Commentary: Katehi Still Needs to Come Clean Before We Can Move On

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This week, the Vanguard ran a story asking for the incoming UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi to come clean in terms of her involvement in a University of Illinois scandal.  Last week, the Sacramento Bee had run a story where Ms. Katehi had apparently refused to answer questions.  In response, UC Davis released a statement to the media that claimed she had no knowledge of the scandal.

She wrote in an email:

“I want to be clear to you and others at UC Davis that I was not involved in the admissions decisions that were the subject of the Tribune’s “Clout Goes to College” investigation.”

Furthermore, she claimed:

“The so-called “Category I” admissions process was not part of the regular admissions system and was handled at a higher level in the institution.”

However, as we were to learn later in the week and ran on Thursday, this is not the full story as her subordinates were shown by email documents to have made some of these decisions that she claimed were handled at a higher level.  At the very least this raises questions about her role that ought to be asked and once again she needs to come clean about her precise role in this scandal.

In his Friday column, Davis Enterprise columnist Bob Dunning asked people to call off the “attack dogs” going after incoming UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi.  I am a bit baffled as to where he is coming from on this.  He was critical of her new salary, why would he go out on a limb to defend Ms. Katehi.  In particular, he does not seem to understand the gravity of mounting evidence against her on this issue.

He writes:

The new UC Davis chancellor has been put in the impossible position of trying to prove a negative – no, she says, she didn’t know unqualified students were being admitted, even though as provost she was ultimately the one in charge of admissions – her critics, lacking any evidence of any kind – concrete or otherwise – say that either she knew and directed such a misguided policy, or, if she didn’t know, she should have – either way, they say, it’s proof positive she’s not up to the job of being chancellor at a UC campus – talk about a ‘no win’ position –

In particular, Dunning says, “her critics, lacking any evidence of any kind…”  Really Bob?  On Thursday, we demonstrated that Provost Katehi’s direct line subordinate was issuing orders to either wait list or admit students who he acknowledged received less than stellar scores.

The same day, the Sacramento Bee released information that shows Ms. Katehi’s name on a variety of email messages.  This despite her claims that she was simply not involved.

The Bee writes:

A review of 1,800 pages of documents related to the case and released to the Tribune shows Katehi’s name about 50 times. The bulk of the e-mails are from the office of Chancellor Richard Herman to members of Katehi’s staff.

But her name is in the chain of distribution, most commonly as a “cc.”

In an e-mail to Katehi from trustee Robert Sperling, he writes: “(redacted) is on your list. A Stevenson grad with an excellent semester.”

Katehi passed the e-mail on to Vice Provost Ruth Watkins and Debbie Kincaid, assistant to Keith Marshall, the associate provost for enrollment. Kincaid then sent it to Marshall with this note: “For the Cat I file.”

Lacking evidence of any kind?  Really Bob–are you ignoring this or did you simply not read the Sacramento Bee?

The Bee continues:

Katehi said Tuesday that a lot of inquiries are from parents of students with excellent records who would have been admitted in any case.

She said that during her three years as provost nothing unusual attracted her attention in any of the e-mails that came to her. She said she believed the e-mails were standard requests to check the status of applications for admission.

The documents obtained by the Tribune show that Watkins, Kincaid, Marshall and others in the provost’s office, including an administrative assistant, handled Category I requests on a regular basis. All worked for Katehi.

Yet, Katehi sent an e-mail to UC Davis officials Monday, saying “the Category I admissions process was handled at a higher level.”

I don’t know about some on here, but to me this is at least worth looking into.  Ms. Katehi doesn’t have to prove a negative, what she does have to do is offer a credible explanation as to why her name is on email chains, why her subordinates are involved in the scandal, and yet somehow she doesn’t know what is going on.

And yes Bob, I do think the time has come to suggest that if she did not know what was going on, perhaps she should have, and that fact alone gives her culpability.  If she was looking the other way at corruption that is not much different than her being an active participant.

There are those who simply suggest that since this scandal would not happen in California, or at UC Davis, we have no need to worry about the new Chancellor.  I could not disagree more.  To me this is an issue of character.  We are hiring someone who can run a top notch program with honesty and integrity.  Unfortunately, right now both of those characteristics are in question.

Ms. Katehi is acting right now like a politician caught in a scandal and is denial mode.  The problem is that there is enough evidence to cast doubt both on her explanations and her actions.  She needs to come clean and by failing to do so, she has made this a far bigger issue than it might have been.  Political leaders rarely go down for the crime, it’s always the cover up or the failure to be honest up front.

Meanwhile it is not a mere academic question as to whether she looked the other way at wrongdoing.  At best that is what it appears to be.  People under her were doing things and she appeared to look the other way as they did them.  There is no evidence that she was directly involved in these decisions, there is a ton of evidence that she knew what was going on and did not say anything about it or attempt to stop it. 

Dunning for his part continues:

TRUTH BE TOLD – as disturbing as some of the allegations coming out of the Univ. of Illinois are, let’s be honest here – Illinois is not the only institute of higher learning on the planet to bend the rules for the offspring of influential ‘friends’ of the university

That’s a pretty incredible statement of justification here.  It is alright because they are not alone in perpetrating fraud.  Nice.

Dunning writes:

It’s interesting to note that most of the noise about Katehi’s competence is coming from the same folks who were also attacking her salary – now, it’s one thing to legitimately question the salary being paid to a public employee – it’s quite another to question that employee’s integrity – it’s time for her critics to put up or shut up –

I’m not sure why he finds it so interesting that some critical about Katehi’s possible role in the Illinois scandal are the same critical of her salary.  He argues that its legitimate to question her salary (which he has also done) but not legitimate to question her actions?  Again, I just don’t get it.

I’m not sure what he means that “it’s time for her critics to put up or shut up.”  Is he suggesting still that there’s no evidence to question her integrity?  Because I think there is substantial documentary evidence to do just that.  Again, I’m not exactly sure where Dunning is coming from on this.  Has he not read the articles or seen the documents?  Or has he seen them and just ignored them?

He believes its “time to move,” I agree and as soon as Ms. Katehi actually comes clean and explains how her name is all over documents and her subordinates were perpetrating these acts without her knowledge under her watch, I’ll move on to another scandal.  But until then, I think the Chancellor has a lot of explaining to do, and unless the heat remains on the university, we will not get any kind of explanation.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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23 thoughts on “Commentary: Katehi Still Needs to Come Clean Before We Can Move On”

  1. crazy-you

    In Blog Boy world, coming clean means admitting guilt, even if there is no guilt. She’s already ‘come clean’, but because the result wasn’t what you wanted, it’s not good enough.
    The People’s Vanguard, A Scandal Around Every Corner

  2. ron

    “Before we can move on.” Don’t you mean before you can move on? I’ve already moved on. This is just a distraction to the real concern; that she is being brought in and paid top dollar to oversee draconian tuition increases and service cuts that are going to shake this community to its core.

    This is only a story because Blogojavich hasn’t had his mens rea moment of catharsis and stands defiant against the US Attorney and the State of Illinois. Continuing to drag the new chancellor through the mud of this witchhunt is a disservice to the community. She landed on her feet in Davis after being tainted by a minor scandal in IL., big deal. Go back and look at what happened when UC did the same thing in the 90’s under David Gardener, there was almost no fallout. Or look back at Dan Quayle’s daddy buying his son’s way into Indian University Law School. Then think about what Yale’s endowment would be without legacy for the Bush family and others. This stuff goes on all the time all over the place. If you want to demand a total meritocracy on admissions you’re going to live in the same sort of fantasy land as people like Ward Connerly and his supporters envision.

    Finally the real story here is that abuse of admissions for the priveledged means that we must assure that there is access for all classes and ehtnic groups as a counterbalance. Admissions is a subjective process, the sooner we acknowledge that, the sooner we will be better able to use that process to aid the underclasses that need a leg up.

  3. the tip of the iceberg

    I would be interested to know why a bunch of 9-11 terrorists were given admission to Universities. I know this is far afield, but I think miss Kaethi’s actions are the tip of the iceberg. The UC’s are about $ and will do anything to get it.

  4. Mike Harrington

    UC Davis has other mis-fires when hiring for top positions. The Chancellor brought Virginia Hinshaw onboard to ram through the Biolab; what a disaster. She moved on to the Univ of Hawaii.

