On Tuesday evening, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi held a town hall meeting to give faculty and staff a chance to ask questions and voice their opinions about the pepper spray incident on campus.
The meeting took place in Freeborn Hall. Faculty and staff ranging from Ph.D. students to tenured professors spoke. Molecular and cell biology professor Ken Burtis led the discussion.
Speakers had a chance ask questions of the panel, made up of Katehi, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter, interim UC Davis Police Chief Matt Carmichael and Vice Chancellor of Administrative and Resource Management John Meyer. The meeting began with opening remarks from Katehi and Hexter.
Katehi made many promises to the campus; to restructure if needed, to get to know the students better and to listen to what faculty, staff and students have to say.
“If reform is needed, reform is going to happen,” Katehi said.
Katehi once again expressed her sadness about the pepper spray event.
“As a Chancellor, as a faculty member, I pledge to you and the entire community, that I will do everything in my power that nothing like this happens again. And that implies a lot of work,” Katehi said.
Katehi also spoke of the future, and said that this experience could be a chance for the university to move forward.
“Great universities have become great, not because they have a set of values or because nothing wrong has happened to them. Great universities have established themselves because they have managed the crises and the challenges,” Katehi said.
Hexter then made an opening speech, which included a list of the independent investigations pertaining to the pepper spray incident.
He said investigations are being done by the UC Davis Academic Senate, UC Davis and the Yolo County District Attorney and Sheriff’s Office. The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) will be doing two investigations, one specifically about the pepper spray incident at UC Davis and also a systemwide review of all UC campuses.
Members of the audience who wished to speak were asked to take a number at the beginning of the meeting, and speakers were chosen by picking random numbers out of a fishbowl.
Ann Stevens, professor of economics, said that she believes there are many faculty and staff members who have opinions on the issues, but don’t have time to come and speak about them. She also highlighted the fact that she hoped that the real issue, tuition costs, would not be forgotten.
One speaker suggested that Katehi should take a salary cut, not because it would necessarily help the budget issue, but as a symbol of her commitment to the students.
Nathan Brown, the assistant English professor who authored a well-publicized letter calling for the chancellor’s resignation, came to speak at the meeting.
Brown said that the chancellor showed poor leadership, and that she made the wrong decision in calling in riot police.
“There is every reason to expect that when riot police are called onto campus to disperse a student protest, those students will be beaten by the police,” Brown said.
While some, like Brown, did say that they would like Katehi to resign, the majority of the speakers supported the chancellor.
Professor Emeritus of Plant Biology Emmanuel Epstein, UC Davis graduate class of 1940, was one of many faculty and staff members who said they support Katehi.
“Chancellor Katehi is an outstanding academic leader, second to none,” Epstein said.
Many speakers said that blame should be placed on the lack of funding for the UC system, not the chancellor. The theme of the current UC budget crisis was prevalent throughout the night.
Epstein also commented on the budget crisis, and seemed to summarize what many of the other speakers had to say.
“The real question, the real problem, is money, funds. Student unhappiness is primarily that tuition has become so expensive,” Epstein said.
Neither Hexter nor Meyer said a lot during the meeting, and no questions were directly addressed to them.
Many speakers brought up the issue of police on campus. Some advocated the dissolving of the campus police force while others looked to Carmichael about how the police force would change in the coming future.
When Carmichael was asked about what he is going to do to minimize crimes against the minorities on campus, particularly African Americans, Carmichael emphasized the idea of communication.
“The start is to open the doors, and then listen, and then learn,” Carmicheal said.
Throughout the meeting, Katehi said that she would be working hard to get to know students, faculty and staff better and would be trying to gain their trust.
“Trust, I think, is the result of many actions. No one just gets trust by default,” Katehi said. “Trust is earned.”
The entire meeting was recorded and can be found online at news.ucdavis.edu/special_reports/campus-demonstrations.
HANNAH STRUMWASSER can be reached at email@example.com.