While the students left Mrak Hall on Friday afternoon, the pressure on the chancellor continues. The UC Student Association voted on Friday to formally call for Linda Katehi to resign or be terminated from her position as the Chancellor of UC Davis.
Last week, three more state legislators – Assemblymen Mike Gatto, Freddie Rodriguez, and Mark Stone – joined previous calls by Luis Alejo, Lorena Gonzalez, Evan Low, and Kevin McCarty asking Chancellor Katehi to resign.
To date, the chancellor has declined to do so. The Bee reported this weekend that Chancellor Katehi said that the university will respond to the Bee’s report that UC Davis spent at least $175,000 “trying to scrub the Internet of negative references” to the pepper spray incident on the UC Davis quad November 18, 2011.
She told the Bee, “There is going to be a response to The Bee because The Bee has … misrepresented the facts. There is going to be a response on Monday.”
On Friday, UCSA voted to call for the chancellor to resign as well.
“The pepper spray incident shaped student protest and campus response for the last five years. After the incident, Chancellor Katehi abdicated responsibility, but still felt it was necessary to initiate an impossible hunt to save her reputation,” said UCSA President Kevin Sabo following the vote.
“This is not a lapse of judgment, but a pattern of Katehi’s blatant disregard of her responsibility as a UC leader,” he continued. “Katehi is collecting a $425K salary, ample compensation given the fact that students on her campus desperately need resources like affordable housing, crisis food intervention, mental health support, and financial aid.”
“Students regularly request leaders in Sacramento to provide much-needed revenue to the UC. We hold our administration to a high standard that it spends that money responsibly,” he said. “Public relations professionals at UC Davis today insist that this money was not paid for by tuition revenue or public funds.”
“I have to ask: where did that money come from?” he continued. “Is there a donor out there who chose to fund PR stunts over scholarships? Was it worth it, now that the image they tried so hard to delete is etched deeply into the memories of students and legislative leaders who consider these actions egregious and corruptive?”
The release noted, “UCSA Board members also voiced anger that, during student protests about Katehi’s leadership, safe spaces for student protesters like signage for gender-inclusive restrooms were removed by Katehi’s staff.”
In a letter from Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter, he addressed the stories concerning the UCD marketing budget and the hiring of external vendors to change online search results.
He argued, “These stories mischaracterize the facts. The campus hired outside consultants, using no public or student funds, to optimize search engine results in order to highlight the achievements of our students, faculty and staff.”
He continued, “Even if such a thing as eliminating stories and images from the Internet were possible, ‘pepper spray’ will always be part of UC Davis’ history. Every day we are trying to make sure we incorporate the hard lessons we learned. Our sensitivity to and acknowledgement of the importance of free speech and protest is evidenced by the approach the campus took to the sit-in on the fifth floor at Mrak.”
UC Davis claims, “The external vendors referenced in The Sacramento Bee article on April 14 were brought in primarily to improve our capacity and expertise in digital communications. We recognize that it is not even possible to remove content from the Internet, and that was not our intention.”
The Bee released some of those documents showing that, in January 2013, UC Davis signed a contract with Nevins & Associates for six months that paid $15,000 a month.
One document reads, “Nevins & Associates is prepared to create and execute an online branding campaign designed to clean up the negative attention the University of California, Davis, and Chancellor Katehi have received related to the events that transpired in November 2011.”
Among other things it says, “Online evidence and the venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the Chancellor are being filtered through the 24-hour news cycle but it is at a tepid pace. Our campaign will expedite this process through strategic placement of online content and an increased adoption of Google platforms that will serve to specifically target viral content found on YouTube and in search results on Google.”
Among the stated objectives is included, “Launch an aggressive and comprehensive online campaign to eliminate the negative search results for UC Davis and the Chancellor through strategic modifications to existing and future content and generating original content as needed,” as well as eradication of references to the pepper spray incident in search results on Google for the university and the Chancellor.”
“It is troubling that the administration chose to spend scarce public dollars and to nearly double its PR budget when tuition soared, course offerings were slashed and California resident students were being shut out,” said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty. “These findings just raise more questions about university priorities.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting