UC Davis Physicists to Chancellor Katehi

By John Conway | November 22, 2011 4:16 pm

Chancellor Linda Katehi
November 22, 2011
UC Davis

Dear Chancellor Katehi:

With a heavy heart and substantial deliberation, we the undersigned faculty of the UC Davis physics department send you this letter expressing our lack of confidence in your leadership and calling for your prompt resignation in the wake of the outrageous, unnecessary, and brutal pepper spraying episode on campus Friday, Nov. 18.

The reasons for this are as follows.

• The demonstrations were nonviolent, and the student encampments posed no threat to the university community. The outcomes of sending in police in Oakland, Berkeley, New York City, Portland, and Seattle should have led you to exhaust all other options before resorting to police action.

• Authorizing force after a single day of encampments constitutes a gross violation of the UC Davis principles of community, especially the commitment to civility: “We affirm the right of freedom of expression within our community and affirm our commitment to the highest standards of civility and decency towards all.”

• Your response in the aftermath of these incidents has failed to restore trust in your leadership in the university community.

We have appreciated your leadership during these difficult times on working to maintain and enhance excellence at UC Davis. However, this incident and the inadequacy of your response to it has already irreparably damaged the image of UC Davis and caused the faculty, students, parents, and alumni of UC Davis to lose confidence in your leadership. At this point we feel that the best thing that you can do for this university is to take full responsibility and resign immediately. Our campus community deserves a fresh start.


Andreas Albrecht (chair)
Marusa Bradac
Steve Carlip
Hsin-Chia Cheng
Maxwell Chertok
John Conway
Daniel Cox
James P. Crutchfield
Glen Erickson
Chris Fassnacht
Daniel Ferenc
Ching Fong
Giulia Galli
Nemanja Kaloper
Joe Kiskis
Lloyd Knox
Dick Lander
Lori Lubin
Markus Luty
Michael Mulhearn
David Pellett
Wendell Potter
Sergey Savrasov
Richard Scalettar
Robert Svoboda
John Terning
Mani Tripathi
David Webb
David Wittman
Dong Yu
Gergely Zimanyi

CATEGORIZED UNDER: News, Science and Society
  • http://www.johndanley.com John Danley

    Concise, well-written, and veraciously reasonable.

  • Bette Noir


  • Jason Dick

    Words cannot express how much I love this.

  • Student

    Is there a credible source that says she is the one who authorized force? Does she even have the authority to do so?

  • chemicalscum

    I am profoundly impressed by the integrity of this response.

  • Davis Undergrad

    Katehi deserves to be listened to. She brought the camp three outhouses this morning, offered them sandwiches for lunch, and met with students at our popular coffee house. Don’t let 50 radical students fool you. Nobody else wants her to go. And glad to see the three physics prof’s I’ve had at Davis did not sign.

  • max

    Are other departments writing similar statements? Links?

  • Ariel

    Investigate before commenting. She personally requested the riot gear clad policmen. It is easy for you to dismiss it “Davis Undergrad” since you didn’t experience it. Nobody else? Take a look at the petition with 80,000+ and growing demanding her resignation in just a few days. Plenty more of your faculty signed as well. I believe she deserves no less than being peppersprayed directly in the face and down her throat herself – may she have a very enjoyable Thanksgiving and be grateful for her remaining time at Davis – it will be short.

    And your ignorance indicates you are obviously not taking advantage of your education.

  • Blackstone

    Once confidence has been breached, it’s irreparable. Especially to someone in authority.

  • NewEnglandBob

    Someone send her a cooked turkey, sauteed in pepper spray.

  • abadidea

    Davis Undergrad: While nice, how does bringing students sandwiches change what happened?

    And while no-one can make you if you don’t want to, since everyone else at UC Davis is signing their real names to the petition, it’d be nice if you’d use your real name or at least your “real” internet name too. If they’re brave enough to put their name to demanding change, you can certainly be brave enough to putting your name to maintaining the status quo. Transparency!

    (I do not have any connection to UC Davis whatsoever.)

  • Student

    Ariel, can you provide a source for your statements?

  • Caroline Kaltefleiter

    Well written. The key now is to keep the pressure up over the next few days as administrators are banking on the story fading due to the holidays. Those of us in higher education are watching. The chancellor must go…To do nothing sends the message the academy condones such actions. In solidarity with the faculty and students of UC Davis.

  • Naomi Rhoads

    At this point Katehi is trying to keep her job. But if her apology for bringing police on campus in riot gear with assault rifles as well as pepper-spray and causing the pepper-spraying of non-violent seated protesting students (as proved by scads of videos from folks on the scene)….she can FIRE the campus police chief and the police who perpetrated pepper spraying (incidentally military grade pepper spray at distances much closer than authorized and totally against the regulations permitting pepper spray in California prisons….where a guard who pepper sprayed a seated inmate would be up for dismissal).
    ACTIONS speak louder than words. Katehi’s original words were to order the police, to blame the students and only later did she reverse herself when she saw she was confronted with national and international coverage and indignation.

  • Eric


  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Excellent job, John et al.

  • Rich Patrock

    Thanks to the physicists for making the quantum leap in advertising their values where it counts.

  • Arun

    The university stands in the place of the parents (yes, I know, many of the students are now adults), but the university should be to the extent possible protecting them, not treating them to riot police.

    The university also meant to be a place of freedom of ideas, of expression and of dissent, over and above what is allowed in the outside world.

    And all what the physics faculty wrote.

    Katehi should go.

  • Brian

    This is a complete over-reaction. The chancellor had little or nothing to do with what happened. It was clearly written in the Davis police regulations that if a person needed to be moved pepper spray was preferable than trying to move them which could cause physical harm. This policy is probably endemic in the entire UC Davis system. Furthermore the chief of the UC Davis police is the one who made outrageous comments in order to justify what his officers did. Not only that but the students were violating campus policy and so they are not completely without blame.

    Note that I did not say they should have been pepper sprayed. I simply said that the Chancellor is not the one who wrote the regulations that these police officers were trained to follow. Asking for her head implies a lack of understanding of the situation.

  • Bad Boy Scientist

    I am soooooooo tired of hearing the excuse “They did it by the book”. The Book is fucking stupid if it mandates that civilly disobedient protesters should be subjected to chemical weapons. Yes. Oleoresin Capsicum Spray (AKA pepper spray) is considered a chemical weapon. BTW: It isn’t permitted in warfare in case anyone wants to send it to people you know in Iraq or Afghanistan). But “The Book” permits using it on American citizens who are engaged in non-violent demonstrations. Yeah. Gotta love that whole Democracy thing.

    When a soldier follows orders s/he may be guilty but the one who issued those orders is definitely guilty. If we do not start holding accountable those who issue orders we might as well welcome in tyranny. Is it unfair to hold the Chancellor of UC Davis accountable for the consequences of her order to deploy the troops? Maybe – a bit. But it is also unfair for young men to die in defense of their country while fat cats make bank on wars. Life is unfair.

