Mrak Hall Occupation Continues with March and Press Conference

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By Ilse Atkinson

As the occupation of Mrak Hall continued through its 22nd day Friday afternoon, students rallied in large numbers in support for the “Katehi Ditch Day March and Press Conference.” In what was their largest demonstration yet, student activists continued to voice their demands for the resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi. The student occupation of the fifth floor of Mrak Hall has continued for the past three weeks, often consisting of 30 or more student occupiers. Friday’s event demonstrated the depth of support beyond these occupiers, as the march and press conference outside Mrak Hall drew a large crowd that later entered the building to occupy the hallways of the third, fourth, and fifth floors of Mrak Hall.

Plans for the rally were publicized earlier in the week, mainly through promotion on campus and online. A banner has been hung on the second story of Wellman Hall that reads, “Fire Katehi 4/1/16 MU noon” and has been highly visible to students all week as Spring quarter classes have resumed. “Fire Katehi” and other slogans have been chalked on the sidewalk and on buildings surrounding the campus quad. Students also disseminated information through a public Facebook event, writing that “we invite you to join us in protest by ditching class at 11:30 AM, meeting us at the MU by 11:45 AM and from there marching to Mrak, where we will be meeting Katehi for her resignation press conference at 12 PM.”

On Sunday, members of the UC Davis community received an email from the campus Office of Strategic Communications that spoke for Chancellor Katehi, saying that “Chancellor Katehi will not attend the protesters’ planned gathering on Friday, April 1, given that the event will not allow for her meaningful participation or the potential for a productive discussion of campus issues,” and assured, “The Chancellor has no plans to resign.”

The Friday demonstration began shortly after 11:30 AM, when a crowd began to gather around the flagpole at the UC Davis Memorial Union. Several students who had come from the Mrak occupation spoke briefly over a megaphone, handed out posters and a few t-shirts, and by 11:45 were encouraging the large crowd to march with them back to Mrak Hall. Students marched en masse from the MU through the quad, chanting loud calls and responses in unison and repeating slogans like “Hey hey! Ho ho! Chancellor Katehi has got to go!”, “Whose university? Our university!” and perhaps most often “What do we want? Resignation! / When do we want it? Now! / And if we don’t get it? Shut it down!”

At around noon, the crowd reached Mrak Hall and the press conference began. On a podium on the steps of Mrak Hall, various students and occupiers, as well as UC Davis faculty and members of the local community, spoke to a large crowd of student demonstrators.

Natalia Deeb-Sossa, an associate professor in the Chicano/a Studies department at UC Davis, spoke to the crowd in support of the student protesters, saying, “As faculty of the University of California, Davis, I stand in solidarity with the students calling for the chancellor’s resignation and occupying Mrak Hall. I am here today to deliver my support for the commitment and seriousness of the students regarding the educational mission of this university. I want to underscore my appreciation for the students who are taking this university, as a social institution, so seriously that they are willing to disrupt their lives and their studies.”

Occupier and organizer Maile Hampton addressed the crowd saying, “I choose as a taxpayer in this city, to say that I will not continue to sit and watch the tax dollars that I work hard for not go towards the students’ education and well-being, but into the hands of the greedy chancellor and the greedy administration that continues to protect her out of pure self interest. This struggle is not new. For years, students and workers have been rising up, doing sit-ins, marches, die-ins, and other forms of non-violent direct actions on campus to fight against tuition hikes, Islamophobia, racism– and here we are today, fighting against the same thing.”

Adilla Jamaludin, who was elected to ASUCD student senate in Fall 2015, spoke in support of fellow students, saying, “Chancellor Katehi has failed me as a student on this campus. Under her leadership, as many others that spoke before me have said, she has silenced victims of sexual assault, she has pepper sprayed student activists, and spoken against ASUCD resolutions. All of this is in addition to her moonlighting activities. Each and every one of those actions is an assault on the integrity of this community and everything that we stand for here today.”

After the long list of speakers was exhausted, student protesters invited the crowd into Mrak Hall, to participate in the occupation. A large portion of the crowd joined in, started to chant, and filed into the building, crowding the hallways and staircases. When the fifth floor, which had been the original location of the occupation, was filled, students took to the fourth and third floor hallways. At around 1:15, a group of students left Mrak Hall and marched towards the Mondavi Center in an unsuccessful attempt to intercept Katehi at a meeting on campus. As assured by the email from administration, Katehi was not present at the press conference, march, or occupation.

