Acting Chancellor Hexter Introduces Himself but Has Few Answers to Burning Questions

Acting Chancellor Ralph Hexter adresses the media on Thursday on the South Stairs of Mrak Hall on the UC Davis Campus
Acting Chancellor Ralph Hexter addresses the media on Thursday on the South Stairs of Mrak Hall on the UC Davis campus

Following the up and down drama of Wednesday, Thursday was relatively quiet save for a relatively hastily called press conference to introduce Acting Chancellor Ralph Hexter to the media and community.

Mr. Hexter, who had been serving as Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, the number two person on campus, issued a brief statement and then took questions for about 20 minutes.

Ralph Hexter called this “a very unexpected development.” He said that “in many many ways it’s with a heavy heart that I take on the duties of acting chancellor in such circumstances.”

His statement read, “I intend to do all I can to be a strong and effective steward for UC Davis for our students, faculty, staff and for our extended community. Throughout my years as provost, I have been proud to be a part of tremendous positive momentum in key areas, including enrolling more undergraduate Californians than any other UC campus. I appreciate the kindness and encouragement of our diverse campus community. I ask for your continued support as we move our great university forward.”

The university highlighted three things about Acting Chancellor Hexter. First, he serves as distinguished Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature.  Last week he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Finally, he’s a founding member of the LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education.

In response to reporter questions, he said, “I gathered with my collective staffs of my provost office and the chancellor’s office and we started doing some triage, just understanding the many buckets that we have to do.”  He said he plans to appoint an acting provost “so that I can turn my attention to all the duties that a chancellor has to do to work with the students and take up all those issues.”

He said, “There are a number of issues on the desk,” and he said he and the staff will attend to those “in a timely fashion.”  He said it will take a few days “to get fully up to speed.”

Ralph Hexter explained that he was largely in the dark about developments.  He said he is sensitive about issues of transparency.  He said, “Quite honestly, since I didn’t know myself until yesterday evening that I will be doing this, it would have been hard to say anything about that before.”  He said he plans to be forthcoming and make himself available to students and the press whenever possible.

Later he explained that the President asked him to step up and take these duties on.  He said, “It was more, you’re the provost, this falls to you.”  He said the timing of the investigation is “entirely up to the President.”   She has said that the investigation will take about 90 days.  “I serve at her pleasure and I will serve for as long as she wants me to serve.”

Hexter answers reporters' questions
Hexter answers reporters’ questions

He explained that he was “the next person in line, I am the number two to the chancellor.  When the chancellor is away, if I’m here, I’m the acting chancellor even in her absence.”

He was asked how ready he was to take on this job.  He explained that there are a number of things that he already knows because he has worked on them with Chancellor Katehi. “There are frankly some areas where I know less well because frankly the Chancellor has had her area and I’ve had mine.”

Ralph Hexter explained that he has actually been a college president previously, “which is somewhat unusual for a provost.” Prior to coming to UC Davis, he was President of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.  “Of course a liberal arts college is very different from a research university, but I hope that once again I’ll prove how fast a learner I am,” he said.

Ralph Hexter indicated that there had been enough discussion that he had had to consider the possibility that he would have to step up to be acting chancellor.  He said, “I didn’t expect that I would have to do it at this time.”

He added that yesterday was the first time he had a discussion about it with President Napolitano.  He said he was not part of the discussions that had (happened), and added, “I was in many ways disappointed that this (happened).”  He said, “I’m very sorry that our Chancellor has had to step down.  I think Linda Katehi is a fantastic leader.”

He was asked if he disagreed with the President’s decision, and he said, “I didn’t say that.”  He said, “I don’t have the materials that she does.  I understand why she feels that this is the decision that she has to make.”

The Vanguard asked if the President had asked Linda Katehi to resign and he said he was unaware of the conversations between the Chancellor and the President.

Ralph Hexter said, based on his discussions with Chancellor Katehi, “I think that the Chancellor is herself clear that (it’s) only an investigation – she expects it will clear her name.”

He said, as he has read the material, “It is clear that the President with the support of the Regents believes that there is documentation that warrants investigation.  I have not seen the documents.”

Mr. Hexter said that he believes that an investigation “always is a good thing because it brings things to light and if there are things that are wrong, you want to correct them.”  He said, “I would not expect them to be systemic wrongs.”  He added, “I think we’re never afraid of light being shown on what we’re doing – we’re public servants, if there are things that are not according to policy, let’s find out about them and correct them.”

He explained he was not privy to discussions in the Office of the President, so it is not clear how the office will view the results of the investigation.  He said he believes that the audience for the results will be the Regents “because it’s the President who makes this decision but it’s certainly the Regents she has to share it with if she wants them to understand the actions that she takes.”

In the end, these are personnel actions and, as a result, there is a lot of “care taken as to what is shared.”

Ralph Hexter called Chancellor Katehi “a tremendous leader” and stated “she’s the reason why I came to Davis.”  He said, “She has lifted up the university, it’s a great university.  One of her great skills was to send the message both internally and abroad that we have so much to be proud of.”

He was hired by Chancellor Katehi and came to UC Davis on January 1, 2011.

Ralph Hexter was asked about the role of the protesters.  He explained that they occupied a lot of “print space, time.”  He said, “I certainly attend to their message – I think the issue of the privatization of the university is a real issue that we need to examine and consider.”

He said that, as public support for the university diminishes, we have to look for other funding sources.

He said, “I never thought of them as representing all of the students.  I know that there was a tremendous number of supporters who by nature are more silent.”

“What I do know is that the occupation itself caused a tremendous amount of stress to the Chancellor but above all to the staff who work here.  So I’m very grateful that we managed to have them leave of their own accord.  That was a good solution,” he said.

He was asked questions about the student protesters and their distrust of authority.  He said, “I think that questioning authority and distrusting authority is something that’s much more widespread than just our campus and just today. That actually seems to be one of the elements of the moment – we see it in our politics… That seems to be something we’re seeing everywhere.”

He said, “All I know how to do is to explain what I’m trying to do and what the institution is trying to do as clearly as he can.  I hope that those who listen to those explanations will take them in good faith… and know us by our deeds.”

Ralph Hexter was asked he if he foresaw the possibility of an elected chancellor as the protesters called for.  He bluntly said, “No, I don’t.”  He explained that, while he is supportive of a student voice in the process, he thinks the complexities of the campus are too great for having an elected chancellor.

He also explained the issue surrounding sexual orientations, noting that in the early 2000s when he was a dean at UC Berkeley, “I was certainly aware that there was effectively a glass ceiling that made it very difficult for LGBT administrators to reach the position of president.”

“One of the things I was very proud of when I took the Presidency at Hampshire College was that the college was very very willing to make that a point of pride nationally.”  At that point there were about a dozen lesbian or gay presidents, and after meeting informally, they formed the association in order to give more visibility and help spread the message to boards that they wouldn’t be the last.

“We are very proud that there are over 70 presidents now who are members of our group,” he said.

—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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  1. Tia Will

    if there are things that are not according to policy, let’s find out about them and correct them.”

    With this I agree. And I would hope that this would just be the beginning of a broader look at whether the current policies are well aligned with the mission of a public university…..namely the education of our students, first and foremost.

  2. Jim Gray

    David and Vanguard thank you for the brief article and introduction to acting Chancellor Hexter.  What a difficult situation he has found himself in.  Clearly he is loyal and appreciative of the relationship that he had with Katahei. He never expected to find himself cast into the situation that he now confronts and certainly because of these circumstances.

    It was also refreshing to hear that he is ready and preparing himself and his team of colleagues to assume the responsibilities and to try and focus on what is important.

    I for one want to thank him for being thoughtful and ready and I wish him well.  I also recall that UCD’s “best Chancellor”, Larry Vanderhoeff emerged from the rank of Provost, when his predecessor resigned.

