Her statement continued, “Following our requests, several of the group chose to dismantle their tents this afternoon and we are grateful for their actions. However a number of protestors refused our warning, offering us no option but to ask the police to assist in their removal.”
“We deeply regret that many of the protestors today chose not to work with our campus staff and police to remove the encampment as requested. We are even more saddened by the events that subsequently transpired to facilitate their removal,” the chancellor added.
Noteworthy in that response is not a condemnation of the violence as she would later issue forth in follow-ups. She learned her lesson, but her first response should have been rather telling.
It would take us nearly five months to learn that the chaos and missteps on the Quad were matched, if not outdone, by the missteps and miscommunications and miscalculations by the administration as they prepared for and then completely botched, in all manners possible, the ill-advised clearing of the Quad on that fateful day in November.
As Kroll now famously writes, “It was the systemic and repeated failures in the civilian, UC Davis Administration decision-making process that put the officers in the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves shortly after 3 p.m.”
Leading up to the decision to clear the Quad, Chancellor Katehi and her team made critical errors. As we have noted, they made the critical tactical decision to clear the Quad in the middle of the day – either ignoring the warnings of the police chief or creating an environment where the police chief was isolated to the point that she feared asserting herself.
This tactical decision was in the purview of the police, not the chancellor. The task force assigns primary individual responsibility to the chancellor for the decision to deploy the police at 3 pm rather than during the night or early in the morning. The result of that meant that, instead of a relatively small group, the police had to deal with a large and growing crowd.
As the task force writes, “No one can know for certain what would have happened if the police operation had been conducted in the early morning on Saturday, or a day or two later on Sunday or Monday night. What is clear is that the timing of a police operation is a tactical decision that should be determined by police officers rather than civilian administrators.”
Adds Kroll, “By insisting that the tents not be allowed to stay up on Friday night, Chancellor Katehi did in fact make a tactical decision: that the tents would be removed during the day.”
Driving the decision to clear the tents in the first place was the irrational fear of non-affiliates that we have discussed for some time. That the chancellor and her team did not know the true extent of the non-affiliates is somewhat forgivable. That they never tested their premises and even more, ignored the advice of Vice Chancellor Griselda Castro and, even after the fact, of evidence, is troubling.
Chancellor Katehi stated, “We were worried at the time about that [nonaffiliates] because the issues from Oakland were in the news and the use of drugs and sex and other things, and you know here we have very young students . . . we were worried especially about having very young girls and other students with older people who come from the outside without any knowledge of their record . . . if anything happens to any student while we’re in violation of policy, it’s a very tough thing to overcome.”
However, as Kroll notes, and the task force concurs, “These concerns were not supported by any evidence obtained by Kroll.”
As we also know, there was evidence provided by Vice Chancellor Griselda Castro questioning their belief that there large numbers of unaffiliated people in the camps.
The task force reports, “Assistant Vice Chancellor Castro explicitly challenged Chief Spicuzza’s report that a substantial number of the protesters at the encampment were non-affiliates and the Police Chief conceded that Castro’s information was more credible than the reports of her officers.”
However, the chancellor challenged the report of Ms. Castro, asking if she could “prove” that the protesters were mostly students. Castro replied, “I didn’t ask for IDs. It’s just from my sense of what I know.” The Leadership Team did not discuss the matter further.
We rightly believe that if the chancellor was going to use this as the basis for her action, she should have checked their IDs, not dismissed the advice of the vice chancellor who had not checked IDs.
Then there is the lack of clear legal authority that puts the entire tent operation in doubt and also contributed to the chaos on the Quad.
Kroll also questions the structure of the chancellor’s leadership team.
The key finding of the Kroll report bears repeating: “While the deployment of the pepper spray on the Quad at UC Davis on November 18, 2011 was flawed, it was the systemic and repeated failures in the civilian, UC Davis Administration decision-making process that put the officers in the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves shortly after 3 p.m. that day.”
Moreover, the UC Davis Administrative code makes it clear that the chancellor “is the person ultimately responsible for all functions of the campus community.”