    More recently, a top administrator was moved out in appx 2005 for hiring her domestic partner into top UC jobs and contracts. The top admin also moved on to the Univ of Hawaii, was just hired when the one they wanted suddenly quit the applicant pool. She knowing violated numerous laws …

    Now, we have a new Chancellor who participated in questionnable admission practices at the Univ of Illinois, and she is sitting here in Davis, lying to us about how she knew nothing?? As usual, the coverup is worse than the questionnable practices, and she should be fired. At this point, whatever she tells us, I won’t believe her. I am certain that large segments of the campus community feel the same way

  5. Katehi needs to come clean

    New UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi owes the UC Davis community a complete and thorough answer to the admissions work done by her University of Illinois subordinates, specifically her knowledge of these actions. She needs to answer: why she did or did not do something about this? From the email records she did know something and obviously both her employees and her superiors expected her to know something as they all copied her on these communications.

  6. Sue Greenwald

    As I said yesterday, Katehi was only at UI for two years before she accepted the job at UCD. It appears as if she started looking for a new job shortly after she started working at UI. It also appears that her boss handled the “category I” admissions directly.

    It could be construed as a sign of good character that she quickly left UI. What ever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”?

  7. Katehi needs to come clean

    Sue Greenwald states:

    “As I said yesterday, Katehi was only at UI for two years before she accepted the job at UCD. It appears as if she started looking for a new job shortly after she started working at UI. It also appears that her boss handled the “category I” admissions directly.

    It could be construed as a sign of good character that she quickly left UI. What ever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’?”

    Responding to Sue:

    1.Two years is a significant period of time (congress and the state assembly are two year terms of office) and is no excuse for either avoidance or acceptance of what was going on with admissions under her supervision as well as above her. Whatever she did or did not do at UI during those two years is relevant.

    2.If, as you suggest “it appears as if she started looking for a new job shortly after she started working at UI”, what relevance does this have to the discussion? You offer an interesting, yet less than flattering defense theory suggesting that possibly Katehi did know something was amiss at UI so instead of working to rectify the situation she spent her two years at the university looking for greener pastures. Somehow you construe that theory as a commendable act?

    3.Yes, her boss was definitely involved in the “category I” admissions, but from what we now know she herself was very aware of what her subordinates and her superiors were doing. She has claimed she knew nothing of the sort.

    4.You state: “It could be construed as a sign of good character that she quickly left UI.” She obviously did not resign as provost in protest or speak out under whistle-blower protection or try within the organization to change the system. From what the evidence shows she at the very least kept quiet about what she had knowledge of and what in fact was going on.

    5.You query: “‘What ever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty.’?” Answer: Nothing at all. The written record of information that has been revealed in the Chicago Tribune, the Sacramento Bee and the Davis Vanguard contradicts Linda Katehi’s statements that she was unaware of what was going on. This contradiction naturally causes suspicion, which will be investigated. From that investigation hopefully we will know whether she is innocent or guilty of being less than truthful or outright lying. Time will tell.

  8. Sue, are you serious?

    As I said yesterday, Katehi was only at UI for two years before she accepted the job at UCD. It appears as if she started looking for a new job shortly after she started working at UI. It also appears that her boss handled the “category I” admissions directly.

    your argument is that Katehi only worked at UI for 2 years before being accepted to UC Davis. By stating she worked at UI for only 2 years before being considered at Davis, you are saying she has little qualification to be in the position she is in at Davis.

    It could be construed as a sign of good character that she quickly left UI. What ever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”?

    Sue, you are wrong on so many levels.
    first of all, the “innocent until proven guilty” is in a court of law. There is no such basis here. She is not entitled to a job at UC Davis, and one that pays $400,000 no less. A prestigous job is something that someone should get based on their merit. The individual who gets the job needs to show that he/she is qualified for it, which Kaethi clearly is not.

    Second, your argument is that she “didn’t know.” Let’s assume that were true. Then she shouldn’t be in the position she is in. She is in a top level position and the buck very much stops with her. “I didn’t know” is not an excuse for managment.

    The UC’s have been getting away with murder, literally. They accept a bunch of terrorists no questions asked and teach them how to fly airplanes without landing them. Then they don’t notify the authorities when the student’s visas expire. This in addition to kaethi, is only what we know about.

