Commentary: Media Focus on Protesters and Katehi Too Narrow

The Chancellor's representatives deliver message to the students early in the protest
The Chancellor’s representatives deliver message to the students early in the protest

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

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.

Related posts

52 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    I think that the editorial by the Bee takes far too superficial a view. It stresses annoyance as the worst thing about this episode. I see many episodes of poor judgement ( pepper spray, nepotism, self enrichment, lending the prestige of one’s own name and that of UCD to questionable educational enterprises, a failure to act decisively in dealing with student affairs on multiple occasions, blatant favoring of certain UC endeavors over others well beyond encouraging the entry of under represented students into the STEM fields, and defacto privatization of a public institution as far greater transgressions than the “annoyance” of a small number of students occupying a building.  And that is only with regard to the actions of this Chancellor and does not begin to touch on the system that allows theses kinds of behaviors to be sanctioned.

    And yet, because of her privileged position, we are supposed to give the Chancellor a pass with just an apology. What we have is a situation in which an individual has become “too prestigious to fail” mirroring the situation of other privileged national institutions ( banks ) which were judged “too big to fail”. Like Katehi, their leaders were given a pass, not sanctioned beyond a bit of public shaming despite the enormity of the damage done. I would prefer that these student protestors had a more appropriate venue than the administrative offices in which to keep these issues alive. Unfortunately our society is geared to encourage and protect those at the top, regardless of the damage done by their actions ( or the balance of their actions since it is undeniable that Ms. Katehi has been successful in some areas) while leaving others in less flashy fields of endeavor to struggle.

    1. South of Davis

      Tia wrote:

      > It stresses annoyance as the worst thing about this episode.

      If a bunch of “protesters” took over your home or office wouldn’t you be “annoyed”.

      I basically support the protesters and want a new Chancellor.  I just think that the protesters would get more traction letting kids on campus (and others in town) know about how she has hired her husband, daughter in law and friends to high paying jobs (in addition to all the moonlighting cash).

      P.S. Speaking of “too big to fail” and “too big to jail” I just watched “The Big Short” last night it is sad how unlike the “S&L” crisis in the 80’s almost no one went to jail.  Unless more and more people learn how the rich (Democrats AND Republicans) are working with the government to rip us off it will only get worse.  Under the current system when the rich steal they just need to give part of what they stole to the government (you can take a look at how Billion dollar “settlements” have increased).

      P.P.S. It is hard to believe that it was over 10 years ago when the kids at UCSC tried (unsuccessfully) to fire their Chancellor for ripping them off (including a $100K+ job for her partner just like Katehi) “When the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) hired Chancellor Denice Denton in 2004 the transition entailed her earning a salary of $282,000 a year and $600,000 of renovations made on her future house of residence, including a controversial $30,000 dog run.”

      1. Barack Palin

        Very interesting read and in many ways applicable to today’s situation at UCD.

        Earlier this month, to cite the most recent example, students surrounded Denton in her car in the parking lot, refusing to let her get out or drive away until they put on a skit about racism as part of their campaign to get more money for janitors on campus.
        Denton’s career — highly successful in many regards, but challenged of late — came to an end Saturday morning when she leapt to her death from the roof of a San Francisco high rise. Denton had been on medical leave for 10 days, missing the commencement ceremonies at Santa Cruz, but she had been expected to be back on the campus today.The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Denton’s mother told police that she was “very depressed” about her professional and personal life.

        https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/06/26/denton

        1. Frankly

          Yeah – I remember this sorry episode.   Irony abounds here for this topic.  Head UC executives certainly seem over-compensated by some measures, but they have a job made more difficult if their school has any significant liberal arts wing stuffed with the standard collection of hard-left victims,[edited] and chronic protestors of everything.

          Also, these are generally the same people demanding we keep increasing tax rates… which means that a more highly compensated senior employee is paying over 50% of any additional income to the state and federal government.  For example, if DeVry paid Katehi $400k, then at her existing income level, it is likely that at least $200k of that was required tax payments to government.

