Commentary: Chancellor Katehi No Longer Backs the Tent Clearing Operation

KatehiFacesTheCroud_11-21-11-15-1When the Kroll Report and the Reynoso Task Force Report came out back in April, the reports placed the primary responsibility for the decision to deploy the police at 3 pm rather than during the night or the early morning on Chancellor Katehi.

However, the report also criticized the chancellor, along with Vice Chancellor John Meyer and Vice Chancellor Fred Wood, as sharing responsibility for the decision to remove the tents, which as a result triggered the police action against the protesters.

Drilling down even further, we find that the chancellor, along with others, was also criticized for failure to investigate claims that non-affiliates were among the inhabitants of the tents – an assumption that apparently served as the premise for the removal operation.

The chancellor has been a moving target as her initial statement issued just hours after the pepper-spray incident on November 18, 2011, was, “We have a responsibility to maintain a secure place for our students to learn, and for our faculty and staff to provide the excellent education we are known for.”

On Wednesday, as the Davis Enterprise reported, the chancellor finally started to acknowledge critical mistakes, including the fact that they relied “on bad information and a flawed decision-making process” which “caused her to be [too] quick to send in police to remove an Occupy Davis encampment.”

“I should have, we should have, allowed the students to stay with the tents,” Chancellor Katehi told the Senate’s representative assembly at the UCD Conference Center as quoted by the Enterprise, adding, “It pays a lot more to get more engaged with the  students, to have a greater discussion and to really assess whether taking action (will) benefit the university.”

The chancellor also acknowledged that “there were failures in process, in decisions, in communication and there were failures in organization, both within the administration and the police” that led to the pepper spraying.

The chancellor acknowledged a mistake in not questioning information on non-affiliates.

Said Katehi, “The mistake … that I made is that I relied on information without questioning it.”

Of course, many would argue that this avoids an even more fundamental disagreement – the question that even had the information been correct about the non-affiliates, whether it should have served as the basis for action.

Another critical criticism of Chancellor Katehi during the planning for the tent-clearing operation was the decision to remove the tents during the day, rather than allowing the police as the tactical experts to develop their own strategy.

As Kroll and the Task Force point out, this decision made the legal basis for the operation questionable at best and we believe probably made the operation itself illegal.

“I made a tactical decision that was inappropriate,” Chancellor Katehi said. “My lack of understanding (of) how the police (work) let me get there … I personally never felt that I made an executive decision, but it was taken as such by a few – and that needs to be corrected.”

The session seems to have been in direct response to criticism from the Academic Senate who said, “To date, the Chancellor has not truly taken full responsibility for the incident on November 18, 2011.”

This has been our belief and concern for quite some time.  The chancellor has stated that she takes full responsibility, but we have never been told exactly what full responsibility means.  And part of that means that she has not explained what exactly she did wrong.

The faculty is not in a forgiving mood when they write: “The chancellor has on a number of occasions claimed that she has taken full responsibility for the events; however, to date she has not acknowledged the mistakes and errors of judgment that she has made as documented in Kroll and Reynoso.”

In our view then, she is starting to take the kind of responsibility we want to see – her directly acknowledging and addressing the mistakes that were made.  Some have likened this to some sort of forced contrition, an early Christian notion of a pound of flesh exacted from detractors.

We view it differently, we believe that without going through the litany of problems and addressing them head on, the chancellor could not only avoid true responsibility, but may not understand what she did wrong and how to fix it.

As such, we think this was a good start.

It is clear at this point that the faculty is very divided on what to do at this point.

The Enterprise notes, “Some professors said they were perplexed that the actions took place after the faculty at large voted down a no-confidence measure in February by a 2-to-1 margin.

“The issue was decided. I personally think we’re making a mockery of democracy,” said engineering professor Subhash Mahajan, one of those who signed the letter disagreeing with the censure.

But that misses a huge point, which is that the Kroll and Reynoso reports were not out in February, the public and the faculty did not have all of the facts.

Moreover, we are fundamentally disappointed in the letter from a number of very esteemed faculty members at this university.  We have great respect for the views of these faculty, we believe they do great work, but we are frankly a bit perplexed by the letter.

In a letter written by members of the UC Davis Association of the National Academies (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine) they “strongly protest the resolution passed by the Executive Council of the Academic Senate to censure Chancellor Linda Katehi for her response to the Nov. 18 incident.”

