Chancellor Katehi Acknowledges Missteps, Responds to Sac Bee Report

Chancellor Katehi
Chancellor Katehi

By Linda P.B. Katehi

If you have followed the news lately, UC Davis may seem like a tale of two communities.

Our university has evolved from a respected local institution to a regional powerhouse of teaching, learning and research — with a globally recognized record of excellence and innovation.

Since 2010, we have enrolled more California undergraduates than any UC campus. We’ve hit record levels for research grants and endowment. Many of our schools and faculty are recognized as the best in the world.

Forbes magazine recently ranked us number one on the planet for promoting women in science, technology, engineering and math. We have enrolled and hired more women and people of color than ever before.

Most important, we are advancing academic excellence while ensuring a quality college education remains affordable for Californians of all financial means. We are proud that more than half our undergraduates have their systemwide fees and tuition covered by grants.

By any measure, we are doing more to advance the fundamental mission of our public university ― and contributing more to California and the world ― than during any period in our history.

At the same time, the university’s identity has been shaken by a series of highly publicized missteps.

Some were my own doing. All occurred under my watch. For that, I sincerely apologize.

None of them should diminish the collective historic accomplishments of this university, but they have been a setback to our reputation and hard-earned prestige.

As chancellor, I’ve been proud to lead us through some of the university’s finest moments. And I take full responsibility for being at the helm during some of its most difficult days.

Responsibility begins with straight answers. Here are a few to some of the questions raised by the news media, our students and others.

Yes, our Office of Strategic Communications hired outside firms specializing in what is known as “search engine optimization.” Consultants were brought in after the highly regrettable 2011 incident when campus police used pepper spray on peacefully protesting students.

We also implemented a host of reforms, including an overhaul of our police department and a new, more patient approach to campus protests. You saw the results of those changes when a five-week-long sit-in by protesting students in our main administrative offices ended peacefully last week, without incident and on the students’ own volition.

But because of the importance of philanthropy to UC Davis and the need to make sure those searching for information about the university get a complete picture, we needed to do a better job telling the world about the university’s extraordinary achievements.

So we did what any organization in a similar situation would do ― we sought to strengthen our communications capabilities. We invested in key staff. We added $800,000 to our Strategic Communications budget to cover increased costs for health care and retirement benefits. Another $800,000 was allocated for new and existing employees to work on social media, web development, videography and news.

Finally, we also increased the Strategic Communications budget — still comparatively modest for a university of our size and reach — with a one-time, $1 million allocation for a statewide advertising campaign highlighting our contributions to California agriculture.

With guidance from outside consultants hired to train our new staff and help over the short term, we became more focused and strategic in telling the story of our extraordinary students and faculty.

And we were careful to make sure that none of the costs for consultants or the advertising campaign were paid from state General Fund appropriations or student tuition and fees.

In hindsight, we should have been more careful in reviewing some of the more unrealistic and ridiculous scope-of-work claims in the written proposals of our outside vendors. What might be accepted industry hyperbole in the private public relations world falls far beneath the high standards of a public institution of higher learning.

But I assure you: none of our communications efforts were intended — or attempted — to erase online content or rewrite history. At UC Davis, we live with the lessons of 2011 every day. We are a better university because of it. And we succeeded in providing the public with a fuller understanding of everything UC Davis has to offer.

Now, as we move forward, it is crucial that I and the university not just lament these mistakes, but learn from them.

In coming weeks, I will begin a series of activities to better engage with leaders and share best practices from other universities and respected organizations serving the public good. I will reach out to community leaders, asking them to help me find ways to better collaborate on projects that have a positive impact on the people we serve.

And perhaps most important of all, I will find new ways to connect with our students, make my office and activities more transparent and ensure that their voices are heard, just as we did with some of the reforms put in place after pepper spray.

To answer concerns from the greater Sacramento-Davis community, I will make myself available at a series of public forums and media events to answer any and all questions people have about these issues or our future.

It is my honor to serve as chancellor. I know I am not a perfect person. I am determined to achieve more progress for our students and faculty and do a better job serving this great university and the people of California.

UC Davis Chancellor Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi issued this statement on Monday, April 18

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. VG

    Chancellor Katehi –

    your problem is the lack of checks and balances at UC Davis.

    Instead of acknowledging and correcting mistakes committed at UC Davis, a huge legal stuff at your disposal works to crush the faculty and staff that will dare to bring their legitimate grievances. Your hired PR is trying to white wash accumulation of injustices and embarrassments.

    Check this out:

    This is our taxpayer’s money that we have given to UC so that our children can receive quality education. This the real crime. Your legal staff are not public servants but protectors of an abusive administration.

    Repression always leads to simmering resentment and anger that is accumulated over years, that can explode at any moment. Unfortunately it is like an angry mob that can strike at anyone at any moment.

    You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I feel sorry for you.

    We all love UC Davis and wish this university well, but those actions are turning us into enemies of UC Davis. UCD has robbed my research money to purchase furniture and instead of correcting your error, your staff is stonewalling me.

    Perhaps the only way to fix UC Davis is a class action lawsuit. I believe this will be the next chapter of the news if you continue on this course. Stay tuned.

  2. Eileen Samitz

    Chancellor Katehi,

    I appreciate your letter and apology, but one of the biggest problems for the UCD students, our Davis community and now other cities like Woodland, Dixon and Winters, is that UCD has grossly neglected to build the needed on-campus apartments (rather than just freshman dorms), to support it’s own growth for many years. The negative impacts from this inaction for so long is creating major problems for our City, other cities, and particularly the UCD students.