          Now those left-leaning victims that froth at the mouth about income equity would say that this isn’t a “problem” that they care about.  But they should.  Because as the rate of taxation increases the compensation for certain talent has to increase to motivate the talent to do the job.

          So these lefty kids and professors scream and yell about the very problems they help create.

          [moderator] edited for language

        2. Barack Palin

          Have you noticed how tired and stressed Katehi looks in recent photos?  It’s obvious the pressure of this current situation is highly affecting her.  I hope she’s taking care of her health during these stressful times.

        3. Alan Miller

          Have you noticed how tired and stressed Katehi looks in recent photos?  It’s obvious the pressure of this current situation is highly affecting her.  I hope she’s taking care of her health during these stressful times.

          She looked like crap in 2011 and 2012 as well.  She looks terrible after she makes terrible decisions and gets caught.  Most people I know who are in terribly wrong job situations for them look super stressed.

        4. Tia Will

          BP

          Very interesting read and in many ways applicable to today’s situation at UCD.”

          I am wondering how you see this article as applicable to today’s situation at UCD ?

          From my perspective, the key charges against Ms. Katehi seem to be based firmly in her own actions. I grant that there are some subsidiary complaints that seem to have crept in that have less relevance to her actions, but I while I do not believe that she has an obligation to accept responsibility that is not hers, I do believe that she she has made a number of judgment errors that make her a less than optimal choice for Chancellor of a public educational institute.

      2. Tia Will

        If a bunch of “protesters” took over your home or office wouldn’t you be “annoyed”.”

        I agree with most of your post and feel that the quote above is worth addressing.

        Of course I would. But probably not as annoyed as I am by the fact that the current policies of the UC system have consistently been focused on enriching those who are already the most privileged at the cost of the education of the children of California taxpayer’s including the of us who have volunteered large amounts of time to the UC system in support of ongoing educational efforts, only to see our own qualified children not admitted ( if we chose not to “pull strings”).  The emphasis of many seems to be on the “annoyance” caused by those who have no power rather than the major malfeasance of those who are the most privileged..

        1. South of Davis

          Tia wrote:

          > The emphasis of many seems to be on the “annoyance” caused

          > by those who have no power rather than the major malfeasance

          > of those who are the most privileged..

          It is not often that a UC Davis student comes from a super poor “no power” home just like we don’t have a lot of the “most privileged” (unlike Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Cal and Duke).

          Talking to friends that work on campus they tell me that like the “most privileged” the kids with “no power” (who came from total poverty and made it to UCD) seem pretty happy (since both the kids with no power and a lot of privilege expect to do better than their parents).

          It seems that most of the protesters/unhappy kids on campus are (the majority) in the middle who realize that unlike their parents who graduated with $0 in student loan debt and bought a Willowbank home with a huge backyard for $50K in the 70’s they will graduate (if they don’t go to grad school) with close to $100K in debt (double that if they get an advanced degree) and have almost no chance of buying a home in Davis as the rich/most privileged work with government to send more and more jobs overseas.

          http://www.exposethetpp.org/TPPImpacts_OffshoringUSJobs.html

          P.S. When you say “only to see our own qualified children not admitted ( if we chose not to “pull strings”).” does that mean that you had to “pull strings” to get your kids in to UC?

        2. The Pugilist

          “It is not often that a UC Davis student comes from a super poor “no power” home just like we don’t have a lot of the “most privileged” ”

          You like to talk in a lot of unprovable generalities.

  2. The Pugilist

    “If a bunch of “protesters” took over your home or office wouldn’t you be “annoyed”.”

     

    Is that really the test? Wouldn’t we negate all protest actions that inconvenienced people based on the annoyance factor? What about the protesters at Woolworths?  There seems to be no introspection here

    1. Barack Palin

       What about the protesters at Woolworths? 

      There it is again, Godwin’s Race Law.  Every Internet conversation leads to liberals making race references.

  3. Justice4All

    What an awful, condescending editorial by the Bee.

     “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.”