Ruben Gil, who also addressed the crowd at the press conference earlier Friday afternoon, was one of the protesters who stayed to continue the occupation of Mrak. He spoke with the Vanguard about his involvement in the student protests. He said, “Katehi prides herself, and has gone on record on the Huffington Post saying that she’s all about diversity, but what does diversity mean if you’re not keeping the students on campus, and if you’re not helping them graduate? We have one of the lowest retention and graduation rates of Latinx students and black students.” He continued, “I’m here saying we need someone who will deliver on those promises.”

Students have continued to occupy Mrak, despite threats of legal or punitive action, and have shown no intention of ending their occupation today. The support expressed from faculty, community members, and fellow students was larger in number than any previous demonstration calling for the resignation of Chancellor Katehi. As of yet, the administration has not responded to the demonstration or met with student protesters.

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33 thoughts on “Mrak Hall Occupation Continues with March and Press Conference”

        1. The Pugilist

          The university admin said 150 people, but either way, well over 30.  Notice the thread died after this was pointed out.  I guess if they can’t discredit the protesters due to small numbers, they are lost.

      1. hpierce

        The fact of the matter is probably that many (guessing 25-40%) ‘joined the assembly’ to see what it was about and ‘go with the experience’… know that happened with me @ UCD in the 70’s… no axe to grind, just curious (and bored with studying)… ‘kinda like a primordial ‘flash-mob’…

  1. Derpity_Doo_Da

    UCD student here.

    I really wonder what type of unstable personality gets involved in such events. I mean, yeah, Katehi stepped in it; and YEAH she should face some sort of consequence; but there are channels to go through to deal with this. I myself and bothered by the apparent conflict of interest of her being compensated by Wiley; and sitting on the bogus King Abdulaziz ‘faculty’ speaks to the dubious nature of her character; but I’m not up in arms about this as if my wife and children are starving as a result. It has only a hypothetical or theoretical impact on my life as a student (perhaps bad textbook deals?). I’ll sign a petition, I’ll sign my name on a letter, but I’m not about to foam at the mouth over it.

    Campus activists are so cringeworthy it’s sickening. If these kids get expelled I’ll shrug it off about as much as if Katehi is axed. Meanwhile, us serious students will resume studying and maintaining high GPAs.

    1. South of Davis

      Derpity_Doo_Da wrote:

      > I really wonder what type of unstable personality

      > gets involved in such events.

      I just read in the paper that Ronn Owens is moving after decades at KGO AM to KSFO AM in San Francisco.

      In the many years I lived in SF I would often listen to Ronn when I was in the car going to and from morning meetings.

      Ronn would often talk about his early days in SF when he would go to “hippie protests” over in Berkeley since “the girls were all a little crazy and were in to drugs and sex”…

      1. Derpity_Doo_Da

        >A little crazy

        >Into drugs and sex

        You’ve got to be out of your everloving mind if you think living loosely like that is a wise idea in today’s environment on campus. As a male, that is. Friendly reminder that there’s no due process if some “crazy” girl has sex with you while partying and decides to change her mind post-facto and report you.

        I’m here for a degree anyway, not a larger collection of notches on the bedpost. I see party culture as the flip side of the campus activist coin. Immaturity.

    2. Barack Palin

      Thank you Derpity_Doo_Da, you backed up what I pretty much expected.  This is just the usual small group of troublemakers on Campus, if it wasn’t this issue they’d come up with another one because they love dissension.

      1. Derpity_Doo_Da

        It honestly is a tiny minority. Most people at UCD are very competitive with their grades and don’t have time for these kinds of things even if they did care about the issue at hand. It also helps that this is a research university with a huge STEM presence. If it weren’t for the occasional chalk hashtag I would be entirely unaware of this brouhaha. I didn’t even know about the protest until I read about it a week into the thing. Avoid the quad and Coffee House (COHO) and you’ll never be exposed to the silliness of malcontents and loudmouths.

        God, I feel so awkward talking this way. I really am not a pro-status quo type of person. I guess it’s just the childishness I can’t stand.

        1. The Pugilist

          I find it it ironic that someone calling them self “Derpity_Doo_Da” is complaining about childishness.  I think there is a couple of interesting points missing here.  First, there is a divide on campus between the STEM disciplines and humanities that is planning out in their reaction to Katehi as a whole and protest.  The second is that while the act of protest itself might be very limited, the support for what the protest stands for goes much deeper.