    Life really *is* unfair.

    But somehow we can accept that when a farmer’s son is incapacitated in an unjust war of aggression and yet we cannot cope with it when a wealthy and influential person loses her (or his) job over it. Frankly I have much more sympathy for the quadriplegic Iraqi war vet than any Chancellor who has to ‘vamp’ as a administrative VP somewhere until people forget that she was the one who said “Release the Hounds”

    But I’m kinda sentimental that way – I see men and women who *volunteer* for the military as heroic and I see admins who send in the riot squad as cowards. If there were justice in this life – she’d be confined to a wheel chair for the rest of her days and the youngster who went to defend America would have to deal with disgruntled students.

    The problem with America today is everybody with power is a coward.

  • Gill

    Katehi has a lot more involvement with police presence and policy on campus than you might have thought. You can read this short post over at Crooked Timber:


    She should have, and probably did, expect the police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters. She ordered them in anyway. That makes her culpable.

  • http://chuckthisblog.wordpress.com Joe

    What do you get when you mix physics and politics?

    Don’t know. But whatever it is, it isn’t physics.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/ Ethan Siegel

    Good for the UC Davis Physics faculty!

    It’s very important to stand up and voice your objections to these clearly unacceptable actions, and to stand up for the protection of your students.

    I am sure every single person on that list has their own reasons for signing, but for me, it’s particularly telling to see Steve Carlip’s name there. He’s one of the kindest, gentlest and most genuine people I’ve ever met in physics, and for him to call on the chancellor to resign really speaks volumes about just how egregious what’s gone down at UC Davis is.

    Kudos to all of you.

  • Davis Undergrad

    I am so sick of people from around the country signing this petition without knowing anything about the situation. I was at the pepper spraying, I have friends who were pepper sprayed, and I am incredibly upset at the ucdpd. I just believe that our message is getting distorted.

    This is not about getting the chancellor to resign. It is about raising awareness towards our tuition hikes and police brutality. Katehi figures nowhere in this equation.

    Btw, I have friends who slept in the quad last night and I am a high ranking member within ASUCD. Let me reiterate, no one with any clue wants her to go. Katehi has done more for UC Davis in the last 2 years than anyone else has in the last decade. Who are you going to hire with this budget crisis for anything less than 400k. This is a top university. Check how much the other top 40 US universities pay!


    95% of that 80k who signed are outsiders and that is a fact. One of my coworkers slept in the quad last night and she said most of them are supportive of Katehi so if you’re an outsider, just back to you soap operas. GO AGS!

  • paul kramarchyk

    Katehi should go. Security force involved should go. With regard to the subject incident both are grossly incompetent and borderline criminally negligent. More, the university, Katehi, and the cops will be distracted by dozens of expensive civil suits all of which they will lose.

  • I

    @24 Davis Undergrad: while you may have an intimate connection to Davis and its protestors, and are justifiably agitated about the initial and utterly warranted message about tuition hikes getting downplayed, don’t lose sight yourself of the fact that the UC Davis situation embroiling Katehi is much larger than you, your protestor friends, and Davis itself. Perhaps you have a sense of this, or have some wider perspective; but your post suggests otherwise. All students, faculty, librarians, coaches, bargaining units, staff, graduate student unions, etc. across all 34 UC and CSU campuses have a stake in the outcome, and what is happening at Davis is symptomatic of more global issues in CA education (perhaps even all the way down the line to K-12 education). Whether or not Katehi has been good for UC Davis is not irrelevant, but it is also beside the larger point of sending a clear and unequivocal message to all chancellors, presidents, and mid-level bureaucrats that people in top-most positions of power and authority can actually be held accountable for their decisions—particularly when, under their stewardship, the result is inappropriate or otherwise unwise enforcement of (often questionable) policy.

  • Mandeep

    Wowza — that sounds like a pretty big chunk of the dept, most of the folks i know on it. As a UCB grad, i feel remotely connected to this, and my gut reaction from what i’ve seen of it all so far is those cops should be *summarily* fired, but i’m not as sure about Katehi. But — i’m not there, and with so many folks signing a letter like the above, i have a feeling she won’t be able to hold onto her job for so long…

  • John

    Davis undergrad, I realize it’s frustrating that the world seems to have lost sight of the original goals of the UC Davis protest. But rest assured, the world will not forget the reasons the students were there, once we get past this stage. Change is messy, and ugly, and slow.

    And please understand that the faculty would have written and signed the letter above regardless of the motivations or cause of the protesters. It is just not acceptable to use pepper spray or other extreme methods on non-violent, non-threatening protesters.

    The threshold for the use of methods like pepper spray has been clearly established in our courts. In Lundberg v. County of Humboldt, the 9th Circuit Court made it crystal clear that police can’t pepper spray non-violent and non-threatening protesters, period. The actions of the officers on the scene, their commander, and, yes, the chancellor herself were a clear and direct violation of the constitutional rights of the students, and in my opinion they should all face appropriate civil and criminal action.

    That the use of paper spray in particular has somehow recently become acceptable, or “standard practice”, is something that must be reversed. I sincerely hope this incident will force police departments all over the country to rethink their militarization, and their tactics for dealing with situations like this in the future.

    As to the basic message, though, of the protesters, the threat of truly huge increases in UC tuition loom. In September President Yudof proposed increases of 8-16% each year for the next four years: that’s an 36-81% increase, on top of the huge increases in the past decade. That would bring tuition at UC to around $22,000 per year, up from about $8,000 just a few years ago.

    The faculty have labored mightily to continue to deliver the same world-class level of education despite no increase in the salary scale for four years (and one year with a 10% furlough), huge increases in health care contributions and increased contributions to the retirement system. Department budgets have been slashed, services (even as basic as janitorial) cut to the bone, and departures have gone unreplaced. But there is a fierce commitment to continuing to provide the quality of education that made the UC the best public university system in the world.

    Yet, with the automatic cuts in Sacramento triggered by the budget shortfall, more cuts to the funding of higher education are on the way. How will we maintain the integrity of the fundamental organization of our campus? How will we grow to meet the needs of a growing California population? How will we continue to attract brilliant minds to the faculty, the core of the institution?

    These are the issues that Katehi should be focused on, and was focused on, until she allowed this tragedy to occur. After much anguished deliberation, the signers of the letter above felt that after these events there was no way she could effectively carry on in that role. It is a tragedy for her and for the university, and we are all very sad that it came to this.

  • Susy Boyd, BA/MA UC Davis Alumnus, 1989

    @ #6, “Davis Undergrad”
    Actually, 85,000 (and growing) people want her to go. Have you taken Critical Thinking yet?
    I would strongly suggest it. Sandwiches? If she gave me a Platinum Am Ex card with a $10,000 limit I would still be seeking her departure from our campus. The students in the tents want her to stay. Hmmm, interesting. Because at the rally on Monday which I attended, I watched over 3,000 students screaming “resign” as soon as she walked off the stage. If you take a Communications course, which I used to teach at UC Davis, and did graduate level research on persuasive strategies and tactics as I did, you will learn that people use a multitude of strategies to persuade the masses. I have been having a field day watching Ms. Katehi engage in one after another in a desperate attempt to cling to her position utilizing those strategies.
    There is a reason that our culture looks upon physicists’ intelligence with a certain amount of awe. The letter submitted by the UC Davis Department of Physics is evidence that we can add integrity and bravery into the mix. Thank you.

  • Frank Ricard

    @Davis Undergrad, We’re… We’re going streaking! We’re going up the quad and to the gymnasium.

  • Simone Frank

    Having police wear riot gear doesn’t implicitly imply they should go pepper spray the protestors. Implying that having your police wear riot gears means you tacitly wanted them to pepper spray students is EXTREMELY bad logic. Stating that Chancellor Katehi did anything wrong at this point is just pathetic rabble rousing from people who want to stir up things without proof.

    The police near Sproul plaza have riot gear on – even on a quiet night when almost no one is there. I walkeded by there last week every night. They wear riot gear. That doesn’t mean anyone has instructed them to use pepper spray.

    I am disappointed with the physics department. I would think they would rely on facts and science – and not just jump on some media frenzy.

    Yes, the police screwed up. In no way shape or form, did Katehi suggest to them to do this. Blaming her for the actions of one policeman is not reasonable. It is not rational. It is not based on facts.

    Linda Katehi has supporters. Much of the student body supports her. Just the media – and now apparently scientists who should do better – are now joining in without any factual reason to do so.

    I am not sure why they think losing her would be good for UC Davis.

    When bad things happened at Berkeley, we didn’t turn our own and blame higher-ups without cause.

    Also, if an FBI agent shoots someone due to his own poor judgement in a situation, we don’t try to fire the president. Perhaps we look at HIGHER UP administrators in the FBI itself.

    Why are faculty members acting so immature at Davis and so much more mature at Berkeley? I find this very disappointing.

  • Simone Frank

    Also, Chancellor Katehi did not ALLOW this tragedy to happen. John wrote that she was focussed on the RIGHT things until this event happened certainly means that she should keep her job now.

    Sending in police to peacably remove people from camping on a campus is a reasonable goal. Acting like Campus administrators can just let there be tents and random people sleeping all over a campus is not reasonable. There is no PROOF that she encouraged or told police to use force.

    Someone stated above that leaders in many cities and on many campuses also sent in police; it’s a choice that obviously most civic and campus leaders make.. It’s not clear there’s an easy path through this – to keep the campus population safe from encampements and keeping the protestors safe from police – it’s a fine line that needs police to behave without brutality – which didn’t happen.

    The UC Davis physics faculty clearly need to grow up and see things from a bigger point of view.

    Yes, people were pepper sprayed. Yes, it was horrible and wrong. Police brutality is very wrong. This was VERY WRONG of that policeman to do. Yet, in the bigger picture, this hyperbole and fingerpointing is completely ludicrous.

    If someone was doing a good job at their job before this – as most people think – and someone far removed from them makes a mistake- it cannot be better for the campus for a good campus leader to be forced to resign. This will only damage UC Davis’ reputation.

    Where is the rational discussion of why it would make sense for her to resign based on evidence?? I just don’t understand this bizarre witch hunt from people who are usually so intelligent and rational.

  • Simone Frank

    Susy Boyd: Have you taken critical thinking yet? Why insult students?

    So what if 85,000 people supposedly want her gone. Proof by thousands is bull. How many thousands of people thought Obama was not born in America? Does the number of idiots willing to state their opinion based on non-facts make something relevant, and does that mean we should have booted Obama from the presidency??

    Plus, cite your source on that. Many many many Davis students and faculty want her to stay. There are a lot more than 85,000 people who think she should stay. There are even more who just don’t care and don’t think a policeman pepper spraying something is relevant as to whether an administrator is doing his/her job well.

  • Daniel

    Clearly, this is a over-reaction!! She brought bologna/cheese sandwhiches & 3 porta potty’s. What has this world come to? I want to live in a country where aggresive partisan chancellors can freely demand it’s minions to disperse chemical substances upon it’s non-violent students but then express remorse with BOLOGNA SANDWHICHES!!! Now maybe if she would have added Capri Sun’s maybe this would have just gone away. What more do you want??? Do you know how hard it was to drive to Subway & get a crap load of sandwhiches? Doesn’t anyone have compassion for Linda’s enormous decison between chicken salad & philly cheese steaks????

  • steve young

    I think this is a great response, in part because it’s a group of essentially sanctioned-as-well-reasoned folk speaking truth to power, and coherently at that. Hopefully this will lend it an amount of popular credibility. These ‘Davis principles of community’ are American principles of community, and should be taken just as seriously by every citizen.

    The question of whether Katehi was the one who authorized the use of force is a good one. But the way I look at it is as follows: if I were in a position of power, and something this lame happened on my watch, I would immediately issue an honest and transparent statement, and engage the community in whatever way was necessary to inform them as to what actually went down. What I saw in writing from Katehi was instead weak double-speak and shallow rhetoric. It seems to me a reasonable explanation that she is trying to keep her job, and gloss over what was perhaps an isolated fuck-up. But what seems more reasonable is that someone who was able to aspire to such a position would know when to sack up and take the fall in a more honorable fashion than what has been displayed.

    @ highlighted John 28 (an above-signed?), wrt the budget cuts short-sightedly being heaped upon higher education: if some class time were devoted towards training students in effective means of organization and civil disobedience, as well as pointing out who exactly is making these budgetary decisions, I think this could make a big difference. I don’t know how much this would do for the general needs of the California population, but you just might be a big part of fixing the world. What has happened so far was instigated by a hacker group and a single canadian magazine — imagine what could happen if a few ivory towers tried to make a difference *PEPPER SPRAY*.

  • Huy Tu

    @26 I and @24 Undergrad: I concur with @26. It’s no longer about student agenda as UCD is a public institution. PUBLIC means open for public reviews and evaluations. Not only Katehi should resign, but UC president Yudorf should as well. Both UCB and UCD fiascoes are backward, barbaric, and uncalled for. There is no place in the USA for this kind of negligence and ignorance of 1st amendment rights.

  • Ben

    It doesn’t matter if she actually authorized the pepper spray or not. It was not like this was the first pepper spray incident at an Occupy Wall Street protest. There have been 2 months worth of incidents, and she should have taken preventative action before she ordered the raid. She should have told the officers not to use violence against peaceful demonstrators under any circumstance.

  • Huy Tu

    Katehi reportedly said the police officers were technically following protocol (on videos). This is an incompetence and a technical failure (her apology is a moral failure). At least one cop blogged otherwise on SFgate (link below): “…I see no reason why these protesters were sprayed when it appears you could have just ignored them. Let them have their say ….they have that right.” So what is this? Did Katehi imply they were technically following her orders? or she was ignorant of police work? Either way it’s incompetence, dangerous, and harmful.

  • Huy Tu

    How incompetent and negligent is Katehi? …. Sen. Leland Yee issued a letter to UC president Mark Yudof Nov. 21, calling for an independent investigation into the pepper spray incident rather than a task force handpicked by UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi. — “She gave 30 days to report back,” noted Adam Keigwin, Yee’s chief of staff. “It takes about 30 seconds to realize there’s been wrongdoing.” Read more:

  • Huy Tu

    Sadly Katehi is now an object of ridicule around the US and the world. Read this:
    “…She may sound proper but she is just a plain ol’ bitch who hates her students and their right to free speech. The students responded by holding a silent protest as the Chancellor walks to her car. A very awkward 2:39 seconds I must say. Everyone at UC Davis should have seen something like this coming though when a pompous Brit declared herself “Chancellor” of anything. Her daily meeting of high tea with her students is going to be very lonely for the rest of her life.” read more:

  • Student

    Still looking for evidence that Katehi authorized this level of force…

  • Economics

    @24 Davis Undergrad
    I’ll take the job for $165K. There doesn’t appear to be any serious qualifications.

  • Economics

    Checking out the housing market, seems to be some pretty reasonable places, just let me know when I can get the offer letter.


  • Jim


  • Alum ’78

    Bravo UCD Physics Dept! Anyone who can’t see the pattern that follows this individual around with her deserves to have to live with both. But not here. Not us. Not any more.

  • kiwidamien

    Unfortunately the Davis principles of community, while laudable, have no actual power within the UC system. They are merely a guide for how policy should be constructed, and in some cases, interpreted.

    I actually dealt with a case a couple of years ago where one of the signers of this very letter was engaged in openly hostile acts which certainly went against the Davis principles of community and the faculty code of conduct. The behavior ranged from simple name calling (such as referring to me as a Megan’s law list member, roadkill, etc in writing) to threatening me against ever reporting his excessive and inappropriate behavior again. Indeed, once I reported violations again to the (then) chair of the department I was told in writing that as a result of my report I was cut-off academically.

    The response from the UC Davis Office of Faculty Relations was that despite the Faculty Code of Conduct being violated (and the principles of community) they did not believe that the violations were serious enough to warrant a response. They came to this decision by comparing my case to similar cases that they did nothing about. The university admitted that they have adopted a de facto policy of allowing behavior that directly violates their policies — such as threatening students (and carrying out those threats) — as behavior that was not significant enough to even warrant an apology, let alone actually follow through on their written policy. Naturally they don’t want it known that they don’t actually follow their own policies, so every piece of communication is labelled “confidential” to try and stop students from seeing a pattern of behavior across multiple cases.

    Unfortunately the students at UC Davis need to protest … the administration can make all the policies it likes, and as I have seen, they also feel quite free in ignoring them. In my instance I was simply asking them to apply the regulations they already had on the books — and doing so would not have cost them a thing and would have in fact strengthened the campuses principles to these core ideas. Instead they decided that it was not worth the hassle.

    It will be much harder for the students that are asking for the students that are asking the university to make sacrifices for their principles. I wish the students the best of luck, but the current administration has to go.

  • Ali Eorse

    It will never happen. No one wants to resign. The perks are too many. She represents international connection (US-Greece), support from UC President and Trustees. Faculty and Students are not that important. Just Move On. Okay?

  • Martin

    In response to the people who do not think the Chancellor must step down, I offer the following counter points:

    1) Indeed she did order the police to come in. As the letter points out, she should have been aware of the consequences in doing so. Similar action was made in other places, and the “violent” outcomes were similar. She should have “exhausted all possible options,” which she clearly did not – especially after only 1 night of encampment.

    2) Even if she did not directly order the pepper spray, she must be held responsible for it. If you hire an intern, and tell them to work on an urgent and important project that was your responsibility, you should receive most of the blame. Therefore, she is responsible (in addition to the police force) for the pepper-spray. To add substance to this claim, the UC Academic Council agrees that for any UC campus, the Chancellor is responsible for police actions on their campus.

    Forgetting to make a deadline is one thing, but performing an unnecessary act of violence against non-threatening students is another.

    3) In my opinion, the most important reason she must step down is to repair the image of UC Davis. Things take on a life of their own- facts get muddled, emotions run high, opinions become outspoken, and people get impatient. To restore the reputation of not only these physicists, but also the faculty and students of UC Davis in the eyes of the public and colleagues, it seems the only option would be for the Chancellor to admit she made a terrible mistake and create the sense that UC Davis is born again by resigning in her position. It is true that she has not handled the aftermath well, and many of us are still disappointed. The longer she waits to resign, the harder it will be for us to move past it.

    I believe the letter from the physicists clearly states all these things, which is why I have decided to share this letter. I didn’t share the one written by Nathan Brown.

  • Neal J. King

    Well, I don’t have a dog in this fight; nor do I have special insight or familiarity with the situation. However, I get the feeling that many previous commenters are not in a better situation.

    First, the action of pepper-spraying the seated students was just awful, and as far as one can tell, inexcusable. Nonetheless, the formal action of firing the cop in question really should await a full inquiry. He needs to be given a fair trial before being hung by his thumbs over a pond of alligators. (joke)

    Secondly, I am not so sure about the case of the chancellor. Her earlier participation in the report on Greek universities (mentioned by Gill at #21) shows that she believes that disorderly elements in a university can be harmful. One doesn’t have to agree with her to concede that this is, after all, a valid point of view. Given this view, it is not hard to understand that she would order the police to restore order.

    The tricky part, in my mind, comes in when the police use unnecessary force to restore order. As has been mentioned above, the campus police have their own protocol about crowd-control tools; and it is not implausible to me that she didn’t read it. Maybe she should have; but I think the very fact that we all find the casual application of pepper spray on unresisting students outrageous and abominable suggests that this was not within the realm of her imagining at the time of the order. In fact, at one of the follow-up interviews/Q&As, she said that she had not authorized the use of force.

    I think this makes a difference: If I authorize someone to carry out an action, and he responds in a way I don’t expect, I can be dinged for naïvité, but not blamed for the full weight of his actions. It is a question of how predictable the violence would be. I would argue that, in terms of pure cold-blooded sadism, this is the worst deed in all of the OWS struggles so far; and in that sense, was not really predictable. We can only be glad that he didn’t start firing rubber bullets.

    So I would not, at this point, be asking for her head. If it’s possible to work with her going forward, I suspect she’ll be much chastened.

  • Martin

    I would not want anyone to suffer unnecessary tragedy. It would be a devastating blow to the Chancellor’s career if she steps down, more than it has already been.

    However, restoring the reputation and trust in Davis is most important, and the best thing she can do right now is resign. Even if one has the best intentions and is very clever, one must play politics and clean up the mess.

    Maybe a loose example is the whole situation with Anthony Weiner.

  • Neal J. King


    To continue the discussion: How does this situation reflect on UCD? It certainly reflects on the cop and the campus police force. But I don’t see that it says much about UCD.

  • lovelalola

    I think this is a sexist witch hunt on one of the few women in leadership positions in academics. I’m not alone: http://www.thenewagenda.net/2011/11/23/in-support-of-chancellor-katehi/

    The reasons are spelled out specifically in the article. Where is the campaign to oust Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau of UC Berkeley? Telling, I think.

  • Martin

    Hi Neal,

    It extends to more than just the campus police force. If there isn’t confidence in her on this issue, it will be difficult to trust her on all future issues. Her judgement is questioned. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and 5 minutes to ruin it.”

    She might be extremely cautious when calling police, but what about a new crisis which has had no history or one in which she is not prepared?

    I’m all for giving her a second chance, and she will undoubtedly bounce back, but for now I do not have a lot of respect for her.

    Right now, the image is similar to “Oh, you go to Davis – that school where the Chancellor called in the police and passive students got pepper-sprayed?”

    and which is the better response:

    “We replaced that Chancellor”
    “She apologized to the students, gave them sandwiches, and has called for a report of the situation within 30 days. Many of us have asked her to resign, but she’s dodged the issue.”

  • Martin

    Hi lovelalola,

    Some people do indeed want Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau to go. However, the recent events at Davis overshadowed those at Berkeley and have gained more attention. You can also put more weight on Katehi, since she has the events at Berkeley to use as an example of what would happen.

  • Neal J. King


    From my point of view, the right response would be, “Yes, the cops got out of control, and have been fired.”; under the assumption that a full inquiry will lead to that conclusion. This would not be the first time that has happened; nor will it be the last.

    That said, if the faculty really feel they cannot work with her, then her situation becomes unworkable. But from the outside, I don’t really understand why they feel this way.

    I don’t have any opinion about lovelalola’s accusation of sexism.

  • Martin

    Hi Neal,

    I agree with you, and sympathize with the Chancellor. She probably didn’t know what would happen when she called in the cops. However, in such a leadership position, she should have made a better judgement what would happen. The letter writers point out Berkeley, Oakland, and Seattle.

    I also don’t think people would be satisfied with only the cops being fired. You can play the card “I was only following orders and rules.” Maybe the cops were just doing their job. This is where I step into regions I don’t know about, but don’t they follow a protocol? Linking-arms is a form of violence, and “nudging with batons” is the right protocol.

    I’m not saying the protocol was correct, but I do feel strongly that Katehi is just as, or even more responsible than the cops.

  • Timofy

    Katehi says she did not want these students pepper sprayed. If the chancellor of a university’s students are being pepper sprayed by police and she doesn’t condone it, she should be calling the national guard. The reason she wasn’t able to is the reason she should resign.

  • Neal J. King


    That doesn’t make any sense: The act of pepper-spraying was done in a few minutes, you don’t call out the military to fight the police for something that is done & over. There was no proclamation by the police to continue spraying against further orders: This wasn’t like the national guard in the segregated southern states, needing to defend against sustained assault by the police.

  • Jim Strathmeyer

    How can Linda Katehi continue to lie about the events and keep her job? Why is there nobody in authority over her to stop her. How can someone so unethical be in charge of students?

  • Ali Eorse

    I can bet anything, she will not resign. She will not be asked to resign. Nathan Brown will not get tenure. He blew his future. This is US-Greece connection. You better believe it that nothing will happen. In another week, people will forget. Today, you Move On. Okay?

  • Martin

    Let us suppose that Katehi was in fact innocent, and the moral decision in God’s eyes was for her to stay.

    One just can’t stop what’s already happening. A scheduled keynote speaker at Davis has already canceled his appearance. There have been calls for international boycott against UC Davis just for still being associated with Katehi.

    Right now, the student movement is directed at her, and she is in fact obstructing the original movement – this is not very healthy for the community.

    This phrase has been thrown around a lot; She is a “mark of shame” on the campus. I understand we need to know all the details, but it’s already grown too big. Whether it’s true or not, she is a symbol for the use of unnecessary violence.

    To improve the situation on campus, she must step down. The fact that she doesn’t want to (it really seems like selfish reasons now) proves again she is not fit for the job.

    And there’s one more thing going against her. She has the brightest minds in the world calling for her resignation. She needs lots of luck winning that logic battle.

  • Timofy

    Signor king,

    I was admittedly exaggerating. I only mean to say that in light of the beatings and pepper sprayings elsewhere, and with special and humored consideration of the fact that the protest was in part against police brutality, she ordered a response the disproportion of which could have just as easily been seen before as after. She cannot honestly align with the students and faculty, and that’s why shes not fit to lead them.

  • UC Davis ’78

    Over the years I have made many generous donations of money to UC Davis. As a result of the deeply un-American behavior of the Chancellor and the police on the campus, I have taken the following steps:

    1) I will not send any more money to UC Davis unless Chancellor Katehi and the police officers involved in the pepper-spraying incident have resigned or are fired, with a lifetime ban on any positions involving students of any age.

    2) I have changed my will so that the very generous bequest of my sunbstantial estate to UC Davis will now not occur, unless Chancellor Katehi and the police officers involved in the pepper-spraying incident have resigned or are fired, with a lifetime ban on any positions involving students of any age.

    3) I have informed fellow classmates and friends around the world of my decisions, and encouraged then to do the same.

    UC Davis ’78

  • judi

    Program cuts, raised tuition, crowded classes and many more problems which the students are demonstrating against has nothing to do with any individual( any chancellor or UC president). These are all results of a bad economy and stupid cuts to overall education fundings in the US. As long as we are pouring all our money in military spending to conquer the world, we should expect events like this to happen and people getting more frustrated evryday. Katehi is not responsible for all the frustration developed in UC Davis students over the months, but is definitely responsible for poor judgemnt on handling the student demonstrators.

  • H

    I wonder if the signers include assistant professors who may put their tenure in jeopardy by publicly demanding the resignation of their boss. I also wonder if faculty members in other department also have called for the resignation of the chancellor.

  • Martin

    Hi H,

    Here is the front page of the UC Davis English Dept. website:


    In case that page is updated in the future, here is the front page banner:

    “The faculty of the UC Davis English Department supports the Board of the Davis Faculty Association in calling for Chancellor Katehi’s immediate resignation and for “a policy that will end the practice of forcibly removing non-violent student, faculty, staff, and community protesters by police on the UC Davis campus.” Further, given the demonstrable threat posed by the University of California Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to the safety of students, faculty, staff, and community members on our campus and others in the UC system, we propose that such a policy include the disbanding of the UCPD and the institution of an ordinance against the presence of police forces on the UC Davis campus, unless their presence is specifically requested by a member of the campus community. This will initiate a genuinely collective effort to determine how best to ensure the health and safety of the campus community at UC Davis.”

  • http://www.unshieldedcolliders.org/ Jonathan Livengood


    Looking at the UC-Davis Physics Faculty webpage, all three of the assistant professors in the department signed the letter.

    It looks like the professors least likely to have signed are emeritus, but I am just eyeballing it.

  • Martin

    There is one thing she hasn’t done which sort of irks me. She needs to respond to the letters and points about her resigning. For instance, respond to this letter or the one by Nathan Brown. Obviously there is a loss of confidence, but she hasn’t addressed it yet!

    Also, this whole thing isn’t an over-reaction. It sends a clear message to administration across the UC campuses (especially Berkeley) that unnecessary police brutality against peaceful students can not be tolerated.

    She may be counting on this story to fade, and I only hope we can keep the fire burning over and after the holidays until a clear message has been sent.

    If you do some research, she does not have a favorable history with related issues:


  • Ali Eorse

    Blame the economy on the GOP or Bush. Why stop? Right? (No, we cannot blame others. Learn to accept responsibility.)

    Katehi will not resign. Period. Accept the fact. Move On. Remember that from 2000 election?

  • oh my

    As Chancellor, Katehi has authority over the campus police and the mandate to exercise the power that comes with the Office of Chancellor. (That she lacked the foresight about foreseeable consequences of her decisions is understandable and perhaps forgivable for average people in insignificant positions, but usually not for Chancellors of major universities.)

    Also interesting: given that she’s in damage-control mode, why were the consequences she doled out to Spicuzza, Pike, and the third officer so utterly spineless? She put them on administrative leave. Seriously? ‘Administrative leave’, right before Thanksgiving break? Let us reflect for a moment on what this means. Effectively, it means that Katehi required them to take five extra days off, fully paid, before the Thanksgiving holiday. As if that weren’t enough, she required that their super-sized vacations—again, fully paid—be extended for a week or three up until Christmas break. Katehi really hit ’em where it hurts. (Whatever else, her various non-responses should instigate no-confidence votes (Hence the above letter.))

    Praise for the Physics and English Departments for not being mollified by sandwiches and ‘administrative leave’. Or perhaps what I really want to say is: that anyone would advocate for not signing the petition, or for not getting in line behind the Davis physicists in support of their utterly reasonable statement, is puzzling. (@Simone Frank, #33: Analogizing 100k Katehi petitioners to Obama Birthers borders on idiocy.)

  • http://slackwire.blogspot.com/ JW Mason

    I wonder if the signers include assistant professors

    The UC-Davis physics department website lists three assistant professors. All three signed.

    This is a really courageous and admirable thing to have done, for everyone in the department. it’s always easiest to stand back, say it’s not your responsibility, you can’t do anything anyway, and get on with your work. It’s fortunate for all of us that there are people who won’t just accept it when those in authority abuse their positions, and feel a responsibility to speak up.

  • Greg Kuperberg

    I am a professor in the mathematics department at UC Davis, and I respectfully disagree with this letter from the physics department. I have read that the relevant chain of authority is as follows: The police officers at the scene answer to Police Chief Annette Spicuzza, Spicuzza answers to Vice Chancellor John Meyer, and Meyer answers to Chancellor Katehi. I did not see enough error from Katehi or Meyer to justify the extreme step of immediate resignation. Two of the on-scene officers and Spicuzza herself have been suspended with pay pending investigation, and I have no reason to question this course of action either. The pepper spray incident itself seems completely inexcusable, but the people involved have the right to explain themselves to investigators.

    And certainly, I think that both Meyer and Katehi have done a good job in their years of service to the university. Moreover, since Monday Katehi has taken some good steps to restore confidence in the university.

    For the record, just looking within the MPS (math and physical sciences) departments, I saw a statement from the geology department opposing the calls for Katehi’s resignation. I have not seen any statement from statistics or geology, and I know that their has not been one from the math department. The chair of the math department has directed us to express our views at an upcoming meeting of the Academic Senate. While I personally am sympathetic to what the geology department said, I think that the math department’s policy is wiser still. It would be better to avoid a contest of opposing (or even concurring) letters from different university departments.

  • John

    Greg Kuperberg: There are times, and this is one of them, when silence is consent.

  • Huy Tu

    “Thanks to the EU, bankers, and UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi, university freedom for Greece’s students has taken a huge, dark step backwards.” Read more:

  • Daniel Cox

    This is a very interesting set of comments. I am one of the signatories of the letter.

    A few replies from my end:
    – LoLa – if I were at Berkeley I would call for the resignation of Birgenau. If Birgenau had been at Davis and executed this decision and followed with this response, I would call for his resignation. In my mind it has nothing to do with the chancellor’s gender, but with the poor response to the situation.
    -Greg: I agree with John, and just note that this narrow focus on chain of command avoids two key problems: One, the entire situation was avoidable had space been set aside for the tents and the protest engaged and not discouraged, and two, given the terrible situation, if the chancellor had emerged immediately and responded as she seems to have last night.
    -Ali: One wrong decision (Gore v Bush) does not make a case to move on from this one.
    -UC Davis 78: Thank you for your remarks. I suspect you are not alone.

  • Daniel Cox

    I forgot to add: the Chancellor wanted the tents removed for safety. They were temporarily. Now they are back in greater force, even over thanksgiving weekend, and last I checked, UC Davis was safe. The experiences of Philadelphia and San Francisco with Occupy point to a very different model than Berkeley and Davis. In San Francisco the encampment is even a tourist attraction. Why the Chancellor did not see this prior to the fact I cannot say.

  • gregor

    Two things have not been adequately emphasized in this otherwise excellent letter:

    1. Katehi’s failure to condemn the police officers’ actions in her first statement after the incident. If she had ordered the police not to use the force, her statement would have shown more displeasure at the police for disobeying her.

    2. Katehi’s deplorable, cowardly, crude, and transparent attempt to try to paint a picture of the students as hostage takers during the period when she was holed up in her office after which she was led by a woman on a pathway lined up on one side by silent student protesters.

  • Martin

    It seems that she recently claimed that she ordered police not to use force against the students, and to back away if they become aggressive. If this is so, Spicuzza should be blamed. Spicuzza has already said a few things worthy of resignation – such as how the police were surrounded and the students were threatening them. The viral videos clearly show the opposite.

    Back to Katehi. She now says the police disobeyed her. She didn’t say this before because she didn’t want to put blame on anyone and she feels responsible for all of it. Well, if she still feels this way, she still should not have mentioned the police disobeyed her. She should still take responsibility- time hasn’t changed the facts.