    This statement assumes that the occupiers are all a bunch of kids from wealthy families (the kind of families that have board members on a major newspaper editorial board). There is great diversity within the protester community. A few may fit the board’s condescending view, but the majority do not. Many have scholarships of one kind of another, others are grad students, others are up to their eyeballs in student debt. This kind of ivory tower editorializing is proof of just how out of touch some media outlets are with the struggles of students and the working poor.

    Moreover, the notion that the students are somehow annoying the taxpayers is painfully laughable. Its the taxpayers who ought to be outraged at Katehi. Isnt a 500k a year job at taxpayer expense enough to command your time? Why is there a huge double standard? If a grad student seeks employment in addition to their meager stipend, they face strict discipline, because “Graduate students are public employees, with a duty to serve the institution”. They are ethically barred from other employment, even though their stipend is nowhere near enough to support themselves.

    The double standard also applies to undergrad students. If an undergrad does something unethical, say academic fraud, there are serious, potentially life altering consequences for them, up to and including expulsion. If a student athlete takes a job that pays them over a certain amount, or if they take a free meal from a booster, they would not be able to simply say “Im sorry, it was a lapse of judgement.” and go about their business. Why do we as a society, and the Bee in particular hold students, grad students and student athletes to a higher standard than the Chancellor of a major university who makes more than the President of the United States in taxpayer money. If the President of the United States took a job at DeVry University, or King Abdullah Aziz, many of the commenters who post in this thread would lose their collective minds. Katehi cant simply apologize her way out of this, she needs to be held accountable by students, community members, elected officials, and most importantly the media.

    1. South of Davis

      Justice4Allwrote:

      > If the President of the United States took a job at DeVry University,

      > or King Abdullah Aziz, many of the commenters who post in this

      > thread would lose their collective minds.

      True, but you also need to remember that many protesting Katehi joining the DeVry board would be defending Obama (or Clinton) for doing the same thing.

      Remember I support the people protesting to get Katehi out, and I’m just trying to help when I let you know that “office takeover” protest rubs a lot of people the wrong way (even many people who have wanted Katehi to step down for years).

      I’m not telling anyone what to do but if the protesters spent less time changing the bathroom signs and more time explain all the ways Katehi (and her family and friends) were sucking money out of the system and creating a negative culture at UCD the protesters would have a lot more support from the people “right of center”.

       

       

       

      1. Justice4All

        Well there is a lot to digest in that post, and a lot of it has to do with perceptions. Ill start by saying that yes, absolutely perceptions are important, and if they are going to be successful at ousting Katehi, they need to broaden their coalition to include people who are center left center and center right. I say this as an ally of theirs, who is doing his best to do just that. Now, in order to better understand why they do what they do, you have to know who they are. They are politically radical. Many of them certainly could not be confused with Obama or Clinton supporters. They may agree with them on some issues, but by their very nature, advocating within the existing political system for change is not something they believe in (to varying degrees) This manifests itself with the gender neutral bathrooms. I think they are right about both Katehi and the gender neutral bathrooms (and about many many other things).

        Personally, I want to see Katehi fired. Shes damaging the brand of UCD. Shes corrupt, nepotistic, greedy and everyone who is paying attention knows it. The sooner the donor class wakes up to this, the better.

    2. The Pugilist

      Good post J4A.  The Bee was condescending.  It is notable that Dan Morain is on their editorial board and his wife used to be a spokesperson for the university.  But there’s no conflict there.

  4. Frankly

    The bar has fallen very low for justification for protest.  I say protest is justified if the standard avenues of bottom-up influence have been exhausted and the grievance is significant enough.  Otherwise the kids should be admonished for failing do take it through the proper channels and process.

    1. Justice4All

      Some of those “kids” as you derisively call them are over 30 and are PHD candidates. Protest is justified when the power structure refuses to be held accountable to the people. That is clearly the case here. You are not the arbiter of what is or is not justified. I find it ironic that you hold the protesters in more contempt than the Chancellor, who is a corrupt, unaccountable bureaucrat who makes more money than the President of the United States. Shouldnt she be held to higher moral and ethical standard than “kids” as you call them?

