A Different Perspective on the Chancellor

Chancellor Katehi addressing students in front of Mrak
Chancellor Katehi addressing students in front of Mrak

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.

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23 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    I remember reading this from the Enterprise article and notice it’s not included in the above column:

    Two weeks ago, during the presentation of her Awards for Diversity and Community, in extolling the priority and necessity of diversity for UCD’s ongoing success, Chancellor Katehi said (my paraphrase), “The African-American students are so tired. They can’t possibly devote the needed energy to their studies in the light of all the extra work they are doing to feel safe on our campus.”

    Is that the biggest load of bull dookey you’ve ever heard?  That statement alone shows me that she has no grasp on reality and needs to be replaced.  So in turn are we also to believe that since there have been some incidences of rape on campus that all women are so tired they can’t possibly devote the needed energy to their studies in order to feel safe?

      1. Barack Palin

        I’m sure she’s just trying to save her job because I don’t see how she can possibly believe it.  Statements like this just show that she’s so compromised right now that she can’t be an effective leader.

    1. The Pugilist

      I think the Chancellor was accurate in reflecting the concerns of students here. I know you like mocking their concerns but you don’t walk in their shoes.

      1. Frankly

        I wonder…  If there is one person that is a member of a certain group that is in need of cognitive behavior therapy (unable to effectively process cognitively due to some unresolved personal emotional dysfunction), and that person does not get the therapy and they happen to have some influence (and support from people from other groups with similar tendencies) and a tendency toward pulling in other members of their group to their drama in a misery-loves-company pursuit… would we see the group develop similar emotional dysfunction… and with their strength in numbers start to demand that everyone else has to accept that dysfunction as the new normal?

        I read another theory at one point about the impact of smaller families.  I think that people are born with varying levels of sensitivity.  But I also think the fact that family-sizes are smaller has contributed to a reduced ability for kids to cope with conflict and different opinions that make them feel bad.

        Grow up in a large family and you will generally have a lot of experience dealing with sibling conflict.  It will help a person grow thicker skin.  Conversely, grow up a single child of a me-first baby boomer parent, and it is likely you will believe the world revolves around you and even the smallest perceived slight requires institutional remedies so you feel “safe”.

        Clearly we are hatching newlings with thinner skin.  I wonder how some of these kids will function outside of their protected “safe spaces”.

      2. Tia Will

        Alan

        Would you care to elaborate on the half that I did not cover ?  I find Ms. Katehi a very complex and fascinating figure on the local scene. Here we have a very successful academic who is a standout in her field who had managed to parlay her successes into a leadership role. Unfortunately from my point of view, she has a couple of very significant drawbacks.

        First as I already stated, I do not believe that she is a good fit for a public university given her prioritization of personal and private gain accrued in ways which do not benefit students.

        Another point which I neglected to mention is her tendency to reactive emotionally rather than strategically. She first demonstrated this publicly when she decided that “something had to be done” about the occupying students , despite the warnings and comments to the contrary by her advisory team, due to her fear of the possible rape of students by outsiders prior to the pepper spray incident. She is now demonstrating in this quote the same sort of thinking. If students are protesting because they do not feel safe, it must mean that they are unable to pursue their studies. My response would be “no”, it means that we need to ensure the safety of our students and take tangible and proven steps to ensure safety, not make statements that are designed to demonstrate empathy, but in and of themselves, do nothing to address the problem.

        1. Alan Miller

          Would you care to elaborate on the half that I did not cover ?

          Please take no offense Tia.  I have other things to do and it isn’t worth my time write an essay refuting the thoughts of someone who’s brain isn’t wired in a way I can even fathom how their brain processes information.

          It’s pretty clear to me people from both sides of the political spectrum found most of the author’s reasoning unreasonable.  Therefore I doubt she influenced anyone, only had others who think like her go “yeah”.  That’s good enough for me.

    2. Alan Miller

      Is that the biggest load of bull dookey you’ve ever heard?

      In a word:   YES.

      What was even more ridiculous was when the author of the article then specifically called out how “not patronizing” the statement by Katehi was.  That must have been in response to how patronizing others had called it out to be.  I do believe it may have been the most patronizing thing I have ever read.

  2. Anon

    I think Tia sums up nicely where Jann Murray-Garcia is neither logical nor sensible in her reasoning in regard to the Katehi situation.  Ms. Murray-Garcia is certainly free to express her opinion and believe whatever she wants.  However Jan Murray-Garcia’s op-ed in the Davis Enterprise is far from persuasive – I would argue just the opposite.

  3. Tia Will

    “emotionally prone activists from bullying”

    Wow, followed to it’s logical conclusion, this would indicate that Chancellor Katehi is allowing “bullies” who themselves are emotionally prone, to emotionally bully her. Does this mean that she then suffers from the thin skinned “victim mentality” of which you so frequently write ? Of does it simply mean that you only believe in “bullying” when it involves someone or something you support, and that the rest of us should just “toughen up” and take whatever abuse comes our way ?

     

    1. Frankly

      Mob rule Ms. Will.  Mob rule.

      You better comply when the mob tells you to comply.

      Even if the mob is just a bunch of emotionally-prone activist student bullies.

        1. Frankly

          The problem on campuses as I see it is that the students will still want their pound of flesh.   I’m not sure that the public opinion weighs as strongly as does the student activist tirades.  The media likes to get student protests lots of attention.

          Katehi’s “crimes” seem to be de minimis and not really crime at all… and really not even bad behavior.

          One thing I would like to see…  calling out these students (and their teacher supporters) on this clear elitist bias and attack on a “lesser” school.   DeVry provides services to students that cannot get accepted to elite UCD.   Seems very much superior-posturing and uncaring for these students to chase this issue.

  4. Barack Palin

    Wow, followed to it’s logical conclusion, this would indicate that Chancellor Katehi is allowing “bullies” who themselves are emotionally prone, to emotionally bully her.

    Pretty much.

  5. Anon

    Frankly: “Katehi’s “crimes” seem to be de minimis and not really crime at all… and really not even bad behavior.”

    1. DeVry is under investigation by the FTC for misleading students about income and employment prospects.  The FTC is not a political organization, but is a well respected consumer watchdog agency. How does joining the board of a questionable educational institution like DeVry benefit UCD?  Katehi’s job is to look out for the interests of UCD students, not DeVry students.

    2. How does joining the board of a Saudi university benefit UCD students?  The time Katehi spends on these boards could be better spent assisting UCD students – which is Katehi’s job.  Katehi’s excuse that she was increasing the diversity of boards is patently ridiculous.

    3. How does joining the board of John Wiley & Sons, a textbook company known to substantially charge students for textbooks, benefit UCD students?  Are the price of these textbooks any lower because of Katehi’s presence on the board?  I highly doubt it.

    Katehi is being paid an ample salary to represent the interests of UCD students, not the interests of other universities or a textbook company that gouges students.

    1. Frankly

      Anon – Here is my perspective.

      First, it is not unusual for executives to sit on other boards.  Would you want only retirees to sit on boards?

      For example, I am required by federal regulations to have some board members that work in government.

      Second, there is education value provided an executive sitting on another organization’s board.

      Third, there is a greater mission in advancing the quality of high learning in the state that helps pay her salary.   Before lambasting her we should really understand her performance requirements and the policy related to this.  I am familiar with many executive performance plans actually REQUIRING that there is external board participation.

      Fourth, it is probable that DeVry was attracted to having Katehi on the board to actually assist them in cleaning up their act.  Why is that a bad thing?

      Now, #3 bothers me.  I agree that the textbook industry is rife with corruption and collusion and is quite frankly materially harmful to students.  The fact that she was getting a lot of compensation from this big book publisher is very problematic in my opinion.

      1. Anon

        “it is not unusual for executives to sit on other boards.”

        Bad analogy IMO.  UCD is a PUBLIC STATE UNIVERSITY, that has a higher duty to in-state students than would a private university or the executive of a company.

        “Second, there is education value provided an executive sitting on another organization’s board.”

        If sitting on another organization’s board, such as sketchy universities, brings disrepute to the educational institution one is working for, that brings no educational value that I can see.

        “Before lambasting her we should really understand her performance requirements and the policy related to this.”

        It is my understanding that current policy requires that the association with another board in some way benefit UC.  How does joining the boards of two sketchy universities benefit UCD or UC?

        “Fourth, it is probable that DeVry was attracted to having Katehi on the board to actually assist them in cleaning up their act.  Why is that a bad thing?”

        Katehi’s job is to further the interests of UCD students/UC, not DeVry.

         

  6. MrsW

    I am still stuck on hours in the day.  How does Katehi have time for extracurricular jobs?  I thought being a chancellor takes, on-average, 60-80 hours a week, with a supportive spouse contributing another 20-30 hours a week.  That’s what I thought $0.5M bought.

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