    She has changed her stance. In the beginning, she was protecting the police. She mentioned that the police were trying to protect the students because there were outsiders on campus. She made no note of being proud of the students for engaging in peaceful protest, or showing any hint of being on the protestors’ side. Instead, she sided with the police.

    Now, she blames the police.

    She seems to show a worse character, and I am more convinced she should leave. I really hope she does, because there hasn’t been an adequate response from the UC administration about hurting peaceful students.

  • Martin

    On a more cheerful note, I am eagerly awaiting Sean to post his annual thanks to another elegant physics concept!!!!!!!

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

      Working on it!

  • Pingback: Open Letter To President Mark G. Yudof, University of California « peacocks and lilies()

  • silversurfer

    Martin, Gregor: I too am troubled by the changing public stance from the chancellor. The town hall meeting on Tuesday appears to further devolve responsibility to vice chancellor Bob Meyer. This would appear to leave two possibilities to me, both troubling. First, that he really was in charge of the police action and it took several days for the Chancellor to sort out the relevant command chain and provide a clear public story. If this is the case I am deeply troubled that she did not foresee the potential problems of any intervention to remove the tents given the results in Berkeley, Oakland. Second, this is an attempt to evade responsibility which is obviously very problematic.

  • PublicDisplays

    Posting this on an unrelated discover blog is obnoxious and attention whoring. How many degrees of relevance is this removed from your readership? Plenty.

    Congratulations for working at an institution which made the news for a video meme that has been blown so far out of proportion as to be meaningless. And congratulations for feeling that we all need to know just how strongly you disapprove and that you really really want to be SEEN disapproving.

    You’re a hipster!

    This is as ego driven and pointless as conspicuous consumption or public displays of affection … that are meant more to send a message of “look at me” than any real connection to what is transpiring. Open Letters like this are a form of exhibitionism, except in this case you aren’t really an inside player of any consequence, you’re just one of thousands of people at the periphery trying to get some attention.

    Feel free to delete this after you read it. I don’t care to make the same mistake of assuming that my opinion needs to be broadcast on some matter only tangentially related to this blog as some open letter.

  • Pingback: Open Letter To President Mark G. Yudof, University of California « The Crawdad Hole()

  • Greg Kuperberg

    John and Daniel – My main point in commenting here was to let people know that it is NOT the case that “the faculty, students, parents, and alumni of UC Davis” have lost confidence in Katehi’s leadership. It looks like most people at Davis haven’t done that. I only know of two departments that have demanded that Katehi resign. The was also the board of the DFA (the union for 10% of the faculty), but they neglected to ask their own membership.

    You shouldn’t have claimed to speak for almost everyone.

    Frankly the letter is a mistake. Even many of the student protesters disagree with you about Katehi. Of course, not asking her to resign is not the same thing as staying silent — everyone around here has been talking about the pepper spray incident all week.

  • Daniel Cox

    Greg –

    I will concede that statement was presumptuous-it is clear it speaks for many faculty, students, and alumni but not all.

    I disagree the letter is a mistake. The leadership of Chancellor Katehi on this incident has been very, very troubling and those of us who signed the letter are merely expressing our very strong opinion on the subject.

  • Greg Kuperberg

    The biggest mistake in the letter is its tone of presumption and groupthink. If you want to fire Katehi, then you’re entitled to your opinion. Obviously it’s not my opinion. (Of course, it depends on what information comes to light, but I won’t speculate on the unforseeable.) I was worried that the campus really might fire Katehi because of an emotional, groupthink dynamic, but a week after the incident it looks like that won’t happen.

  • Martin

    Greg – we cannot let this incident pass without consequence. A clear message needs to be sent to places at other campuses that there are consequences for Chancellors’ actions. In my opinion, winning this fight is also winning the fight at Berkeley.

    With that said, I believe things are moving in the right direction. An investigation will hopefully lead to objective decisions.

    If people want to defend her, I’d love to see a statement about it.

    The letter was not a mistake. All the points made are clear and true.

  • Greg Kuperberg

    I totally agree that there need to be consequences — my first posting here explained my position on that. And I agree that the campus is moving in the right direction. My position is that the campus is moving in the right direction with Chancellor Katehi, not against her.

  • Martin

    The letter clearly states right off the bat that it is only the opinions of the UC Davis Physics department. When only the English and Physics departments sign off, I can only know that they believe it (or whoever signed off as stated in their respective statements).

    All other departments remain silent. They either agree or are indifferent- otherwise, there needs to be a response. I think it is wrong to believe to be afraid to show conflicting interests among departments; rather, it is healthy to do so.

  • Andreas Albrecht

    I’m piping up as UCD Physics Department Chair here to comment on the fact that in some news media this letter has been reported in a way that implies it is the official position of the Physics Department. That is simply not the case. I feel the original press release was very clear about that, but the message has become garbled in some cases. The Physics Department is very large and far from monolithic. About 40% of the regular faculty have not requested the Chancellor’s resignation. Many physics faculty are reserving judgment until we have full information about last week’s events. This message is not intended to undermine my own support of the letter as a signatory. My goal here, with my Chair’s hat on, is to make sure the position of the Physics Department as a whole is not misrepresented.

  • Martin

    Thank you Andreas. I think that’s an important point.

    Also, thank you John for posting this online, and creating an opportunity to have a dialogue about it.

    At this point, I sort of feel that the investigation will decide her outcome and she will probably not resign on her own. I’d be surprised if something else happened.

  • Greg Kuperberg

    Andy – Hi! I understand what you’re trying to say, but I don’t think that you can just blame journalists for the misunderstanding. The letter is posted here with no gloss from any journalist. Nonetheless, the letter itself confuses the distinction between speaking for yourselves, speaking for the department, and even speaking for the whole university. It reads like a department action with majority support. So I think that the issue now is not whether the department minority is unfairly portrayed here — people can see that it wasn’t unanimous. Rather, the issue is whether you can credibly argue that it wasn’t a department action.

    I would say the same thing about the geology department’s letter. As I said, I like the math department’s position even better.

  • Martin

    Rather than worry about who the letter represents, I focused mainly on what the letter says.

    I do agree the tone feels like a large collective group of people, but one can’t dismiss the line “…we the undersigned faculty of the UC Davis physics department….” no matter the spin.

  • Krys


    It is worth noting that in your comment you are deviating readers from the real topic, and initiating unnecessarily irrelevant discussions.

    You are assuming that the readers’ own opinion regarding the CONTENT of this letter would be swung by any speculation about how much percent of UC Davis people are at the moment explicitly supporting this letter.

    No. You are ridiculously wrong. The readers are not stupid.

    If you disagree with those undersigned faculty’s opinion expressed in their letter that “this incident and the inadequacy of ” Katehi’s “response to it has already irreparably damaged the image of UC Davis and caused the faculty, students, parents, and alumni of UC Davis to lose confidence in” her “leadership”, then you can post and sign your own opinion somewhere to argue against it with your own points and evidence.