      1. Frankly

        You miss the point.  There are many things that I am irritated with in terms of behavior of powerful officials.  Do I organize a protest, or follow other more civil pathways to seek remedies? These students seem to just jump to protest while bypassing the more civil pathways that exist.

        1. The Pugilist

          You raise an interesting point, but lose sight of a few crucial differences.  You’re a 50-something old man who is relatively successful in business.  They are students.  Students have always been more likely to protest – I think it’s a combination of youth exuberance and ineffectual power.

          The other point is that while you say they “seem to just jump to protest” – the DeVry disclosure occurred March 1, it was fairly clear that the resolution was not going to be to their liking by the time they protested on March 11.  So jumping right to protest actually took ten days – a long time in the life of a story.

    2. Tia Will

      Frankly

       I say protest is justified if the standard avenues of bottom-up influence have been exhausted and the grievance is significant enough”

      And just what “bottom-p influence avenues would you suggest that the protestor take when the protested behavior originates and is perpetuated at the top ?

        1. Justice4All

          Actually, the point could really be made that there are no ‘avenues’ available due to the traditional autonomy of UC

          You are absolutely right about that Don. There is very little in the way of oversight of the UC system by state elected officials, which is why you see the blatant nepotism, corruption, privatization, and hypocrisy.

  5. Anon

    UC has stated emphatically it will not fire UCD Chancellor Katehi.  I believe that is in large part because the UC Regents themselves signed off on two of the board appointments Katehi chose to indulge in.  In essence, the UC Regents are covering themselves as much as the UCD Chancellor.  I understand the students position and frustration, but 1) they do not get to decide who gets hired and fired in the UC system; 2) their protest tactics have been less than pristine/optimum/lawful.  If the students were pushing for the UC Regents to revisit UC’s outside activity policy for administrators and faculty, I would be behind them 150%.  But to arbitrarily call for UCD Chancellor Katehi to be fired, and nothing else will do, misses the crucial point that Katehi had the permission of the UC Board of Regents for two of her questionable board appointments – especially the affiliation with the textbook company.  What were the Regents thinking?!

    1. The Pugilist

      The question is really what else comes up.  I agree they won’t fire her as of now.

      “What were the Regents thinking?!”

      It’s hard to find a lot of thought in all of this and these are intelligent people.

    2. TrueBlueDevil

      I find many of her moves puzzling, but not sure they rise to the level of being fired. One might think that leading a UC campus with over 5,000 acres and numerous professional schools would keep her busy enough. Plus the need for student housing, and a possible move to Sacramento (a new campus?).

      I can’t see Chancellors Mrak, Vanderhoef, Hullar, or Meyer prioritizing the extra monetary perks.

  6. TrueBlueDevil

    I did find it interesting from another Vanguard article where a letter from the Mrak protesters – from an allededly anonymous source in Mrak – posted that Katehi’s daughter-in-law is a top honcho in the Office of Student Affairs. Emily Prieto-Tseregounis.

    One rung from the top, and on the “executive” committee or such, at a young age. Only one career position before Davis as a Director at a Latino Resource Center. The anonymous Mrak protester alludes to nepotism and whether or not Prieto-Tseregounis was the most qualified for the job, and if the job posting followed university protocol.

    Second, Erik Tseregounis is also on campus in some type of PhD program. Are those tough to get into?

      1. South of Davis

        J4A wrote:

        > A little googling will show you where these individuals work,

        I’m always amazed what I can find on Google

        [moderator] edited

  7. Tia Will

    It is not often that a UC Davis student comes from a super poor “no power” home”

    I did.

    “P.S. When you say “only to see our own qualified children not admitted ( if we chose not to “pull strings”).” does that mean that you had to “pull strings” to get your kids in to UC?

