Chancellor May attends meet-and-greets with students, faculty, members of the press on first day in new position

IAN JONES / AGGIE

At the press meet-and-greet, May responded to questions about student protest, Katehi’s salary, sexual assault prevention

To kick off his first day on the job, Chancellor Gary May attended several meet-and-greets in both Sacramento and Davis on August 1. The first event of the day, a breakfast from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., was held at the UC Davis Health Education Building at the UC Davis Medical Center in downtown Sacramento.

From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., a press meet-and-greet took place at the UC Davis Welcome Center. Around 30 members of the press were in attendance. May arrived with his wife, LeShelle, and gave a personal remark before welcoming questions.

IAN JONES / AGGIE

“It’s very nice to be with you this morning, on my first day on the job,” May said. “Although, actually, when the announcement was made in February, I […] started working for UC Davis then. I’m very pleased to be in a leadership role here, at one of the nation’s very best public research universities in the nation’s best university system. Everyone so far has been extremely warm and welcoming to me […] and I really appreciate that very much.”

When asked about his vision for the university, May said he hopes to improve the national and international reputation of UC Davis as well as create a holistic strategic plan.

“I’m very interested in raising the visibility of the campus and making UC Davis one of those handful of universities on the tip of your tongue when you think of the nation’s top research universities,” May said. “There’s a lot of different pieces [to that]. It will mean continued excellence in […] academic research. It’ll mean a continued emphasis on our well-deserved and well-earned reputation for affordability. Our continuing emphasis on community service, sustainability […] –– I’d like to bring all of these ideas together into a coherent strategic plan that will work for the university.”

May responded to several questions about former Chancellor Linda Katehi, who resigned after her questionable actions caused much controversy. A reporter from FOX40 stated that May follows an era of controversy –– “I hadn’t heard that,” he joked.

“My nature is to look forward,” May said. “I think I will be hopefully able to turn the page onto the new era. I understand that there were some challenges with the previous administration, I think that I’ve put those behind us.”

A recent Sacramento Bee article reported that Katehi will earn about the same salary she had previously made as chancellor. She will earn her $318,000 annual salary by conducting research and teaching a graduate engineering course each quarter. May said he did not personally sign off on Katehi’s salary, but did defend it when asked if he thought it was fair.

“Professor Katehi is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is a world-renowned scholar in her field,” May said. “That salary is certainly consistent with others of that same [caliber]. As [a former] Engineering Dean, I’m familiar with those salaries and her salary is not in any way out of bounds.”

May also responded to questions about student advocacy. At the Pack the Patio event, May was the subject of student protests regarding his outside board positions.

“I’m a strong advocate of a student’s right to express themselves,” May said. “As an undergraduate student myself, I was involved in similar things. It was, in my case, the Apartheid demonstrations I was involved in. I think it’s an important part of development and the education process for our students. I may even participate in a protest if I feel they’re relevant and I agree with what the goal is. I’ve already been the target of protests, so I [have that] experience as well. I’m enthusiastic about [a] student’s right and ability to question […] authority.”

At the end of the 2016-17 school year, a Rally Against Rape Culture was held in response to an article published by The Aggie which stated that the university had not “investigated a student organization in connection with a sexual assault” in at least the past 25 years. At the federal level, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has begun to reexamine the policies of former President Barack Obama, who expanded the means by which universities investigate sexual assaults.

Recently, in an interview with The Davis Enterprise, May said that his wife is interested in becoming involved with work involving sexual assaults. When asked what the university could do at a policy level if the federal government moves forward with dismantling Title IX protections, May responded, “Secede.”

“We’re going to follow that very carefully,” May said. “I think there’s enough resistance and debate even at the federal level to such actions that I’m optimistic that we won’t have to face that particular question. We have certainly a strong interest in protecting Title IX here, locally. One of the issues that myself and in fact my wife will be interested in tackling locally is sexual assault on campus and […having] some proactive measures to both prevent [it] from happening and also to come out and support a system for the victims of sexual assault.”

May was also asked to respond to Janet Napolitano’s pledge to protect undocumented students within the UC system.

“The president’s pledge is our pledge,” May said. “We’re part of the system and we will be complying with the system policies. I personally am dedicated to this issue as well, so I think we won’t have an issue there. I think it’s important for us to remain a place that welcomes people from all backgrounds, particularly folks from disadvantaged backgrounds such as the undocumented students.”
On a more local level, May was asked to respond to the City of Davis’ extremely low vacancy rate; he said that although there are no set plans to address expanding local housing for students, talks are underway.

“I had a very good meeting with the mayor of the city and the city manager over dinner […] a few weeks ago to talk about these issues,” May said. “I think part of the Sacramento initiative might have some impact there, we might be able to explore some housing opportunities. It might be a distance away, but it might relieve some of the stress here locally, in the city.”

May emphasized his hope to establish a mutually-beneficial partnership between the City of Sacramento and the university; he referenced the success of Technology Square, a partnership between Georgia Tech and the City of Atlanta which transformed a “fairly run-down, depressed area” of the city into a “highly vibrant live, learn, work, play environment.”

May answered questions from the press until approximately 10:47 a.m., at which point he met with reporters who had requested personal interviews.

Later in the day, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., May attended an Ice Cream Social in Davis, which took place on the North Lawn of Mrak Hall. Around 1,000 people were in attendance.

Written by: Hannah Holzer — campus@theaggie.org