UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi is not likely to lose her job over the initial “scandal” – her moonlighting with for-profit educational enterprises or a textbook company. However, the revelations last month have made her look increasingly vulnerable and isolated, and have divided the campus in deep lines between the humanities and the STEM sciences, and, even in the latter, cracks are beginning to appear.
Every candidate for Davis City Council and every elected member of the council always talks about the need for better campus-community relations, but the last month has proven just how elusive that goal may be. More on that shortly.
For nearing four weeks, student protesters have held down Mrak Hall’s fifth floor lobby, demanding that the chancellor resign. It has been a public cat and mouse game, but, while the chancellor has been able to continue with business as usual despite the inconvenience, there have been increasing signs of strain elsewhere.
Staff and students have complained about the conduct of the student protestors, complaining of “the tactics of the protesters, including sexist and racist behaviors, threatening and bullying of staff, students and faculty who come to Mrak Hall to work.”
In the meantime, Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter wrote disparaging comments as well, complaining that the press conference was actually “to express solidarity with the protesters who have been occupying the reception area outside the Chancellor’s office on the 5th floor.” And complaining that “many of the protesters left extensive chalk graffiti throughout the building’s stairwells, on office doors, in Mrak corridors, in bathrooms, and on the building’s exterior walls and on the sidewalks. Later in the afternoon, a smaller number of protesters took it upon themselves to do their best to erase the earlier chalking on the interior of the building.”
Of course, while the protesters are calling for the chancellor’s resignation, the failure by the university to simply remove the protesters increasingly makes them seem weak and ineffectual rather than patient and tolerant. They clearly want to avoid a show of force, like what happened in 2007, then in 2010, and culminating in 2011 with the pepper spraying.
But, while the pepper spray incident clearly left a black mark on the campus, the current strategy that the university has developed has never really worked as hoped. The bank blockers were eventually brought to the courtroom, but, while they got slaps on the wrist, US Bank terminated their contract.
Ironically, by failing to act against the protesters, Chancellor Katehi is building a case against herself that she is weak and ineffectual.
In the meantime, the UC system increasingly looks isolated and insular.
On Monday, the state legislature held two hours of audit hearings. The good news is that the state legislature was able to get a commitment from UC officials to increase enrollment by 15 percent among California residents, specifically Latinos and African Americans.
But, while that is good news, look what it took to get this. The state had to spend money to do a year-long audit of UC that confirmed that their policies aimed at increasing non-resident enrollment and therefore collecting non-resident tuition resulted in an increase in non-resident students at the expense of the children of California residents.
To rectify this situation, the State Legislature of California is having to use a carrot rather than a stick. They have given UC $25 million in additional money in order to accommodate the resident students. As these things go, that is not exactly a show of force. Governor Jerry Brown and the Legislature are getting a mere 5000 additional California students this fall for their troubles.
If the state legislature has to effectively bribe UC to do make small policy changes, where does that leave our local community?
As we have noted before, the problems at UC and the policies of adding more non-resident students in order to produce more tuition revenue have local consequences. While UC Davis has undergone their outreach through the LRDP (Long Range Development Plan) process, the bottom line remains – UC Davis, whether it is comprised of international or local residents, will be increasing its enrollment by several thousand additional students in the next few years.
UC Davis officials like Bob Segar have already acknowledged that they either cannot or, more to the point, will not provide housing to accommodate those additional students.
For years, the city of Davis has come to agreement with UC Davis on a share of students that would be housed on campus and, to date, UC Davis has always fallen well short on their commitments.
The result of these policies has put tremendous pressure on local land use policies. Davis has remained a slow growth community, with the bulk of its residents to date passing growth control measures like Measure O (which instructed the city to go as slowly as legally possible), and Measure J and Measure R (which require citizen votes to approve new peripheral housing and other development projects).
The voters have also voted down two peripheral projects in the last ten years – Covell Village and Wildhorse Ranch, and a current project, Nishi, very much hangs in the balance.
The combination of slow growth city of Davis policies and the fast enrollment growth of UC Davis, combined with their own slow growth in housing, has left the city with a historically low (0.2 percent) vacancy rate, an increasing growth in mini-dorms, and an increasingly high commuter population of students and faculty.
Something has to give. There seems to be a belief by some that UC Davis can be talked into or pressured into expanding its housing on campus. But the facts of the last month suggest otherwise. Yes, the University of California is going to add 5000 additional in-state students (a small number, to be sure), but it took an audit and $25 million from the legislature to make it happen.
The city of Davis does not have any kind of stick and it certainly doesn’t have a $25 million carrot, so how is UC Davis going to be pressured by Davis into doing anything?
If anything, the last month proves just how insulated UC really is. The chancellor is able to continue with business as usual despite a stream of bad news, a group of students camped in front of her office and several state legislators, along with a number of students, faculty and alums, calling for her resignation.
The UC system rolls off a damning audit report and banks another $25 million in exchange for a modest increase in tuition.
Just how is anyone supposed to convince us that UC can be responsive at all to anyone’s concerns?
—David M. Greenwald reporting