They write: “It is distressing that the recommendation of the special committee calling for the resignation of the chancellor was passed solely on the basis of three votes out of the six voting members of the committee, chaired by Julia Simon, professor of French in the College of Letters and Science.”

They defend the chancellor but never address the Kroll Report or the Reynoso Task Force report.  They never discuss the failures to communicate, the poor assumptions, or the poor decisions that the chancellor made on November 18 and the days leading up to it.

Instead, they write, “It is not only unfair to Chancellor Katehi but it is also deceptive, inappropriate and counterproductive to the mission of UCD.”

So here you have a chancellor who is found to have made critical errors, for whom the Kroll report notes, “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.”

Kroll writes, “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.”

“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.”

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.”

Not one of these points is addressed by the esteemed faculty members.

Not one of them.

Instead, we get this: “The campus should, of course, continue to develop policies and procedures to prevent a similar incidence from occurring in the future. However, this incident should not be used to interfere with the primary mission of the university of teaching, research and service.”

And this: “Chancellor Katehi has initiated a bold and visionary leadership for UCD to become one of the top-tier universities in the nation, and a large majority of the UCD faculty has indicated plainly that it supports the chancellor’s leadership.”

I have the ultimate respect for the body of work of many those who signed this document.  However, they do the university and ultimately Chancellor Katehi no favors by writing this.

There is too much missing from this letter to ultimately achieve what they set out to achieve.  They put no one’s concerns to rest by it.  And ultimately to the extent that they change the terms of the debate, they do this entire community a grave disservice.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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32 Comments

  1. Mr.Toad

    Katehi is trying to show contrition, she has already accepted responsibility, but, I’m still waiting to know what the penalty associated with her acceptance of responsibility is going to be. Until some penalty is meted out, whatever it is, this sad saga will drag on. Its not Shakespeare’s Shylock demanding his pound of flesh, its western theology or if you prefer a secular approach, B.F. Skinner.

  2. Grad Student

    How very unfortunate that those otherwise informed and intelligent professors could make such simple and embarrassing mistakes in the premise of their letter.

    The censure vote was never purported to be a vote from the faculty at large or members of the faculty Representative Assembly. As indicated, it was a vote by the Executive Council of the UC Davis faculty senate. There were 20 members of the Executive Council who voted.

    The vote is very significant and does not constitute any attempt to deceive or overturn any previous vote of any other body or committee. The headline in the Davis Enterprise is immaterial.

    What a sad display of ignorance and knee-jerk letter signing on the part of those professors. We can do better than that.

  3. Grad Student

    Correction, those 20 members of the Executive Council were the ones who voted in favor of censure (out of 24 members of the Executive Council who were at the meeting and who either voted or abstained).

  4. JustSaying

    “As Kroll and the Task Force point out, this decision made the legal basis for the operation questionable at best and we believe probably made the operation itself illegal.”

    More important than the legal opinions of Reynoso/Kroll and the Vanguard to understanding how and why events played out is the university counsel’s legal advice at the time and UCD’s stand now on the applicable law. By pleading “privileged communication” during the investigation, university officials left the record as incomplete as the police who refused to cooperate.

    The university’s decision to leave this question open suggests officials did not seek legal advice, acted in spite of conflicting advice or acted on incorrect advice. Although none of these possibilities seems very logical, the decision not to cooperate with Reynoso/Kroll led to the report’s unquestioned commentary about confusion regarding the legal basis for action against demonstrators and their camping.

    Furthermore, the fact that UCD has yet to cite its authority to act allows David and others to claim without challenge that the operation was “illegal” although that is is not what the report observed. It also keeps everyone involved (including potential demonstrators) ignorant of the rules of engagement that should guide future confrontations.

    The university’s decision to leave this legal question to be argued without its own take on the matter is mysterious.

  5. 91 Octane

    The vanguard and others seem to think if they regurgitate their cries for Katehi to be fired enough times, it will tip the scales in that direction.

    The simple fact is, not everyone (Ironically including Reynoso himself) think Katehi ought to be fired over this.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    “The vanguard and others seem to think if they regurgitate their cries for Katehi to be fired enough times, it will tip the scales in that direction.”

