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Davis

Davis, California

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Fifth floor of Mrak Hall closes to public after Fire Katehi sit-in

ALEXA FONTANILLA / AGGIE
ALEXA FONTANILLA / AGGIE

Floor accessible to university employees with keys after security concerns

Following weeks of protest against UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, who is currently on paid administrative investigative leave pending an investigation into alleged unethical behavior during her time as head of the university, the fifth floor of Mrak Hall is now only accessible via key.

After allegations emerged against Katehi regarding her ethics when news broke that she was on the boards of for-profit institutions and that she was involved in spending $175,000 to erase the 2011 pepper-spray incident from the Internet, some students and faculty members began calling for her resignation.

Following the revelations, students protesting Katehi began a 36-day, nonviolent sit-in on the fifth floor of Mrak Hall, where the Office of the Chancellor is located.

After the students left the fifth floor of Mrak Hall on April 15, the floor became closed to the public. As of today, access to the fifth floor requires a key, which is only provided to employees.

However, visitors can call ahead or ring the doorbell at the top of the stairs in order to gain access to the floor. Visitors with mobility limitations can be accommodated in a number of ways, including using the elevator if necessary.

Andy Fell, the associate director for UC Davis news and media relations, said that the university had concerns about safety and building security which was what led to the closing of the fifth floor.

There have been long-standing concerns about building security, key control and access in Mrak Hall and other campus buildings,” Fell said. “We are currently in the process of installing modern card-key access for Mrak Hall and discussing the best way forward that balances appropriate access, convenience and security.”

Leilah Lockett, an incoming transfer student to UC Davis, said that she understood why the fifth floor of Mrak Hall was being closed to the public, but felt that it was representative of a larger problem that the university has with transparency.

“One of the reasons I hesitated to SIR to UC Davis was because of this Katehi scandal,” Lockett said. “While I did decide that it wasn’t a big enough deal to deny myself a chance at my dream college, I do feel that closing the floor where the students were protesting is a bit much, considering it feels like they are trying to hide something from the public. I understand why they did it, especially after the long sit-in, but I just feel like there was a better way to deal with the aftermath of the protests than just closing the entire floor down.”

Nolan Matter, a third-year political science student, said that he sees why the university was keeping the fifth floor of Mrak Hall closed, but hopes that it will be reopened to the public eventually.

“Given that the staff on the fifth floor were put under so much stress, from being videotaped walking into the restroom to being shouted down merely for walking alongside their chancellor, it is understandable they are not ready to open the floor up to the general public,” Matter said. “We are hopeful that the floor will eventually be reopened again, but we believe that the protest on the fifth floor hindered constructive dialogue that is necessary for moving forward.”

Written by: Sangeetha Ramamurthy – campus@theaggie.org

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