Chancellor Katehi Calls For a “Hate-Free” Campus

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katehi_linda1_b.jpgThe recent events on the UC Davis campus and across the UC’s have focused sustained attention on the issue of hate crimes and hate speech.  The UC Davis campus has seen several incidents involving swastikas including one carved into a Jewish student’s dormitory door in late February. 

On Wednesday, the UC Board of Regents met in San Francisco and received a report from UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi along with two other UC chancellors who described recent events on campus including a noose, KKK symbols and the Compton Cookout, a party that mocked black history month at UC San Diego.

Said Chancellor Katehi on Wednesday, “It breaks my heart to report the acts of hatred that have occurred the past few weeks on the Davis campus.”  She continued, “a campus that is widely known for its exceptional civility.  It is especially painful that these shameful acts were committed on the eve of our twentieth anniversary celebration of principles of community.”

Chancellor Katehi told the Regents, that “the hate took an extremely hurtful form.  Swastikas, a symbol long associated with antisemitism were found on campus.”

The Chancellor went on to describe an emergency session that was convened to determine how best to confront this hateful incident and “most importantly to take steps to insure a campus climate that accepting, affirming and recognizing of the diversities that are one of our greatest advantages.”

She emerged with the concept of declaring the the campus a “hate-free” campus.

She told the Regents on Wednesday:

“I have asked the council to consider what actions would need to be taken to declare UC Davis a hate-free campus.  The words declare intention, but actions are essential if we are to turn this aspiration into reality.  To do this work the council will add a standing committee including representatives from the Davis Hillel House and BECA (Blacks for Effective Community Action) and will review the many actions proposed at our townhall meeting by our LGBT Research Center and by our black student union with whom I have recently met.  I am eager to receive the council’s recommendation and to help support their implementation.”

According to a release send out on Tuesday, Chancellor Katehi said recent acts of hatred and intolerance committed on the Davis campus have prodded her to recognize that the entire campus community of students, staff and faculty must work together to raise everyone’s awareness of the Principles of Community and how to live and learn in a way that encourages understanding and acceptance.

In announcing her proposal, she said, “It is time for our university and campus community to come together to confront head-on this sort of regrettable and reprehensible behavior, not only with words but with a coordinated set of actions.”  She believes that the proper venue is the campus council which will “focus the ongoing dialogue on a long-term plan for making our campus a safe, welcoming and supportive community.”

Investigations are still ongoing to determine who the perpetrators were of these acts.  Chancellor Katehi mentioned on Wednesday that the FBI is assisting the investigation.  She told the Regents, “We will seek prosecution of those responsible to the full extent of the law including enhancements for hate crimes.”

Chief Annette Spicuzza said on Thursday, that “the Police Department is vigorously investigating all the recent acts of hate on campus, and will seek prosecution of those responsible to the full extent of the law, including penalty enhancements for hate crimes.”

Students however have at times grown frustrated the campus response complaining that it is long on rhetoric but short on action.

In a demonstration on the UC Campus two weeks ago, the students “demanded” a stronger response from campus authorities as there is apparently the belief that while the Chancellor has given these incidents lip-service and emails, there has been a lack of response.

“The chancellor respond to all of the recent racist and hate incidents that took place on our campus and the steps she is taking currently to prevent them in the future. We want to know how the chancellor will reassure us and that we will always remain safe on our campus. A simple email response, while appreciated is not a strong enough response to such acts of hate. In the future, we strongly recommend the first initiative action to come from our chancellor by taking pro-active steps to work with our community. Overall, we want the chancellor to have accountability and to speak against hate and keep transparency between the students, staff, faculty, and administration.”

Will this new approach work?  Chancellor Katehi is barely in her first year as Chancellor and she is faced with an overwhelming budget crisis and now a slew of hate incidents.  In part, her response will form the basis of how she is judged as the leader of the UC Davis campus.

While it is good that the diversity commission is going to work with community based groups such as Hillel and BECA, it does seem that the list of grievances from the Black Student Union and other students goes beyond simply these hate incidents. 

Some of the comments suggested the students feel that African-American students lack support at the university and in the community.  If those expressed feelings are true for a larger group of students, the university has a bigger problem on their hands than simply responding to a few hate incidents.

The university needs to begin a dialogue with these students and the broader Davis community so that issues such as these can be addressed.

Strong measures need to be taken to insure that these incidents and whatever other issues are not simply swept aside when the glare of the media spotlight inevitably wanes.

—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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