    Wishing him and the campus all the best. His leadership skills and management abilities will certainly be tested.  I encourage him to “make good choices” and honor his stated commitment to be a good stewart “to students, faculty, staff and for our extended community”. 

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed and give Hester encouragement and support.


    1. VG

      I sincerely hope Ralph Hexter will not go the way of ” UCD’s “best Chancellor”, Larry Vanderhoeff”. To me Vanderhoeff administration brings thoughts of North Korea under Kim Il Um. He is the one who rotted the system and the root of many of the problems UCD is facing can be traced back to ” UCD’s “best Chancellor”

      Someone is forgetting Celeste Rose scandal, Larry Vanderhoeff do nothing side-kick costing UC Davis millions of dollars in a law suit UC Davis settled at loss. Celeste was paid by Vanderhoeff while staying at home. Incidentally, Linda Katehi is using the same law firm:

      Melinda Guzman: Katehi’s attorney.  Her law firm, Melinda Guzman Professional Corp., is based in Sacramento. In 2005, Guzman represented Celeste Rose, a UC Davis vice chancellor who received a $205,000-a-year job in a university settlement after she faced termination. Guzman argued that UC Davis treated Rose differently as an African American woman and threatened to sue for racial and gender discrimination before the sides settled.
      Read more here:
      Ralph – please do not follow that example!


  3. VG

    Davis Vanguard did a great job shining light on UC Davis. It is the only Davis news worth reading.

    We should not be fooled in thinking that UC Davis problems are over. I am afraid they are just beginning.

    While one press worthy problem is put to rest for the time being, there are many small problems and grievances by the students, staff and faculty that are not press worthy simmering until they reach the boiling point.

    The  problem of UC Davis is that this is not a “self-cleaning” system. As the time goes by, more problems accumulate and every once in a while we will have a scandal of large proportions.

    Why is that? UC is supposed to be self-governing with large degree of academic freedom. It is the faculty that should be running the university not the administration. In reality, it is a broken system where UCD Academic Senate has for years served as a “side-kick” of the administration, siding against the faculty, aiding and abetting the administration in their apparent wrongdoings and abuse of their faculty. They act like a corrupt union that sold to politicians.

    I doubt that Napolitano has experience in academia to figure out how to solve this problem. I am afraid that the current Academic Senate should be dis banned as it is of no service to faculty, and a new grass-root organization started that will truly be a voice and representative of the faculty interest.

    An institution where checks and balances are broken, any positive and well intended criticism is suppressed, even punished, injustice is a daily event – is going nowhere.

    So, Ralph, get serious, we have heard a lot of positive spins, political correctness speeches and hired PR. We need actions!


    1. The Pugilist

      Why do liberal arts activist students and faculty have to do with the Chancellor hiring her family members, putting them under direct line supervision and giving promotions?  What do they have to do with her lying – yes Tia, the Chancellor told bold faced lies and got caught with documents when she blamed the contracts on middle managers when the documents showed she was involved in the process.

      You’re marginalizing yourself with this nonsense Frankly.

  4. The Pugilist

    “Her husband, Spyros Tseregounis, 62, is a lecturer with security of employment earning $164,000 annually. Among UC Davis lecturers, he had the highest base pay and the fourth highest gross pay in 2014, according to a UC pay database.”

    1. Jerry Waszczuk

      Is anybody complained about ? Do you know  how the UC Davis compensation system work and who is responsible for?  Did you check pay scale for lecturers  ?

