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Davis, California

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Letters to the Editor: Response to UC Davis protest

Letter #1:

Like many, I was surprised and distressed by the images of UC Davis campus police dispassionately spraying pepper gas in the faces of obviously non-threatening protesters. As a UC Davis alumnus from a time when there was even more campus protest (1972), I was perhaps more surprised than others at the unwarranted and, frankly, counter-productive police response in this situation.

One of the reasons that during the late ’60s and early ’70s the Davis campus avoided the violence that faced many campuses during that time — a violence that reached its tragic height in the shooting deaths of four protesters at Kent State — was that the administration, led by Chancellor Meyer, declined to engage in strong-arm, repressive tactics in response to student protests. Instead, Chancellor Meyer met with protest leaders, engaging them in a serious exchange about their grievances and demands, and set a tone of moderation that avoided aggravating the campus situation. In a later interview, Chancellor Meyer referred to the tear gassing of protesters at UC Berkeley as “one of the dumbest things that anyone ever could think of.”

This approach was not limited to the campus administrators and police, either. When more than a hundred people sat on the railroad tracks to stop the transportation of war supplies to the Oakland shipping yards, the city of Davis Police responded moderately and respectfully.  Protesters were advised that they were on private property and that if they didn’t leave they would be subject to arrest. Each was given a chance, before arrest, to leave voluntarily. Everyone was instructed about the difference in charges that would result if, instead of cooperating in their arrest, they were to “go limp”, which was considered resisting arrest.

Cooperating individuals were escorted one-by-one to the police cars;  non-cooperating individuals were carried by two or three officers to the police car. No one actively resisted arrest. The only violence that was even hinted at was when a Southern Pacific train that was being blocked tried to advance toward the protesters on the tracks, forcing some protesters to scramble from the tracks to avoid being hit. The police quickly ordered the train to stop. The entire process of clearing the tracks took much longer than it would have had the police simply pepper sprayed the crowd. But, no one was injured and the police response didn’t provoke additional protests.

I hope officials on the Davis campus and those in the larger community find the wisdom to avoid responding to protests in a way that endangers protesters, police officers, media representatives and by-standers and serve only to encourage greater disruption.

Don Hubin
Class of 1972

Letter #2:

As a UC Davis mechanical engineering alumnus and 2012 Presidential candidate, I am saddened by the disturbing images of Friday’s pepper spraying incident. During the mid ’80s to early ’90s, students on campus routinely expressed their discontent through peaceful demonstrations, protests and sit-ins. To my knowledge, none were greeted with close-range, facial aerosol sprays. Last Friday’s encounter is completely contrary to the UC Davis community of my memory and fondness.

Jeff Lawman class of 1991
2012 Presidential candidate

Letter #3:

I understand that Professor Brown is probably quite intelligent, but I would like unshakable proof of police spraying into students’ mouths.  Clear visual or audiovisual media content would be appreciated (not everyone has time to watch every clip on Youtube).

In addition, it’s all very well and nice to have Chancellor Katehi leave but wouldn’t there be a replacement? As inadequately qualified for the chancellor position as Katehi is, I consider people who are of her paygrade despite working in education, a vocation in which most quality educators are underpaid, to be as corrupt as your friendly neighborhood politician.

I must therefore conclude that her replacement would not be any better. Whereas if she stayed, she could be dealt a more appropriate punishment (such as a nice, large pay cut) and the students would have a chancellor who would know that her misdemeanors in leadership would be punished.

Meanwhile, might I add that this hullabaloo about UC Davis is not only ludicrous when considering the UC Berkeley incident in comparison, but it also distracts from the causes the students were originally protesting for.  It must be quite amusing for the “1%.”

Speaking of the Occupy movement, I have a pet theory. If the people who help manage the assets of the 1% (whether by monitoring their finances or by scrubbing their floors, they all play their roles) collected their allotted salaries and quit, and no one else came to replace them, that would be much more efficient than protesting. For the middle class, most of these tasks are DIYs, but the wealthy have too much to handle on their own. They would still be able to afford to continue their luxurious lifestyles, but if they were not allowed to, they simply wouldn’t be able to.

Rebekah Lee
Animal biology major

Letter #4:

It is regrettable that some students were pepper sprayed by a Police Officer last Friday November 18th during a protest regarding UC finances and budget cuts.  However, it seems that pleas for her resignation are short sighted.  UC budget cuts are more of a state legislative matter than a campus matter. Thus far, the issue has become a national news story and there are thousands of signatures supporting her resignation. Most likely a high ranking officer commanded the police to pepper spray the students, not the Chancellor.  The Chancellor has already demanded that the officers be censured.

There are so few women in Engineering, let alone women chancellors in the U.S. who are also Engineers.  Chancellor Katehi is a noted Engineer and seems to have overcome a great deal of adversity as a female to reach her position on campus.  Although not all of her policies have been popular, she has carried out her position with marked professionalism.  In light of current events, she seems to be in the cross-roads of a series of circumstances.

We as UC Davis Scientists and Engineers support Chancellor Katehi and denounce her calls for resignation.

Dr. Boaz Arzi. DVM. Resident
Kyriacos A. Athanasiou, Ph.D., P.E. Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering (as himself and not representing the department as a whole)
Bess-Carolina Dolmo, MPP & PhD Candidate Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Jerry Hu
Dr. Angelique Y. Louie. Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Jeni Lee


  1. I am a parent of a UCD student. Don’t start down the road of telling parents that everything is okay, and standing behind an obviously weak and ineffective leader. Your asking us to believe because that because this woman happens to be an engineer, and has had obstacles to overcome, that she should get a pass? I guess the police chief, also a woman, and probably having overcome her own obstacles, should also get a pass?
    I don’t trust them to make good decisions and protect the students. They are bad at their jobs. It doesn’t take an engineer to run a university. It takes someone with skills in human relations, so find that person. Now!

  2. I could not help but notice the blacked-out badge numbers of the officers involved in the pepper-spray assault on the Quad. It would be only just if the Aggie could publish the names, badge numbers and photos of all involved, leading with the perpetrator himself.
    T. Wildman


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