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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Mrak Hall occupiers halt private meeting between ASUCD and Chancellor Katehi

JAY GELVEZON / AGGIE
JAY GELVEZON / AGGIE

Pressure increases for Katehi to appear at a final press conference with protesters at Mrak Hall on April 1

At 1 p.m. on March 30, occupiers from the sit-in at Mrak Hall halted a private meeting between Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and ASUCD officials at Meeting Room 1 in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC).

About 15 protesters gathered outside of the meeting room, demanding that Chancellor Katehi either come outside to speak to them publicly or allow the protesters to enter the room and join the conversation.

Marco Antonio Rosales, a history Ph.D. student who has been part of the ongoing 20-day sit-in, said that Chancellor Katehi, as an important public figure, has made mistakes in both her professional career as chancellor and meeting with ASUCD behind closed doors.

“When someone in her position makes a mistake, it is her responsibility to address the concerns of the people she’s supposed to serve; she has failed to do so,” Rosales said. “We have called for her to speak to the protestors and the student body for 20 days now. What she has done instead is to meet behind closed doors with people [ASUCD] who do not represent […] the group of people who have been calling to hold her more accountable, namely the 100 protesters.”

Katehi has tried on a few occasions to address the protesters and the student body, though not directly facing the protestors by herself. On Mar. 15, five days into the sit-in, Katehi, Associate Vice Chancellor Milton Lang and two other faculty members met with the protestors on the fifth floor of Mrak, but left approximately five minutes into the conversation after Katehi deferred to the faculty members to speak on her behalf.

On Mar. 17, Katehi sent out an email to the student body clarifying her resignation from DeVry’s board of education and her past involvements on the board of John Wiley and Sons, a private corporation that produces and sells textbooks, and the board of King Abdulaziz University.

The protesters and many other members of the student body claim that these modes of communication are inadequate ways for Katehi to address their concerns. According to Rosales, the protestors demand a direct, face-to-face conversation with Katehi herself.

During the meeting at the ARC today, Katehi and ASUCD began negotiating with the protesters to join the meeting since they couldn’t proceed with the loud banging on the door.

Both ASUCD and Chancellor Katehi had invited the protesters to join them in the meeting,” said Dana Topousis, the director of UC Davis News and Media Relations, in an email. “They had full confidence that the protesters would engage in a conversation today. The protesters chose not to participate, unfortunately. Chancellor Katehi continues to seek opportunities to have a meaningful conversation with the protesters, as she does with all students.”

According to ASUCD President Alex Lee, who served as the main facilitator of this meeting, two of the protesters were invited to this meeting for the group’s representation, but they did not show up when the meeting began.

When the protesters began banging on the doors of the meeting room, President Lee and two other senators began negotiating with the protesters outside of the room, offering only ten of them to come in due to fire hazard concerns or some of the occupiers to replace the seats of senators.

The protesters rejected both offers, demanding that all of them should be let in.

Finally, President Lee, Katehi and the rest of the administration agreed to allow all 15 protesters to join the meeting under the condition that they could not record the conversation. They declined this final offer and demanded Katehi to appear at a press conference on their own terms.

“There was no point in continuing the meeting,” Lee said. “The protesters told me, ‘If you’re a real student leader, you would walk out of that room and end the meeting.’ […] I said to the administration, ‘This is how they feel. I don’t think we can have a productive meeting at all.”

With all parties agreeing that the meeting could not proceed, Lee first had the administration leave, followed by the Senate, who were ill at ease from the loud banging, according to Lee.

The only items discussed during the approximate 15 minutes of the meeting were the community rules, which are the basic logistics of how the meeting should proceed.

As a final effort to communicate with the chancellor, protesters invited Katehi to join them in a press conference to address the student body on Friday, April 1, according to a video posted on the Fire Katehi Facebook Page.

Written by: Julian Leus – campus@theaggie.org

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