        2. Derpity_Doo_Da

          Since we’re now engaging in a peeing match over monikers, you certainly live by yours, Mr./Ms. Pugilist.

          It’s as if you didn’t read my comments. I too express sympathy with the idea that Katehi should face consequences.

          Also, nowhere did I mention a distinction between STEM and humanities regarding opinion on Katehi. I was making a more broad statement about how there is less visible insanity on this campus as opposed to, say, Cal Bezerkeley, or any other campus with a reputation for belligerent and irrational (self-parody) activism. Davis is nice and calm most of the time because most of the students here are in real disciplines–the type rooted in empiricism–not pretend ones. Many of them are from overseas and paying out the behind, too. All of this contributes to a student body that’s largely concerned with, surprise, earning a degree. We have just the right proportion of humanities influence–not enough to cause any serious disruptions when temper tantrums flare up. Hope that clarifies.

        3. The Pugilist

          Moving beyond the monikers…  You have noted that “It honestly is a tiny minority. Most people at UCD are very competitive with their grades and don’t have time for these kinds of things even if they did care about the issue at hand.”  I think a lot of people care about the issue at hand, occupying Mrak Hall for three weeks is pretty extreme and I wouldn’t expect many to be involved.  However, I think this issue cuts very deeply and my reference to the divide between STEM and the Humanities is born out by who is likely to be concerned with the conduct of Katehi and who isn’t – mitigated by the comment below.

        4. The Pugilist

          BTW, for all of the psuedo-debate on how deep this goes, the fact remains that the occupation of MRAK has kept the pressure on the administration and kept the issue alive whereas the temptation would have been for this to fade – it cannot as long as students are occupying MRAK.  So the action has actually been quite effective by that measure.

        5. Miwok

          Last time, Pugilist, there was a “sit in” at campus, it was at the US Bank branch on campus at MU and was mainly maintained by a Faculty member that caused the University to lose the branch and a couple Mil a year in support for employee cards and on site banking, a paying vendor.

          I do not know what consequences the Faculty member had, but when I have reported misuse or outright stealing from the UC, they typically push it under the rug and prosecute the whistleblower in spite of the personable Press Releases.

      2. Derpity_Doo_Da

        @Pugilist

        The mounting scandal surrounding Katehi is large enough that a dozen screeching manbuns with nose piercings are not necessary to maintain the momentum. Her indiscretions have caught the attention of lawmakers. In fact, that’s where the scandal broke in the first place. It’s at THAT level that this ought to proceed. Abiding these adult babies sets a precedent that I am not comfortable with. The last thing we need is to give the eternally offended social justice warriors a sense of impunity and end up with scenarios like the Dartmouth library. Davis has escaped the outrage we’ve all witnessed at Mizzou, Yale, and other campuses in recent months. I’d rather we keep it that way. I’m here to get an education, not have raving green haired freaks hiss and spit at me. Best case scenario: Katehi is censured and the occupiers get their asses handed to them by Judical Affairs. Everyone gets what they deserve that way.

        1. David Greenwald

          I appreciate your thoughts DDD, but I concur with Pugilist. I think this would have all faded to the background without the pressure applied by the protestors that you are belittling. Mizzou, which I have a lot of ties to due to it being the Alma-matter of my mother and many relatives, would not have happened without student protests. Similarly, I wonder how many of these groups would have come forward without the protesters here. What you don’t know is how many professors are starting to call and contact me behind the scenes to tell me things similar to what a few are starting to post here and none of that would have occurred in the absence of continued pressure.

  2. UCD_stemfaculty

    I would like to comment on the STEM vs. Humanity faculty divide.

    I am a faculty member from Engineering. People in my direct chain of command have sided with Katehi very vocally in the press (Davis Enterprise, Sacramento Bee). There are actually people in different Engineering departments who have been hand-picked hires by Katehi, and may report back to her: a short list includes her own husband, Spyros Tseregounis, a lecturer with security of employment, teaching Engineering in Ethics (ENG 190); Subhash Mahajan, a member of the National Academy of Engineers (NAE) hired at the age of 78 years ago, who is in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and just received a retention package of $1.5 millions;  Jerry Woodall, another NAE member, in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), who was hired against the vote of the ECE faculty. These people attend faculty meetings on a regular basis.

