.  Out of 1400 faculty only about 400 have taken a public position.  See Walter Leal and James Carey and myself (here and here) on this point.  If I had to bet, I would wager that the no confidence resolution will fail—though much will depend on the outcome of the investigations and the quality of the arguments for and against the measure.  And even if the no-confidence resolution passes there is no guarantee that Katehi, Yudof or the Regents will heed it.  I dread the world's reaction to the headline: “UC Davis Faculty Changes Mind; Supports Pepper-Spray Chancellor.” 

1 comment:

  1. Had you read: