By Sean Raycraft
The wealthy and powerful play by a different set of rules than the rest of us. We see it manifest in the political world, the media, and the criminal justice system. The Linda Katehi affair is no different. Those of you who know me, know that I work for a grocery store. I am prohibited by the terms of my employment to seek further employment in the grocery industry, because it would create a conflict of interest. Clearly, those same standards of conflicts of interest do not apply to Chancellors of the UC system. Linda Katehi was (and still is) paid very well by the State of California taxpayers to be a public servant. In fact, her compensation package was well over $400,000. One would think that 400,000 a year of taxpayer money would be enough to buy the people of California a Chancellor committed to the mission statement of the University of California at Davis.
The mission statement of UCD is as follows, according to their website:
“The core purpose of UC Davis as a comprehensive research university is the generation, advancement, dissemination and application of knowledge. To that end, UC Davis is committed to offering leading programs throughout the academic disciplines and in its professional schools. These programs integrate three purposes: teaching students as a partnership between faculty mentors and young scholars; advancing knowledge and pioneering studies through creative research and scholarship; and applying that knowledge to address the needs of the region, state, nation and globe. UC Davis is committed to the land-grant tradition on which it was founded, which holds that the broad purpose of a university is service to people and society.”
One wonders how serving on the boards of for profit institutions like DeVry University and textbook giant John Wiley and Sons and being Chancellor of a public university is not a conflict of interest. Katehi received $420,000 in compensation from the textbook company. DeVry University was set to give her 70,000 per year in compensation. Both DeVry and Wiley and Sons have a legal responsibility to their shareholders to pursue profits above all other endeavors. How does that mesh with the mission statement of UCD? The pursuit of profit and the broad purpose of a university to service the people and society are mutually exclusive. Linda Katehi cannot both serve the interests of a giant textbook company or a for-profit university and the public interest, for which she is paid for by the public.
So why write this now? Linda Katehi’s lawyer yesterday publicly released a triumphalist statement, arbitrarily declaring her largely exonerated of all improprieties. I write this because I am offended as a California taxpayer by the cavalier attitude expressed by Ms. Guzman her public statement. At best, the former Chancellor’s actions were unsavory, or unwise. Both are traits unbecoming of a public servant who makes 400,000 a year of California taxpayer and student tuition money. While Katehi has resigned, it is important for citizens to remember just what occurred and why. How many of us who had so egregiously violated the mission statements of our places of employment be given such preferential treatment? How many of us would be given lofty titles like Chancellor Emeritus and a six figure, tenured position? I think the vast majority of us would be tossed out on our butts and told not to complain about it. The rich and powerful always seem to win, even when they lose.
The whole Katehi affair has been a symptom of a wider disease. People who work in the public sector ought to serve the public good, and not to improve the bottom line of private enterprise. The Katehi scandals have only come to light after intense public protests, including a sit in that lasted more than 30 days. The local and national media were also not friendly to the now Chancellor Emeritus as well. Let’s also not forget that she probably should have been fired after the pepper spray debacle. Special rules for the rich and powerful right?
But what has all the protest and media attention done? Katehi will still be wealthy and influential on campus and in the Capitol halls. The conditions that allowed her to explore employment opportunities that violate the public trust still exist. How many other UC Administrators have similar employment or obligations? Why do highly paid UC Administrators even seek such employment? Why do they get to play by a different set of rules than the rest of us? When can the UC return to the mission of furthering human knowledge and servicing the public good?
I would like to see UC students and UC Workers and faculty be involved in the search for a new Chancellor. Students pay the high tuition rates, which pays the salaries of all these highly paid administrators. The workers and faculty are the people who make UCD the institution that it is. They deserve a say in who runs this institution. I would also like to see the new Chancellor as someone whose primary goals in life are not personal enrichment, but the furthering of human knowledge and progress. But mostly, I would like a Chancellor who plays by the same rules as the rest of us.
Sean Raycraft is a lifelong Davis resident, and a proud shop steward