    If you truly care about the students and want to take some positive action, please move forward with building the enormous number of on-campus student apartments needed now for the sake of the students, our City and other nearby cities suffering the impacts due to UCD’s lack of planning and inaction.

    Our community, including our citizens group, Citizens for Responsible Planning, have written multiple letters to you, Ass’t Vice Chancellor Segar, UC President Napolitano, our City Council and City planning staff, and our legislators making clear this critical issue which needs to be addressed now. The UCD LRDP update process is slowly moving along, but not fast enough to address the increasing need for the on-campus housing that the accelerated student population that UCD wants, but is not really creating the infrastructure to support it.

    At the very least, the accelerated student population needs to be paused until UCD actually builds the necessary on-campus student housing to support it. Our community and citizens group would be happy to discuss this further with you or UCD representatives with authority to get this problem resolve now before further damage is done.

    UCD’s chronic inaction and lack of planning is unfair to its students, our community and the neighboring community’s. You are the Chancellor and you have the ability to correct this problem. We look forward to a response from you, which we have not had  yet.

  3. Sparker812000

    UC Davis students were greated by the following message in our inboxes from the Chancellor (warning: the video link may induce vomiting and/or hysterical laughter):

    Dear UC Davis students,


    This is the first in a series of video messages from me to keep you better informed on important campus issues and strengthen my connection with students. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. For more information, I also hope you will click here for a letter<;; to students.






    Linda P.B. Katehi

    1. Alan Miller

      Jesus, someone should tell her to get a good night’s sleep before recording video.

      [moderator] No more comments about personal appearance, please.

    2. Alan Miller

      Wow.  Her PR firm did their best on this pathetic video ‘attempt to connect’, but she is too detached to realize it was a horrible blunder, and they also failed to connect all the hydraulic lines in her face before they pushed the button that misfired that forced smile in the last two seconds of the video.

  4. Alan Miller

    Linda, you are TOAST. Give up. I have been trying to get rid of you ever since 2011 when you sent your police to attack protesters including people who are my friends, peaceful decent people.

    Every email from the University, as an alum and sibling of an alum, since 2011, I return with “Fire Katehi!”, strange that became the name of the 2016 movement.  Every article you wrote in the Vanguard I commented with the same two words “Fire Katehi!” until The Vanguard started censoring my practice “to respect article authors”.  Seems those words are no longer curse words.

    The University takes advantage of the short student memory cycle — they forget the wrongs of the University that year over the summer breaks, and 1/4 of them are gone when the next year begins.  There are those of us who are here to carry on the anti-institutional memory year after year until you are gone.  You have had the people under you take the blame, get fired, or move on, or resign. Karma has caught up to you. Time for you to GO AWAY!!!

    “I will find new ways to connect with our students”.

    God, GIVE UP!!!. Like after 2011 when you promised the same thing, and your answer was to walk around the M.U. with one of your student minions and a basket of cookies?  You are pathetic!  You are bad for the University.

    GO AWAY!!!

  5. The Pugilist

    It might surprise people that while I was very supportive of the protesters and their right to protest and I think the criticisms of them were misplaced, I’m not in favor of Katehi being fired or resigning.  I’m baffled by some of her missteps.  She clearly takes ownership but I’m not sure how well she learns from them.  But I think the university has advanced the mission under her.

    1. VG

      I fully agree with you….

      But, …

      I just went watching the full episode of “pepper spraying” on Youtube – it is really bad, bad, bad…..My son was UC Davis student and if he got pepper sprayed I would have told him – “he got what he was looking for”. I was student protester in ’68 – nothing radicalizes you more effectively than having your head broken by a police. It also advances your brain capabilities for political thinking.  It is a good student experience. But, looking at this children…, it brought tears to my eyes. I would have never allowed this if I were there at UC Davis. Chancellor should have jumped in between students and police and should have protected those students from the police. They are her children. She failed miserably. She was serving Napolitano instead.  …Will they ever forgive her … should they ever forgive her … They may be spoiled brats, but they are our children.  I do not know what to say any more…..

  6. ssc

    Among the list of “historic accomplishments” Chancellor Katehi has forgotten to mention her own feat of raising the art of obfuscation and circumlocution to an unprecedented pitch of perfection. What does it mean to “accept full responsibility” or “sincerely apologize” and then persist time after time in the same old pattern of unethical behavior? These are empty and worn words. We are sick and tired of them. Visit the link to her Youtube video (posted above by Biddlin) and read the comments. Judging by the likes/dislikes, UC Davis students are opposed to her by a 5:1 margin. The protesters that occupied Mrak Hall are not a tiny but vocal minority: they are the tip of the iceberg. Any reasonable person, with a sense of proportion and humility, would have stepped down by now. It seems that nothing short of an earthquake will dislodge her.

  7. Tia Will

    The Pugilist

    She clearly takes ownership”

    I do not agree with this. For me “taking ownership”means more than saying “mistakes were made”and that she regrets this. It means taking personal, not collective responsibility. It means leading in efforts to prevent further mistakes by first directly acknowledging and changing one’s own behavior. If one will not, or cannot do this, then perhaps it is time to acknowledge that one is not a good fit for the position they hold.

    I agree that the university has advanced part of its mission under her. I just attribute it differently than you seem to. As an alumni and volunteer faculty, what I see is tremendously hard work from the researchers, professors, lecturers, graduate students, teaching assistants, fund raisers and people in many other job classifications. I do not believe that Chancellor Katehi is personally responsible for much of what she takes

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