UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi has faced controversy before. In 2011, she faced calls for resignation after Lt. John Pike was videoed pepper spraying seated protesters on the UC Davis Quad. Even after scathing reports by university-commissioned independent investigators, along with a task force led by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, showed that errors by the chancellor and staff contributed to the problems which led to the pepper spraying of student protesters, she survived – mainly due to support from the faculty.
However, the latest round of controversies, from accepting a board position last month with DeVry Education Group and now a report in the Sacramento Bee that the chancellor received a total of $420,000 in income and stock over the 2012-2014 fiscal years as a board member for John Wiley & Sons, a publisher of textbooks, college materials and scholarly journals, leads to questions about the chancellor’s judgment.
DeVry Education Group is a for-profit company which is under federal scrutiny for allegedly exaggerating job placement and income statistics. She was forced to resign from that post Tuesday after her involvement became public knowledge.
“I take my responsibilities as Chancellor of UC Davis, and to the entire University of California, very seriously and sincerely regret having accepted service on boards that create appearances of conflict with my deep commitment to serve UC Davis and its students,” Ms. Katehi said in a statement released late Friday.
Ms. Katehi added, “I have resigned from the DeVry board and intend to donate all the stock proceeds I made from serving on the John Wiley and Sons board to a scholarship fund for UC Davis students. I look forward to continuing to serve the UC community.”
That is not good enough for Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, who represents parts of Sacramento and also West Sacramento.
On Friday at midday he issued a statement calling for UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s resignation and announcing legislative hearings.
“Recently, I met with UC Davis Chancellor Katehi regarding her recent resignation to the DeVry Education Group’s Board and other campus issues. After this meeting, her rationale for associating with DeVry has left me unsatisfied and contradicts her job to run a public university and educate our students. Further, a subsequent revelation of another sweetheart deal with text book publishers earned her an additional $420,000 from 2012-2014,” he said.
He continued, “This has driven my level of dissatisfaction even higher.”
As the Assemblymember points out, “Chancellor Katehi receives a taxpayer and tuition funded salary of $424,360. It is unseemly for the Chancellor to be moonlighting side deals to fatten her bank account, especially when it runs contrary to the interests of our students that are strapped with decades of student debt to pay the high costs of text books and other education expenses.”
“Therefore,” he said, “today I am calling for the resignation of Chancellor Katehi and am announcing legislative hearings to look into this matter across all three segments of higher education.”
Chairing the Assembly Higher Education Committee is Assemblymember Jose Medina. He also called for oversight hearings as the Legislature considers UC funding.
“Chancellor Katehi’s paid positions with private, for-profit corporations raise important questions about UC’s conflict of interest and outside employment policies,” he said in a statement. “This information is particularly concerning in light of the positive strides that the state has made to increase funding for the system.”
The Bee on Friday reports that the UC Office of the President is required to review outside board positions prior to allowing chancellors to accept them. The Bee reports that Chancellor Katehi accepted the position at DeVry “without completing the required approval process and without final approval from UC President Janet Napolitano.”
The Bee adds, “It is not clear whether the president’s office signed off on the board seat with John Wiley & Sons.”
UC data shows that she spent 168 hours during the 2012-2014 fiscal years on work with Wiley. “For the 120 hours that came during UC Davis business hours, she used vacation time.”
In a statement from UC President Janet Napolitano, she said, “I appreciate that Chancellor Katehi has apologized and taken responsibility for having accepted board positions that created an appearance of conflicts of interest with her University responsibilities.”
She added, “I deeply value Linda’s strong record in helping to make UC Davis a world-class center of scholarship and research, and continue to believe in the value of her contributions to the University. We will take all steps necessary to prevent a recurrence of this unfortunate incident.”
What does this mean for the chancellor? Four years ago, the chancellor was able to survive an incident that led to national news coverage and criticism of the university. Just last week, the chancellor artfully avoided a potential landmine by embracing student protesters in the wake of a hate crime incident. A similar situation at the University of Missouri brought down both the chancellor and president.
However, this latest controversy is troubling. As Assemblymember McCarty points out, the optics of both situations are bad. First, the chancellor is receiving well over $400,000 in salary from the university, so she needs to moonlight for additional money, as tuition costs are pricing students out of school or into student debt?
In the meantime, making money on textbooks is problematic, giving the widespread belief that publishers are gouging students.
“Publishers are gouging students for the cost of textbooks,” Assemblymember McCarty would tell the Bee. “The optics of this are horrible. I’ve lost my confidence in Ms. Katehi and I think this warrants calling for her resignation.”
The biggest issue for me is simply the lack of good judgment here. The chancellor appears to have failed to follow proper protocols for outside appointments, it is hard to believe that the chancellor was in need of additional money, and the two associations she chose couldn’t have been much less appropriate. What exactly what she thinking?
The lawmakers have a good deal of leverage on this situation, and may use it if people like Assemblymembers McCarty and Medina are going to press the issue and/or threaten to hold up money for UC in committee.
Still, at least based on the initial statement by Ms. Napolitano, it does not look like the chancellor’s job is in immediate jeopardy. She just better hope the next shoe doesn’t fall anywhere near her.
—David M. Greenwald reporting