      If I tell that UC Davis Medical Center manager Charles Witcher is  responsible for operation and maintenance  in UCDMC is making with high school diploma $166,783.00 plus extra pay $27,122.00 = $193,905.00

      Should this manager be compensated  with such  high annual salary  and  almost 30K bonus if:
      Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2016 8:40 AM
      To: Jerry Waszczuk <>
      Subject: Re: Dye Injection
       We have had a hot water leak in the campus for 18 months to 2 years now. Nobody wants to deal with it. Now we are on the edge of not being able to keep up with the City Water Make Up. SM is losing control of the CP. I’m not sure who is making decisions, but he cannot shut down/start up or place cooling towers in service without their permission (this having to do with water lose through drift).
       I do not believe SM is being honest when he says he has been pushing management to deal with HW leaks in UCDMC campus.
       Do you know much cost to replace this leaking hot with cold water cost for two years and to heat up this cold water .  This a little more  into than Linda Katehi and  Spyros  Tsruganis  salary. This the only  the one latest  example of uncontrolled waste of the  university financial resources not mention waste of water  and unnecessary emission of  thousand of metric tons of green gases into atmosphere .
      From: Amy Panoushek 
      Sent: Thursday, April 21, 2016 1:27 PM
      To: Steven McGrath; Michael Mosca; Mark Boskovich; Susan Carter; Patrick Putney; Dorin Daniliuc; Corey Nommensen
      Cc: Charles Witcher; Carlos A Gutierrez; Christopher Gangl; Edward Daniels; Gregory Russ; Helen Paulazzo; Jay Scott Wedsted; Jeffrey S Migdal; Kevin T Lance; Philip Anthony Galik; Raymond G Gregorich Iii; Thomas Kavanaugh; Timothy French; William Buckans; David Zeiher; Anthony Wilson; Donald Whitley; Fred Jewell; Amy Panoushek
      Subject: RE: Dye Injection
       Good afternoon.
       The dye injection scheduled for Tuesday April 26th is cancelled.  We are not ready with the plan at this time.  I will schedule a follow up meeting at the end of next week to for the core team leadership members to review the floor plans, discuss staff assignments and review the instructions for what staff need to look for.    Following this discussion, we will schedule the date/time for the actual dye injection.
       Amy S. Panoushek
      Assistant Manager, Plant Operations & MaintenanceUC Davis Health System
      This not Linda Katehi nor Spyros Tsuruganis , Annette Spizzuza or  Lt Pike were creator of Lt. Pike image for UC Davis . This people like Charles Witcher , Allen Tellefson  and others many   like them together with  university lawyers have created Lt. Pike image  paper spraying students . These folks by their negligence and don’t care policy driving university cost of education , increased tuition etc leading to outrage and protests . This all about money . One day you will learn more about uncontrolled corruption in the UC system .

  5. Jerry Waszczuk

    “Ralph Hexter called Chancellor Katehi “a tremendous leader” and stated “she’s the reason why I came to Davis.”  He said, “She has lifted up the university, it’s a great university.  One of her great skills was to send the message both internally and abroad that we have so much to be proud of.””


    If Ralph Hexter called Chancellor Katehi a tremendous leader  than what is the whole “soap opera”

    about . Is it was a staged well planned hoax to remove Katehi because she survived  18/11  and make her sacrificial lamb to what did not surface yet?

      1. Jerry Waszczuk

        I don’t ignore anything . Wait and watch . This is just tip of the big corruption iceberg . FBI tody questioned me for one hour . If the FBI looking for information than we could expect more serious stuff than allegations against Katehi .  Katehi and Hexter are relatively short time employees . If you would know what Steven Drown , Charles Robinson fabricated against me since 2007 than you would have a different opinion what resources UC is using and how they fabricating and destroying evidences that you would have different opinion . However , I respect your words and opinion and everyone opinion here . This is a just discussion but I see witch hunt against Katehi as a copycat scenario of with hunt against me for long six years with over one year on paid administrative leave , suspensions , reassignment. promotion to associate development engineer and $ 8000 pay raise than termination .. And I am only power plant operator not and  and poor immigrant from Poland. Katehi was not liked in UC Davis from the beginning by the Old Boys club .  Pike i Spicuzza were done before 18/11 . Katehi survived because of John Perez .  I know why you don’t .

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