On Wednesday, the Sacramento Bee editorial board came out with an editorial arguing that it was time for the protesters to go. As the editorial put it, “Katehi certainly erred, as she acknowledged to lawmakers at an oversight hearing on Monday. Lending the University of California’s legitimacy to a for-profit college in exchange for a $70,000-a-year board seat was a cringeworthy lapse in judgment.”
This error they acknowledge was “magnified” when it came out that she joined other questionable boards, including the college textbook vendor.
The editorial writes, “But Katehi has now been apologizing for more than a month. And while time will tell whether her stewardship has worked well for UC Davis, it’s past time for the students to end the demonstrations they’ve staged since March 11.”
Instead now, the editor turns the focus on the students, noting that they are “[f]orcing university staff to work around sit-ins, heckling harried administrators, using passive-aggressive gestures and noises to subvert public hearings” and, while these are within their First Amendment rights, “they aren’t furthering their cause, unless that cause is to annoy taxpayers and make parents wonder whether anyone actually is going to the classes they’ve paid for.”
The editorial goes on to add, “The students want Katehi to resign and the UC to admit to some structural moral failing. But in life, not every bad call is a fireable offense, and not every bit of wrongdoing is proof that the system is broken.”
I agree with the Sacramento Bee that Ms. Katehi has “accomplished some great things” for the university. In fact, I will acknowledge being supportive of many of these efforts. Last year the Vanguard brought on the Chancellor as a guest columnist because we felt that she should not be defined by the pepper spray incident.
At the same time, the student protest really isn’t about a few lapses in judgment by the Chancellor. If the Chancellor is going to lose her job it is not going to be based on what we currently know. The UC President has already said she is not going to remove the Chancellor. The Chancellor has already said she is not going to resign.
If the Chancellor is going to lose her job, it will be based on some secondary issue that we are not aware of to date. This is where I think the Sacramento Bee is missing the bigger picture.
For the last few weeks, the Vanguard has been receiving three or four anonymous tips a day on the Chancellor and the university. Not every tip pans out. Some are far-fetched and unlikely. Some are unprovable.
But the picture that is beginning to form is not necessarily a good one. When I say anonymous, I mean people using anonymous text message sending apps. I mean people using anonymous email. I mean people calling me with phones that project fake numbers to hide their identity.
The message I hear repeatedly is one of fear. As one anonymous person told me in an email, “I am appealing to you for maximum secrecy. I absolutely do not trust our upper administrators and they can easily retaliate against me.”
This is not an isolated message but rather it forms a pattern that those in the university fear speaking out due to retaliation. Some of these are non-tenured faculty who have pending applications to become full professors. Some of these are tenured faculty who fear losing access to grant money and other resources.
The problem with the Chancellor serving on the Wiley board has deeper implications than we might think at first. People with knowledge of the situation have told the Vanguard, “I get the feeling that the media doesn’t understand our purchasing system, and maybe could be asking better questions. “
While it is true that professors ultimately choose the textbooks, UC Davis still has purchasing power that it uses to create special purchasing agreements with various vendors – in which UC Davis gets a better deal.
No one in the media has really looked into the question of how much business UC Davis has done with Wiley.
It is interesting how the media atmosphere has changed in the four and a half years since the pepper spray incident. At the time, the Davis Enterprise had a full time reporter who really worked hard to uncover problems at the university. He has since moved on.
From our standpoint, the presence of the occupying protesters forces everyone to continue looking at the situation on the university campus. Would people be coming forward with these tips without the continued conflict? Hard to know.
The Sacramento Bee editorial makes note of changes that are underway in terms of the Chancellor quitting the DeVry board and donating stock compensation from the textbook company, UC re-examining outside board commitments, and a potential annual performance review by Napolitano – all of which is good and needed, but the problems here seem to go deeper than a few indiscretions by the Chancellor, and no one seems to want to look much deeper.
In the end, the protesters are viewed more as a nuisance to the day to day operations of the campus, but no one is pointing a finger at the toxic atmosphere on the campus itself.
At this point, I am inclined to believe that the Chancellor will survive this, but it is increasingly clear that this is a divided campus – there are those who support the Chancellor and believe in her vision and those who do not.
While that has for a good time seemed like a divide between the sciences and humanities, there seem to be cracks and fissures opening up there as well.
The next few weeks will be very telling – if no new solid revelations come out, the Chancellor will survive. I am not sure she can survive another major shoe dropping.
—David M. Greenwald reporting