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Saturday, September 18, 2021

UC President places UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi on investigative administrative leave

BRIAN NGUYEN / AGGIE FILE
BRIAN NGUYEN / AGGIE FILE

Katehi’s temporary departure from UC Davis follows widespread criticism for controversial seats on for-profit boards, $175,000 spent to mend university image

University of California (UC) President Janet Napolitano announced late Wednesday night that UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi has been placed on investigative administrative leave. Provost Ralph J. Hexter will replace Katehi as an interim chancellor during her leave.

Napolitano’s announcement follows recent widespread criticism circling Katehi in regards to the chancellor holding seats on two for-profit boards and recent documents being unveiled that detail UC Davis spending at least $175,000 to erase references to the 2011 pepper-spray incident from the Internet.

“I am deeply disappointed to take this action,” Napolitano said in a statement. “But Davis is a strong campus, nationally and internationally renowned in many academic disciplines. I’m confident of the campus’s continued ability to thrive and serve California students and the Davis community.”

Napolitano explained that Katehi was placed on leave because of potential violations of UC policy, including inappropriate use of student funds and questionable employment of Katehi’s immediate relatives.

“Information has recently come to light that raises serious questions about whether Chancellor Katehi may have violated several University of California policies, including questions about the campus’s employment and compensation of some of the chancellor’s immediate family members, the veracity of the chancellor’s accounts of her involvement in contracts related to managing both the campus’s and her personal reputation on social media, and the potential improper use of student fees,” Napolitano’s statement read. “The serious and troubling nature of these questions, as well as the initial evidence, requires a rigorous and transparent investigation.”

Additionally, Napolitano detailed in a two-page letter to Katehi that the chancellor would be placed on leave for at least 90 days as an independent investigation looks into Katehi’s employment of daughter-in-law Emily Prieto-Tseregounis as the chancellor’s chief of staff, as well as possible pay increases that may have raised Prieto-Tseregounis’s salary by $50,000 over the last two and a half years.

Napolitano also expressed concerns about Katehi’s actions in spending university funds to erase the pepper-spray scandal from the Internet, as well as her behavior during the incident itself.

The announcement also comes in light of Katehi affirming via email to the university’s Academic Senate that she is 100 percent committed to UC Davis.

“This email is to let you know that I am 100 percent committed to serving as Chancellor of UC Davis,” Katehi said in the email. “I sincerely appreciate the strong outpouring of support I continue to receive from the campus community and I very much look forward to continuing to lead the campus to greater levels of success and excellence in the future.”

Following the news of Katehi’s leave, UC Student Association President Kevin Sabo released a statement criticizing Katehi for her behavior while chancellor at UC Davis, in addition to commending Napolitano for her decision.

“We represent 240,000 students who expect a pattern of principled leadership,” Sabo said. “But Katehi proved to be just the opposite through her actions during the pepper spraying incident in 2011, her efforts to cover it up, and her history of moonlighting in industries directly opposed to the mission of public education. The UC must do better by its students. Katehi collected a $425K salary while students on her campus skipped meals, lived in their cars, and sat on the floor in their classrooms. The UC has plenty of challenges – nefarious Chancellors should not be one of them. We applaud President Napolitano’s decisive action and commend her for standing with students.”

In her statement, Napolitano confirmed that she will hire a third-party investigator who will look into Katehi’s actions. Interim Chancellor Hexter is expected to release a statement on the news on Thursday.

Written by: Jason Pham – campus@theaggie.org

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