By Tia Will
In the Davis Enterprise Forum of Sunday 3/20/15, I read with interest Jann Murray-Garcia’s article entitled “I stand staunchly with the Chancellor.” I have a great deal of respect for Jann Murray-Garcia and appreciate her viewpoint. However, we have enough areas of disagreement that I felt compelled to respond. Unlike Jann, I have had no direct interactions with the chancellor. Like her, I speak only for myself.
Our first point of difference is whether or not what the UC chancellors are encouraged to do represents “moonlighting.” She states this is a misrepresentation of what the chancellors and senior managers are not only allowed, but are encouraged to do. I disagree. If the proceeds from these activities were to go to the university for either research or directly to help defray student costs, I would agree. However, this compensation goes directly to the chancellor or senior manager thus making it the equivalent of “moonlighting” whether one likes to use that term or not. This is, of course not the fault of Chancellor Katehi, but I believe that it would have been a wonderful opportunity for her to lead by devoting all of her outside compensation to the students of the university rather than adding it to her annual compensation which already exceeds $400,000. There is nothing to stop any chancellor or senior management from doing the same. I still see it as an opportunity for Ms. Napolitano and the Regents to review and hopefully change this policy to one more in keeping with the “public” nature of our public university system.
She goes on to state that we “have a lot to lose if Chancellor Katehi is lost to a hasty, scapegoating process.” And I would agree if I felt that this were the case. However, I do not see the 5 years of poor judgment and a philosophy which consistently favors privatization over public endeavor that have characterized her tenure here as either “hasty” or “scapegoating.” While I fully acknowledge that her background, having grown up as a poor, immigrant woman in a male dominated field, would suggest that she might have retained some sense of responsibility to and compassion for these groups, many of her decisions do not seem to support these values.
I do not doubt that the chancellor made a compassionate speech supportive of the black students on campus. And I do not doubt that the number of minority students on campus has increased during her time here. However, even some of Jann’s statements about diversity cannot be attributed to any action on the part of Chancellor Katehi. This reflects a philosophy that long preceded her presence here. For example, Jann cites specifically the medical school, which she correctly states “admitted the most diverse class in the UC system.” What I would point out, as a member of the class of 1983, is that we were, at that time, the most diverse class in the UC system and indeed, in some categories were the most diverse in the nation. The medical school under Ms. Katehi has merely continued a long held tradition of diversity in this field.
To give credit where deserved, I agree with Jann’s appreciation for Ms. Katehi’s academic career and her recruitment of women and minorities into faculty and leadership positions and her ability to help obtain NIH funding. However, we again part company when she states, “I have found her to be a good listener, especially after the pepper spray incident.” That is a little too broad a statement for me. Both during and after the pepper spray incident, Ms. Katehi seems to me to have been a highly selective listener. Immediately preceding the “pepper spray” incident, she did not choose to listen to either the advice of her police or of her front line public relations representative, who tried to tell her that evacuation of the quad during broad daylight was not a good plan, and that the protesters were almost exclusively students and university related individuals and not either outside agitators or rapists as she and others apparently feared. Of even greater importance than these missteps in my mind was her apparent failure to develop and foster a strong management team. She seemed instead to be highly reactionary and emotional rather than strategic in her management of this event. This was not a single act by an overzealous officer as Jann implies, but the culmination of a series of judgment errors for which Ms. Katehi was ultimately responsible.
I did not call for or support either her firing or resignation at that time because I did not feel that this single event should define anyone in a position as broad and complex as the chancellor’s. I was fully ready to give her another chance. However, in the interim, she has certainly not gained my trust as the leader of a public educational institution.
Another point of disagreement between Jann and myself is the merit of the 2013 announcement by the chancellor of the UC Davis Innovation Center for Food and Health with “tens of millions of dollars from Mars, Inc. and from the US Department of Agriculture for this ‘jobs-generating, health-promoting, global think tank.'” I had and have grave concerns about using tens of millions of dollars from Mars, Inc., for a center designed to promote “health.” It is well known in the field of medicine that when gifts and compensation are received from pharmaceutical or medical device companies, doctor’s attitudes tend to be swayed in favor of their products. This is well documented although denied by many who profit from engagements set up by drug and product manufacturers. The Mars company is anything but a “health” promoting company. By their own public mission statement they produce and sell primarily “food products” (such as candy and other non-nutritious snacks), not actual foods which would benefit poor people in this country and around the world. I see this as yet more poor judgment in alignment of goals for revenue capture at the expense of public benefit. I am very hard pressed to believe that food researchers are totally immune to the same pressures that doctors face.
Then Jann asks a very important question, for which I have no good response. She states that “many critique her ‘corporate’ approach to financing the university. I ask, what is she supposed to do?” I do not know the answer to this question. But I would make a suggestion. She is supposed to lead. As high and well-compensated a position as chancellor, it would seem to call for someone who has a philosophic commitment to the students and the mission of a public university with emphasis on the word “public.” This position requires a clear vision for how to promote and act to benefit this group of students. And yet, at every turn, it seems to me that this chancellor has placed her personal wealth accumulation and that of private interests (such as the textbook manufacturer, DeVry, and KAU ) above the interests of the students of the state of California.
Jann Murray-Garcia concludes, “We have a lot to lose if you take away our hard-working, visionary, highly accomplished and teachable chancellor.” I feel differently.
I do not call for the firing of the chancellor. Nor do I favor the destruction of her career. I believe that she has many admirable traits and would be a very good fit for a private university which is transparent in the specific goals of building its reputation through the paid participation of its upper echelon management by private companies. I feel that she would be a very good fit for a private company which wanted to promote its products or educational systems through affiliations with private universities. I do believe that she is hard working and a visionary. Unfortunately, I believe that her vision is not compatible with the needs of the students of a public university. Therefore, I believe that it would be in the best interest of Ms. Katehi, the students of the University of California, and for the concept of public education as an institute of major public importance if she were to resign and allow the selection of an individual whose vision, ideology and, most importantly, actions are in alignment with the mission of a public university.