    It’s an interesting comment since nowhere in this piece does the word “fire” enter the picture nor is that even suggested in this piece. Perhaps you might want to try again and actually read the article this time.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    JS:

    A few points in response

    1. I agree with you the UCD stance now on the applicable law would be quite helpful
    2. The university is listening to their lawyers in making the decision to invoke attorney client priviledge
    3. “The university’s decision to leave this question open suggests officials did not seek legal advice, acted in spite of conflicting advice or acted on incorrect advice.” I don’t agree with this. We know that they did seek legal advice. It was sought at the behest of Pike and Swartwood rather than Katehi or Spiccuzza. Based on the police handling, we can gather that they thought 647e and the university’s administrative policy is what the legal team came up with
    4. “Although none of these possibilities seems very logical, the decision not to cooperate with Reynoso/Kroll led to the report’s unquestioned commentary about confusion regarding the legal basis for action against demonstrators and their camping.” I think you exclude the fourth possibility which is that the university for whatever reason and despite promising full cooperation, lawyered up
    5. “although that is is not what the report observed” – the task force was specifically asked not to render legal conclusions. I simply took the facts they found and spoke to lawyers and came to the conclusion I did.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    Based on JustSaying’s questions, I have posed a version of this to the university and await their response:

    When the Kroll team was appointed to investigate, I specifically asked UC Davis spokesperson Andy Fell whether they would have subpoena power.

    The response I got: “I followed up with UCOP with your questions on the access available to the review team lead by William Bratton. Both campus and UC will cooperate fully with them and make available to them any documents they need, subject only to legal restrictions such as those governing student records, personnel files etc. As a private contractor, Kroll doesn’t actually have subpoena power. But they are going to get whatever they want. “

    Now, it turns out that’s not completely true. They did not get access to the campus counsel’s opinion on the legal authority for the tent clearing operation.

    Now, I know some will likely cite the portion “subject only to legal restrictions” but as you may know the university cannot waive FERPA or POBR but they can certainly unilaterally waive their own attorney-client privilege.

    So based on that, I ask for the university to release either their previous view or current understanding of their legal authority.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]In our view then, she is starting to take the kind of responsibility we want to see – her directly acknowledging and addressing the mistakes that were made. Some have likened this to some sort of forced contrition, an early Christian notion of a pound of flesh exacted from detractors.

    We view it differently, we believe that without going through the litany of problems and addressing them head on, the chancellor could not only avoid true responsibility, but may not understand what she did wrong and how to fix it.[/quote]

    Well clearly she understood how she erred since she has laid it out now for those calling for her to “come clean” w what she did wrong, no?

    [quote]Moreover, we are fundamentally disappointed in the letter from a number of very esteemed faculty members at this university. We have great respect for the views of these faculty, we believe they do great work, but we are frankly a bit perplexed by the letter.[/quote]

    Why perplexed? The are infuriated that a small group overrode the original decision. Had the Exec Committee called for a revote after the Kroll/Reynoso report came out, that might have been fair. But instead the Exec Committee made an end run around the entire UCD Academic Senate bc they knew there was a distinct possibility the results of a revote would have been the same as before. Also, I suspect these faculty members feel it is time to move on w healing rather than wallow in finger pointing…

  10. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Explain how they made an “end-run” that implies a whole host of facts that are not in evidence.[/quote]

    Explain why the Exec Committee didn’t ask for a revote of the entire UCD Academic Senate after the report came out?

  11. David M. Greenwald

    That said, I found this in the Enterprise article:

    “The chairwoman of the special committee, Julia Simon, a professor of French, said the recommendations were not meant to represent the views of the whole campus — but those “arrived at by a group of people representing
    various constituencies and interests who spent four months pouring over documents.”

    Based on that, I think there is a legitimate criticism there. Still I think the letter by the faculty referenced above is not particularly helpful.

  12. 91 Octane

    It’s an interesting comment since nowhere in this piece does the word “fire” enter the picture nor is that even suggested in this piece. Perhaps you might want to try again and actually read the article this time.

    actually, I was referring more to the comments of Mr. Toad. He doesn’t say fire either – but I’m going to take a calculated guess that was what was in his mind when he made the comments.

  13. Mr.Toad

    I have not called for anyones head to be hoisted upon a Pike(I just couldn’t resist that). Not even Pike’s. I did say at one point after the Kroll, Reynoso and Academic Senate Special Committee reports that i thought Katehi should probably resign although I meant it in its true meaning not as a way to avoid being fired. Now after dialog with Greg Kruperberg I want to even walk that back.

