Faculty’s no-confidence vote fails against UC Davis chancellor

Courtesy of Los Angeles Times

Following two weeks of online voting that ended Friday Feb. 17, UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi has endured a faculty-initiated vote of no confidence.  The vote was prompted by the controversial pepper-spray incident at UC Davis where police, at Chancellor Katehi’s order, had confronted protesters.The victory was won by a landslide; 69 percent, or 697 of the 1,009 voters marked for the continued leadership of Katehi. An estimate of 37 percent of current and former UC Davis faculty members participated in the online referendum voting, with 2,693 active and emeritus faculty eligible for voting.

However, the results were not all smooth-sailing for Katehi since a similar motion passed which condemned the Nov. 18 pepper-spraying of UC Davis student protesters. The separate measure, which passed with 586 to 408, recognized Katehi for furthering the height of the campus’ academic achievements since her election into office in 2009. It also acknowledged her apology for police actions and her effort to prevent similar problems in the future. The measure stated, “It is time to promote a constructive healing process rather than risk more harm by pressuring the chancellor to resign.”

By ratifying the second measure, faculty members have voted to denounce “both the dispatch of police in response to nonviolent protests and the use of excessive force that led to the deplorable pepper-spraying events of Nov. 18,” along with opposing violent police responses “to peaceful demonstrations on campus.”

“The results gave just as much support as it did criticism,” stated third-year UC Riverside student Ivy Pham in an interview with the Highlander. “These are useful ways for Chancellor Katehi to assess her performance.”Faculty members who have supported Katehi often point toward her impressive history with UC Davis, where she has served as chancellor since 2009. “We are very fortunate to have a person of her caliber in a leadership position to help make our university one of the leading universities nationally and internationally,” stated Tilahun Yilma, a professor of veterinary medicine at UC Davis, in an article by the Huffington Post. Other faculty members have noted that the police response on Nov. 18’s pepper-spray incident have eclipsed Katehi’s past accomplishments and warrant her removal. “A wise leader would not have ordered the police to act against non-violent demonstrators,” stated David Copp, a philosophy professor at UC Davis.

A third measure, which passed by 635-343, delved specifically into utilizing police only as a last resource and banning the use of force against peaceful protesters.

University of California President Mark G. Yudof has expressed his firm support of Chancellor Katehi. “In response to recent protest-related controversies, the chancellor has demonstrated both her integrity as a leader and her personal empathy for all members of the UC Davis community,” stated Yudof in a press release from the UC Office of the President (UCOP). “It was Chancellor Katehi who, rightfully, first requested that the Office of President organize an independent and in-depth investigation of the incident in question. That inquiry, being led by a task force comprised mainly of Davis stakeholders, is well under way.”

The investigation reports are expected to be released within a few weeks. “While we are trying to be swift in releasing the report, we have an obligation to the campus community not to be hurried,” stated retired Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, who is leading the investigation team.

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