    I am pretty much bullied into silence, my husband and I both work at UCD and we have two children. I have to be very careful with taking risks to my career.
    I received the email about signing the letter in support of Katehi, and refused to sign it, I but did not have the courage to sign the letter against Katehi. Fortunately, some of my colleagues did. It is possible that they are not as intimidated, because they are not directly exposed to Katehi’s nepotism and do not have hand-picked Katehi’s cronies/relatives sitting two chairs down from them in their faculty meetings.

    The climate on campus is toxic, and that is another consequence of Katehi’s stewardship.

    1. The Pugilist

      That’s in-line with what I have heard from my contacts on campus.  A number of very high profile people backed her in 2011 but their names are visibly absent this time around.

    2. Derpity_Doo_Da

      Thank you for your insight. I personally had no idea the nepotism ran that deep. Not that I’m surprised, I guess. Your omitted signature was as loud of a protest as is needed. If Katehi’s own amen corner is silent, it’s a loud and clear message.

    3. Miwok

      Engineering in Ethics (ENG 190)

      Not Ethics in Engineering? hehe

      Nepotism is the Middle Name of this place, and for the Faculty Member, even saying this much is dangerous. NEVER ADMIT you posted here, even to friends. I did, and was trying to make things better but by the time the upper Management not only told me to keep this to myself, they told my bosses I had reported on it. Then I was accused of lying. They assured my privacy was protected, but NEVER believe that. Protect yourself.

    4. David Greenwald

      I appreciate you coming forward and sharing your experience. This is precisely why we allow for anonymous posters so that you don’t have to worry about exposing yourself.

  3. ssc

    As another UCD STEM faculty member, I completely concur with UCD_stemfaculty. There is a cohort of STEM faculty beholden to Katehi for all sorts of behind-the-scenes special deals and favors: doing little or no teaching, arbitrary over-turning of unfavorable promotion decisions, being appointed to Chancellor’s “special adviser” positions (including her husband), etc. The flip side to this is that faculty who are genuinely concerned about her poor judgement and ethical standards are afraid to speak up, for fear of punitive repercussions. I have been at UCD for many years, and am appalled at the inexorable erosion of transparency, fairness, collegiality, and dedication to scholarship and classroom education that the Katehi administration has inculcated. Through “leadership by example” she has caused the cancer of rampant greed and selfishness to infiltrate the faculty ranks.

    1. David Greenwald

      I appreciate you coming forward and sharing your experience. This is precisely why we allow for anonymous posters so that you don’t have to worry about exposing yourself.

  4. Tia Will

    most of the students here are in real disciplines–the type rooted in empiricism–not pretend ones”

    I think that this statement and your admitted lack of awareness of the issue on campus until it had been underway for a significant amount of time are quite telling about the reasons for your attitude. The humanities are not “unreal” or “pretend” disciplines. There are many people who major in the humanities who go on to “real” careers both in STEM and non STEM disciplines. Part of a university education is to become increasingly aware of the issues beyond just making a living, that affect your life and the lives of your fellow students. A lack of awareness of major campuses issues demonstrates that while you are busy educating yourself in your “real” discipline, you may be missing out  on much that is of value in other areas of life, such as judgement and ethical standards, two areas in which Ms. Katehi seems to have neglected while pursuing her area of expertise.

    1. Derpity_Doo_Da

      I was not unaware of the scandal, I was oblivious to the tumult here on campus caused by the usual cast of Portlandia characters, er, I mean malcontents. For that I am thankful. The sturm und drang of the eternally pissed off is easily avoided here at UCD by avoiding the Quad and MU.

      As for the humanities, they are becoming increasingly useless as they move farther and farther down the post-modernist abyss. There are no heterodox viewpoints, there is no room for dissent; both of which hasten their race toward the nadir. Spend some time reading papers from humanities journals, it’s a foray into a realm of obscurantism and painfully embarrassing attempts at pedantry.

  5. MrsW

    Me, I try not to take anything for granted.  I am personally grateful to all of the soldiers overseas and all of the protesters at home who are fighting for American ideals, including a civil society and meritorious educational and economic System.  I know that I would not have the education or the lifestyle I have, if people before me hadn’t made huge personal sacrifices for those ideals.  I hope that my children have at least the opportunities I have had.

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