    This is not to say that I am over Katehi’s authoritarian support for the use of force in the immediate aftermath of the spraying. Nor is it to say that I don’t have concerns about the failures of her management style as identified in all three reports, the FBI connection to Katehi, the use of staff at campus resources as informants, the prosecution circus of the US Bank protests as misdemeanors, where something like a $10 infraction would be appropriate, the slow clampdown on the resources of the university exemplified by the hiring of a faculty advisor at the Aggie and the impact all this dissension has upon the morale of the campus environment.

  14. JustSaying

    Good followup with the UCD folks, David. Good luck on getting an answer; I think you’re correct on a couple counts. First, the university did not give full cooperation–it was kind of glossed over at the time that the legal advice the UC counsel provided was not forthcoming and, second, it was a result of “lawyering up.”

    Unless the lawyers need to hide the legal advice that was given or hide how it was used (or ignored?), this was a serious error, in my opinion. By not waiving their own attorney-client privilege, they have left a giant hole in the Reynoso/Kroll report. Worse, it works to the disadvantage of the university’s reputation as well as limiting the ability of UCD to assure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

    A few comments on your response:

    #3. Odd that Pike and Swartwood were the ones who needed to inquire about the legality of the afternoon move. Doesn’t it seem that the lawyers would be part of all the decision-making, rather than just be on call if a police officer has a question? It there was no legal advice ongoing to the leadership team, that might be considered another systemic failure.

    I don’t think we really can make any assumptions about what the university counsel ruled on the law covering Katehi’s “orders that weren’t orders” or the actions that ended up being taken. Reynoso/Kroll observed that legal confusion abounded. And the university failed to enlighten the investigators.

    #4. That the university lawyered up doesn’t change my point, that not cooperating is responsible for the report concluding that the legality question affected actions that day and their obvious implication that the arrests might not have had a legal basis.

    If UCD officials aren’t questioning the legality of the arrests and/or contend that the university had the right to move out the demonstrators and haul off the tents, they made a tactical error in not making the case for the report.

    #5. If you knew the report wasn’t supposed to render legal conclusions–and you just made up the legal findings with the help of your friends–you could have stuck up for me a week ago when the ranters were screaming at me, “READ THE REPORT, IDIOT, THE ARRESTS WERE ILLEGAL!” (Actually, the report went a long way using implications without outright saying it.)

  15. silver surfer

    This seems an appropriate place to take issue with the Academy members objections to the censure vote. The Academic Senate had several processes in play here, some of which were set into action right after the Nov. 18 incidents.

    First, the Senate identified the need for a special committee to assess the Nov. 18 incidents that would draw from the Kroll report. The release of that report was delayed by lawsuits from UCD police. This was as far as I recall always intended independently of any faculty motions introduced for votes. The Executive Council was well within its domain to act upon the recommendations of the Special Committee who had based these upon the Kroll/Reynoso reports.

    Second, the faculty collected signatures and contributed dueling motions for the vote in, as I recall, Feb., one a no-confidence vote, one a confidence vote, one a vote essentially condemning police actions that was culled from the confidence vote to separate out the two. Any faculty member can petition the senate for such a motion if they obtain sufficient signatures.

    To suggest the senate Executive Council did something undemocratic is absurd to me. They had set this process transparently into motion before the dueling confidence/no-confidence votes were taken.

    What troubles me more about the letter from Academy members is that it makes no reference whatsoever to the Kroll/Reynoso report. Frankly, I don’t think they read it or if they did are choosing to willfully ignore its findings. For distinguished scientists to ignore findings of fact by an independent commission is very, very upsetting to me personally.

  16. JustSaying

    “What troubles me more about the letter from Academy members is that it makes no reference whatsoever to the Kroll/Reynoso report. Frankly, I don’t think they read it or if they did are choosing to willfully ignore its findings. For distinguished scientists to ignore findings of fact by an independent commission is very, very upsetting to me personally.”

    Sorry you’re personally upset about something that did not happen, a situation that you made up. To suggest that this group did not read (or that they’re “willfully ignoring” it is just silly. You’ll feel much better if you just grant them the right to have an opinion contrary to yours.

  17. silver surfer

    JustSaying:

    I have made nothing up. Their letter makes no reference to the Kroll/Reynoso report which harshly slams the campus leadership and puts considerable blame at the Chancellor’s feet. The report is out there. To completely avoid mentioning it in their very public letter is willful ignorance.

  18. JustSaying

    No disagreement that they didn’t mention the report, and, no doubt, that they willfully intended not to. I’m just saying that your suggestion that this group did not read the report (or that they’re “willfully ignoring” its existence) it doesn’t make sense. Of course the read it. However, it shouldn’t be “very, very upsetting” that they see no reason to mention it; it it is irrelevant to their point about the vote. The report surprised no one except in its openness.

    Let’s learn what we can and move on. Some folks have wanted Katehi out of here since she arrived and some will want her out as long as she’s here. No need to keep voting on it as an annual, Picnic Day kind of event.

  19. silver surfer

    JustSaying:

    This is not a question of silliness or not making sense. The letter from the National Academy members is at best misleading and at worse wrong. The Executive Council set the process into motion that led to the special committee and EC censure two days after the pepper spray incident. Look it up. The votes put before the Senate in January were put forward by independent petition and without benefit of Kroll/Reynoso. With that report in hand, the special committee could go to work, and the EC could act on their report. To suggest, as the Academicians’ letter does, that the Special Committee and Executive Council were attempting to circumvent the will of the faculty is to commit an act of willful ignorance. To ignore that report and the strong condemnation is very disappointing from a group with such high collective intellect (especially to suggest the Chancellor deserves no censure).

    This is not an annual picnic day event at all. Chancellor Katehi messed up big time on and before Nov. 18 and the censure pertains exclusively to that.

    It seems to me the way you are writing these comments you must have inside knowledge that the Academicians in fact READ Kroll/Reynoso and still chose to reject even mentioning that in their letter. If not, how can you be sure they in fact read it?

  20. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]If not, how can you be sure they in fact read it?[/quote]

    How can you be sure they didn’t?

    [quote]To suggest, as the Academicians’ letter does, that the Special Committee and Executive Council were attempting to circumvent the will of the faculty is to commit an act of willful ignorance.[/quote]

    Why not take a revote, rather than have just the Exec Committee vote for censure? My conjecture is that the folks on the Exec Committee knew they would never get a vote to censure out of the entire UC Academic Senate.

  21. David M. Greenwald

    It wouldn’t be a re-vote because the previous vote was a no-confidence vote. Should they have another one of those? That’s not for me to decide. I suspect that if the membership wants one, they can have one. I suspect it will be a lot closer than it was the first time.

  22. silver surfer

    Alright, E Roberts Musser and JustSayin – go back and read what I said:

    [quote]Frankly, I don’t think they read it or if they did are choosing to willfully ignore its findings. [/quote]

    I stand by my contention. Either they did not read it and will support Chancellor Katehi no matter what, or they have read it and chose not to reference it in the letter.

  23. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I stand by my contention. Either they did not read it and will support Chancellor Katehi no matter what, or they have read it and chose not to reference it in the letter.[/quote]

    Or read it and 1) drew different conclusions from the report than you i.e. the report was heavily weighted against the university/police and refused to hold the protestors at all accountable in this fiasco for causing a desired confrontation w the police that would draw press attention; 2) want to put the incident behind the university, not throw more gasoline on the fire? You seem to refuse to acknowledge the fact that there are many faculty, students and citizens who are not particularly sympathetic to the protestors…

  24. silver surfer

    E Roberts Musser:

    This report was commissioned by President Yudof. It is a report from the organization run by the former police chief of New York City. It was hard on the police and the chancellor because they both messed up badly. Do you believe when someone messes up badly that they deserve no consequence? The police chief resigned. PIke will clearly be dealt with. Katehi should skate free and clear?

    Sure there are plenty of people who want this to just be forgotten-but there are plenty of passionate faculty and students who are deeply disturbed about what happened as well.

    And as to gasoline? Katehi threw the gasoline when she sent the police. Now we have a university with strong divisions. It is at her doorstep, and minimally, a censure is appropriate.

  25. JustSaying

    “I stand by my contention. Either they did not read it and will support Chancellor Katehi no matter what, or they have read it and chose not to reference it in the letter.”

    Now that you have reworded your contention, I can agree. In my opinion, they did read the report and they did choose not to reference it in the letter.

  26. silver surfer

    JustSaying:

    Go back and read my original post. I have not changed my contention in the least. Again, the absence of any reference either proves that that they did not read the report or they willfully ignored it if they did. You apparently agree with me here.

    For them not to refer to this report, commissioned by the University president’s office, involving the company formed by the former NYC police chief, and highly critical of Katehi, suggests that it simply doesn’t matter to them. Obviously it does not matter to you.

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