  9. special

    I would hope a practicing lawyer would not make the claims the person using the name “Mike Harrington” made (09:33 AM). They are outrageously unethical. My comments are based on the assumption Harrington actually wrote that garbage. If it was not former Davis City Council member Mike Harrington, then ignore the rest of this post. [quote]Now, we have a new Chancellor who participated in questionnable (sic) admission practices at the Univ of Illinois[/quote]
    We don’t know if “new Chancellor who participated in questionnable (sic) admission practices.” It’s sad a practicing attorney would make such claims without evidence and without any kind of a hearing on this matter. No one in Illinois in any official capacity has suggested she did anything wrong. [quote]she is sitting here in Davis, lying to us about how she knew nothing??[/quote]You don’t know she has lied. I suggest before you get disbarred for libel, you retract these charges. [quote]she should be fired.[/quote]I’m not saying you should be disbarred. However, the evidence that you have violated the standards of the California Bar are far stronger than the evidence Ms. Katehi has done anything wrong.

  10. UC Watcher

    Special:

    There’s no libel here, Katehi is a public figure and based on existing evidence, Harrington has a reasonable claim that she could be lying. Before you throw words around, I suggest you learn their meaning and application.

  11. Nowhere Else to Go

    Katehi had to know what was going on. More likely, she was an active part of the improper selection process. Too many people and too much paper not yet revealed will not allow UCD to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Katehi will soon be directly implicated in this admissions scandal and shown to be a liar. The Chicago Tribune is already composing headlines.

    The University of California system made the wrong choice but now has to back it to save face. The most ironic words ever said were, “We were lucky to get her.” Now, you got her, how do you gracefully get rid of her?

    The following is UCD’s greatest fear: With hundreds of victims qualified for acceptance into University of Illinois, but unfairly denied same, this is a legally actionable tort. Lawsuits are being prepared in Illinois right now and Katehi will certainly be named as a co-defendant.

    Katehi has already made carefully prepared written public statements that defy all logic, but none were under oath. She will soon get the opportunity as she makes monthly treks back to Illinois to give depositions. If she lies under oath to maintain the untenable “ignorance” defense, Katehi is in even worse trouble. Then we can anticipate the “regrettable error of judgment” statement from Katehi’s attorney.

    Too many people within the corrupt University of Illinois system know too much. Somebody is going to to toss our incoming leader under the bus rather than commit perjury to protect somebody that just fled the flock. Meanwhile, UCD is essentially leaderless in a time of acute financial crisis. Alumni support diminishes, and grants and legislative favors disappear.

    This scenario is being discussed behind locked doors within the UC Administration and legal team right now. Bet on it. Normally, UCD would just write a check to make Katehi go away, but those people are already under fire for the big check just given her.

    Quite a few people are having a lot of sleepless nights in our sleepy little town.

  12. UC Watcher

    Anyone else read the Enterprise’s defense of Katehi in today’s paper–and they call themselves an objective paper? That’s the most slanted story ever–Corey Golden is writing an argument not a news story.

  13. Anonymous

    “Go back and look at what happened when UC did the same thing in the 90’s under David Gardener, there was almost no fallout. Or look back at Dan Quayle’s daddy buying his son’s way into Indian University Law School. Then think about what Yale’s endowment would be without legacy for the Bush family and others. This stuff goes on all the time all over the place. If you want to demand a total meritocracy on admissions you’re going to live in the same sort of fantasy land as people like Ward Connerly and his supporters envision.”

    Just as a side point, private schools do not have to be objective in their admissions policies. Someone correct me if I am wrong. So Harvard and Yale are perfectly able to admit whomever they want. The same is not true of universities that accept public funding. Once the college accepts public funding, strings are attached to the admissions process – it must be fair and objective.

    Furthermore, just because crime goes on unpunished is not a good reason not to go after crime when it occurs. It is high time the admissions policies in public universities was cleaned up. We as a society have looked the other way far too long.

  14. special

    [quote]Someone correct me if I am wrong. So Harvard and Yale are perfectly able to admit whomever they want. The same is not true of universities that accept public funding. Once the college accepts public funding, strings are attached to the admissions process – it must be fair and objective. [/quote]You are in part wrong.

