The pepper spray incident of Nov. 18 placed the UC Davis administration in uncharted waters. We all know about the calls for Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s resignation and the six ongoing investigations, but what has largely been ignored are the more subtle effects the events of Nov. 18 may have had on seemingly unrelated decisions.
During October and November it looked almost certain that the university would be hiring a big-time athletic director, and UC Davis would be following the recommendations for sweeping change made by the Dempsey Report — possibly including the cutting of sports.
But Friday, Katehi released a letter stating that she has no intention of making major changes to UC Davis athletics. By no means does this statement translate into any type of official action, but it does present a drastic departure from previous expectations of what Katehi had in mind for UC Davis athletics.
We may never know the true motivation behind Katehi’s statement. Maybe she was swayed by the strongly anti-Dempsey Report sentiment expressed at each of the four town hall meetings. Maybe she was truly convinced that UC Davis could not support a major sports program.
Regardless, the immediate reaction of many was that Katehi’s decision was based on a post-pepper spray desire to avoid another controversy, like the one seen when four sports were cut in 2010.
While we have publicly opposed the cutting of sports by a new athletic director, we also believe it is important for the UC Davis administration to not only make the right choice, but to make it for the right reasons.
Judgments that affect the lives of UC Davis students need to be made based on logic and reason, not a fear of controversy. The university is constantly being faced with difficult decisions, and simply choosing the less-controversial option could ultimately cause more harm than good.
The pepper spray incident remains a black eye on this university, but our administration cannot have its hands tied by past events.