    No. It means that my qualified son was not accepted. I did not and would not ever “pull strings”. But I am “deeply annoyed” that despite my status as an alum who has donated monetarily, but much more importantly in my mind, payed taxes as well as volunteered countless hours to training undergrads, medical students and residents and participated in student run clinics and other programs, my own qualified son was not only not admitted, but now I discover as have many others, that this was at least in part because slots were allotted to out of state students who were potentially less qualified.

    My son is completing his kinesiology degree at California State University at Sacramento. No strings pulled there either.

     

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      I came from modest means, first generation to go to college. Later as an alum I became aware that we placed less effort in gaining northern California as we recruited more minority applicants from Southern California. I always thought the emphasis was supposed to be academic excellence.

      A friend’s son was accepted, but was passed over for numerous scholarships and grants despite his strong grades and parents donations to the campus. His parents are alums. He ended up going elsewhere, and recently completed his PhD in astrophysics at another fine institution.

  8. South of Davis

    I wrote:

    > “It is not often that a UC Davis student comes from

    > a super poor “no power” home”

    Then Tia wrote:

    > I did.

    My sister also got in to Davis from a poor “no power” home and even in the early 80’s there were few kids like her at UCD with parents who were poor without college degrees.  Today it is even less so…

    > No. It means that my qualified son was not accepted.

    In the past mostly corrupt White Male Republicans ran the state and they gave special perks to their friends and family.  Many people were upset about this and voted most of the White Male Republicans out of office and replaced them with a mix of White and Minority corrupt Male and Female Democrats who now run the state, but unfortunately just like the White Male Republicans we find that Female Democrat Immigrants will also give jobs, money and college spots to friends family and donors when they have power…

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      Actually, for decades weren’t we led by white moderate GOP governors (George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson, Arnold), a black liberal power broker (Willie Brown), and liberal white state representatives?

      We were once tops in education, now we rank at the bottom. We spend hugely more money, but rank lower as we’ve let in millions of illegal immigrants.

      The current UC Davis administration seems to straight white males last.

        1. hpierce

          justice4all… if you look at CSU as well as UC, there are at least two new universities…. UC Merced, CSU Monterey in the last 30 years… 30 prisons? does that include jails?  Source?

        2. South of Davis

          J4A wrote:

          > California has built 30 prisons and 1 university

          > in the last 30 years. Priorities.

          I counted more than twenty 4 year colleges and universities in the last 30 years on the list at the link below:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_colleges_and_universities_in_California

          I couldn’t find a list of year opened but we also have added a lot of community colleges in California over the past 30 years (including the new campus in West Davis).

          P.S. Some California Community Colleges will soon be offering bachelors degrees

          P.P.S. The Wikipedia said: “From 1982 to 2000, California’s prison population increased 500%. To accommodate this population growth, the state of California built 23 new prisons at a cost of 280 million to 350 million dollars apiece.”  Did the state build 7 prisons in the past 15 years?

  9. Misanthrop

    Actually a large number of UCD students are the first in their family to go to the University. The recent letter from the UCD Foundation made this point. UCD is still a place for advancement of the underprivileged, maybe not like it once was but it still serves that function for many.

    I wonder how long this will drag on with the campus obviously divided and so many people choosing sides. Someone mentioned the donor class cutting their loses with Katehi and throwing her over but recent history of the Republican Party during the current election cycle shows that this class lives in a completely different reality than most of the rest of us including rank and file Republicans. They aren’t likely to throw Katehi over until they are out of options since she is doing to the University exactly what the donor class representatives on the Board of Regents wants, enriching the few at the expense of many and spinning off technical advancements to further enrich venture capitalists. While much has been made about Katehi’s conflict of serving on the board of a textbook company a Regent heavily involved with the student loan industry gets a pass and another who was in the riot gear business serves with impunity. Meanwhile more teachers are non-tenure track and much easier to control.

     

  10. The Pugilist

    “While much has been made about Katehi’s conflict of serving on the board of a textbook company a Regent heavily involved with the student loan industry gets a pass and another who was in the riot gear business serves with impunity. Meanwhile more teachers are non-tenure track and much easier to control.”

    Yep.

     

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for