    For one thing, Harvard and Yale and almost all other “private” universities accept a lot of public funding. There are many “private” universities whose principal source of income is government funds.

    Second, each public university, like each private university, has the right to set its own admissions criteria, as long as they don’t violate the federal civil rights statutes (or state civil rights statutes). A state-owned university therefore does not have to be “fair and objective.”

  15. Dont support pay to play at UCD

    The Illinois style of doing business is not welcomed here at UCD. The new chancellor has tainted our university and she is not welcomed here.

    Please go back to where you came from, or follow Virginia Hinshaw to UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII.

    And, to the selection committee: Please be more ethical in the future.

    We do not need UCD to become another pay to play university.

  16. wdf

    Another article in today’s (6/22) online Enterprise:

    [url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/story.php?id=101.1[/url]

    Mostly biographical/background info, not so scandal-related. Enterprise has free access on Monday’s, by the way. No password/subscription required.

  17. Anon

    “Second, each public university, like each private university, has the right to set its own admissions criteria, as long as they don’t violate the federal civil rights statutes (or state civil rights statutes). A state-owned university therefore does not have to be “fair and objective.””

    Does there not have to be some standard by which all applicants are judged? If that were not true, then there would not be any scandal at U of I!

    “For one thing, Harvard and Yale and almost all other “private” universities accept a lot of public funding. There are many “private” universities whose principal source of income is government funds.”

    Private universities generally are not accepting public funding to operate the university. They may accept public funding to do research, an entirely different matter.

  18. martin

    “It appears that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich pressured University of Illinois Chancellor, Richard Herman, and Heidi Hurd — former dean of the University of Illinois College of Law — to admit under qualified students who were politically connected. In exchange for admitting those students, university officials attempted to obtain jobs for graduates of the College of Law.”
    http://abovethelaw.com/2009/06/university_of_illinois_college.php

  19. Doug

    With regard to the statement;

    “There are those who simply suggest that since this scandal would not happen in California, or at UC Davis”

    I would remind you of the “special admissions program” in the UC Davis Medical School in the 1970’s

    “A young staff member of the Admissions Committee, Peter Storandt, was given the task of answering Bakke. Thus began an active correspondence between the two. Storandt, a few years younger than Bakke, would later claim that it was his job to counsel all applicants who appealed for assistance and that he treated Bakke no differently than he treated others [12]. However, as it turned out, Storandt sympathized with Bakke’s plight, believed that the NASA engineer was a very good applicant, and urged him to apply for early decision the next year. Storandt readily admitted that the DeFunis case, then being widely discussed in university and admissions circles, had come up in their correspondence. He advised Bakke to apply one more time to Davis before resorting to legal action, but Storandt did write to Bakke that a similar case with a clearer ruling might, in the end, serve medical education well. In August 1973, for instance, Storandt wrote to Bakke, “It seems to me that you have carefully arranged your thinking about this matter and that the eventual result of your next actions will be of significance to many present and future medical school applicants” [8].

    Storandt later denied that he told Bakke that Dr. John Tupper, Dean of Medicine at Davis, admitted students under a special preference as favors to donors, alumni, and political figures such as members of the State Legislature or heads of county medical societies. A special inquiry, reported in the press, had shown that each year about 4 students, or 4% of the class, were admitted in this way. Storandt, in a letter to The New York Times in 1977 [12], wrote that in his 3 years at Davis, 12 students had been admitted by the Dean’s “special admissions program”. This practice was not uncommon at some other medical schools but is obviously extremely difficult to document with precision. In any case, the practice came to an end at Davis in 1977 because of much unfavorable publicity. “

    http://www.annals.org/cgi/content/full/119/11/1138

  20. arron bergstein

    I support this petition. She has been involved in various misconducted hiring processes at Purdue University before moving to Illinouis. She has shamelessly hired two former students from her previous group at Michigan University as a faculty members at Purdue. One thing they have in common was that both were Greek and do the same research. Why would you hire two people with same research background to the same department in the same year. I think she will ever learn any lessons from previous experiences as the incidents at Purdue and Illinouis has shown. She. will continue what she thinks. That is it is her responsibility to promote Greek citizens in US academic environment.

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