Indeed, the chancellor attempts to diffuse responsibility as, “The Chancellor told Kroll investigators that she favors a participatory style of leadership involving consensus-building rather than an authoritative style of leadership.”
However, as the task force points out, it was precisely this “informal, consensus-based decision-making process” that proved “ineffective for supporting a major extraordinary event.”
As Kroll describes it, “The Leadership Team did not have a formal name or roster of members, met via conference call, and did not have an agreed upon method to communicate or record decisions.”
Writes the task force, “This structure failed to effectively support managing the events of November 18.”
The task force argues that NIMS/SEMS (National Incident Management System/Standardized Emergency Management System) protocols call for “a formal organizational structure and decision-making process when preparing for or managing major events. The process by which incident objectives are determined is clearly defined and recorded. The very purpose of this formal structure is to ensure uniform understanding and reduce miscommunication.”
Kroll adds, “The outcome is that key decision-makers on the Leadership Team held conflicting views on what decisions were made, when they were made and the basis on which they were made.”
One of the questions that has not come forth is the March decision for UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgenau be forced to resign.
On November 11, 2011, two days after their own incident, the Berkeley Chancellor said: “It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience. By contrast, some of the protesters chose to be arrested peacefully; they were told to leave their tents, informed that they would be arrested if they did not, and indicated their intention to be arrested. They did not resist arrest or try physically to obstruct the police officers’ efforts to remove the tent. These protesters were acting in the tradition of peaceful civil disobedience, and we honor them.”
He added, “We regret that, given the instruction to take down tents and prevent encampment, the police were forced to use their batons to enforce the policy.”
Unlike the reports that have thus been released at UC Davis, the report at UC Berkeley largely, though controversially, absolved the university, police, and chancellor of blame for the November 9 incident.
Unlike the Davis protesters, there were clashes between the police and the protesters.
In a lot of ways, the Davis protest was a perfect example of civil disobedience, with force used on seated protesters who simply linked arms.
So you have a situation where the UC Berkeley chancellor is resigning at the end of the year despite a more defensible use of force by his officers, and UC Davis Chancellor Katehi is likely to be allowed to stay on, despite a report that shows a pattern of lack of communications that actually began a good deal before the fateful day.
A few days earlier, apparently, the police showed up at Mrak Hall in riot gear.
Assistant Vice Chancellor Griselda Castro told Reverend Stoneking, “The police were not supposed to be in riot gear and the administration was also not happy about their response,” and then she deflected blame from the chancellor noting, “The Chancellor is unavailable due to her triple-booked schedule to move forward her agenda of globalization and internationalization of the university.”
Finally, despite the shifting of blame and at times outright obfuscation, the chancellor, right after the release of the report, said that she takes “full responsibility” in the pepper-spraying case.
She said, “As I said in November and I repeat right now, I take full responsibility for the incident and I consider myself accountable for all of the actions that need to be taken to ensure our campus is a safe and welcoming place.”
But what exactly does full responsibility mean – particularly absent of any consequences?
That is a question that we will continue to ponder as we wonder if UC Davis even has in place a policy for dealing with administrative discipline.
The buck has to stop somewhere. The chancellor’s decentralized Leadership Team appears to diffuse responsibility enough to avert her having to bear the whole brunt. Nevertheless, the Kroll and Reynoso reports should be an embarrassment to the chancellor and the university.
It is hard to understand how this does not lead responsible people to hold the person at the top ultimately responsible for an incident that brought national shame and ridicule to this fine and esteemed university.
In summary, there is plenty of reason for detractors to ask for the chancellor’s resignation. There seems to be enough reason for her supporters to wish for her to stay on, that we will not see the chancellor fired.
It appears that she will get a second chance, but if history is any guide, she is probably on a short leash, and another blow up like the one we saw last November may be the end.
In the meantime, she has a narrow window to enact the kinds of reforms outlined by the Reynoso report. We will see what the next year brings for the chancellor.
This incident will either serve as a wakeup call to the chancellor or it will be her undoing. Only time will tell.