    Just because you disagree with the letter’s clearly authored and signed opinion, does not mean the letter itself is a “mistake”.

    By calling it a “mistake”, you are having your tone questionable, not the letter’s.

    Now let’s come back to the CONTENT of the letter. Let’s come back to the damages from this incident and Katehi’s full responsibility in causing them, the inadequacy of Katehi’s response, and the necessary consequence of Katehi’s decisions that are to be seen and judged by all civilised universities on this planet.


  • Krys

    I also want to point out 2 things, on rationality point of view:

    (1) A person’s decision on whether to sign a public letter can be influenced by more factors than his/her own opinion on the content of the letter.
    (That is partly why I am more interested in the content than counting names.)

    (2) When someone has the opinion that the parents would have lost their confidence in Katechi’s leadership of the campus, this opinion does not have to be based on statistical data or organisation of polls. This opinion can be simply from commonsense reasoning.

    At least, if my kids want to go to UC Davis someday, and Ms Katechi is still in that chair (or has happily passed that chair to someone else years after today), the pepper spray would definitely come up to the dinner conversation in our house before they send out their applications.

  • Daniel Cox

    Greg –

    It is absurd to accuse us of group think here as you were not privy to our departmental dialogue or the range of discussions on this subject via conversation and email. Those of us who signed this really do have a heavy heart about this but believe this is the best thing for the university. You can critique that detail of the letter, but group think? Sorry. We who have signed off have all looked at this with considerable care and thoughtfulness.

  • Daniel Cox

    I might add, Greg, that there is another kind of group think which goes with giving a pass to people in authority merely because they are people in authority. When you consider the “truth” as it comes out you should in fairness and avoidance of group think, carefully assess the extent to which they are constructed ex post facto.

  • silversurfer

    This Daily Kos piece raises another interesting aspect to the current approach of Chancellor Katehi where her responsibility for the events seems to lessen with each public appearance. She was involved in an influence for admissions scandal at the University of Illinois prior to coming to Davis and was given a pass by most (apart from State Sen Leland Yee). Like Sgt. Schultz she knew nothing, nothing.


  • Martin

    It seems almost silly that Katehi called for “a report on her desk.” That doesn’t make sense. Kind of like investigating a crime scene when you’re a suspect. Also strange – her 30 day limit. Why does it take so long? I would imagine a week would be enough time. Don’t forget that she first started out by saying 90 days.

  • Berkeley Professor

    @ 31. I am curious to know what your involvement is at UC Berkeley and just how deeply your head is in the sand? The Faculty Association made a vote of non-confidence in our Administration. Many want Birgeneau to resign immediately, it’s just not being reported on after Davis. Through the Freedom of Information Act, 300 pages of his emails were just released, emails which show that he writes press releases which “praise the professionalism of the police” a day before protests occur. In other words, he authorizes the police to do whatever they want, does not hold them accountable, and has vowed to defend their actions *even before they happen.* He called protesters linking arms on Nov 9 “not non-violent,” a logical fallacy (does this mean it’s violent?), and only backpedalled to shame police action (a faculty member has a broken rib!) after the chips of public opinion fell. We are not more “mature” at Berkeley, we have just failed to organize to protect our students to the degree that UC Davis has. For at least two years, our students have been facing brutality, in media obscurity, by a militarized police when protesting Regent-orchestrated fee hikes (the same Regents who lost our endowment to speculative, high-risk investments and then used the CA budget crisis as a convenient narrative to obscure that fact. This is the same budget crisis environment, remember, that gave Katehi a 140K raise between 2009 and 2010, and the Regents an 11% raise, the last of which being voted on the same day they voted to raise YOUR fees). *See UCSC Prof Meister’s article explaining UC finances, the lies of “no money.” http://keepcaliforniaspromise.org/383/they-pledged-your-tuition . Birgeneau repeatedly blames the budget crisis in his letters to faculty and students, protecting and covering up the Regents’ actions, as well as their proposal to take “public” out of Charter so that *tuition can be raised at will beyond state limits*. Personally, I want to continue teaching at a *public* student body that is not blocked out because of finances, a student body of which 25% are the first in their families to go to college and are certainly among the best in the world for it.

    Students who believe that the Administration just sits in their offices signing papers, who believe that campus police have that much power without it being *authorized* power, are foolish and naive. Katehi has made public statements about how “proud” she is to be a member of the NSHEA, an FBI watch dog for “anti-US activity” on college campuses (see the Nov 24 edition of The Nation). She is *proud* to report to the government about what students and faculty do on campus. For example, is sitting-in–for one day, in sympathy with Berkeley and in protest against shameful hikes– an anti-US activity? See the open letter by CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR FREEDOM, a group of more than 150 academics who teach in 20 California institutions of higher education. The group formed as a response to rash violations of academic freedom. Quads on campuses were built in order to host large gatherings and the free exchange of information–that is their purpose. Katehi and Birgeneau must go for academic freedom to persist. The records all indicate their main allegiance is to financiers and the government, not students and faculty. They are not martyrs; they are responsible. I don’t care what you perceive her to have done for Davis on a micro-level: the UC-system, which took generations to build, is about to be destroyed. I apologize, misc. commenter above if that makes we, as faculty, “emotional.” Shame on you too.

  • Berkeley Professor

    And for what it’s worth, I totally agree with the commenter that it’s been easier to go after Katehi because she is a woman–it has been harder to get the public to recognize, decry, and mobilize against Birgeneau’s egregious actions. However, this is no witch-hunt–she must go just as equally as Birgeneau must go.

  • silversurfer

    Berkeley Professor – good to hear that some at UCB are questioning Birgenau. This perspective from John Cole is I think very valid on the veracity of Katehi’s claims on authorizing use of force http://www.balloon-juice.com/2011/11/23/wait-what-who-said-anything-about-force/

  • Nana

    Thank you, physics department. I’m very excited to see that my three professors have signed this and I truly appreciate your role in student activism. You will face a lot of people against you, but I truly appreciate your concern and support.

    I am one of the people who thinks that unless Katehi begins to work EXTENSIVELY with faculty and student, she should resign. And in my personal experience with her, I have not seen any indication of her trusting students. Both with her inability to face any protests of any kind, to her committing to the NSHEA and not to mention the report she helped write canceling the university asylum in her Greek university that lead to the event she herself mentioned. Her lack of trust in her students, her repetitive disrespect of student rights and her inability to put herself on our level–to only speak to us if there’s a podium, to attend a general assembly and expect to speak immediately without concern for the democratic process of the meeting (not even sending someone to see how the GAs work and then try to work around that schedule), I fail to see how I can expect her to change and work FOR THE STUDENTS like she should be.

    But back on topic, thank you, physics department.

  • Geoffrey Harris

    Hello. Was a graduate student in the physics and electrical engineering departments here during the period from 1994-2001. Was a little surprised that support for the chancellor is so low. I saw the incident which was reported in the international press. It was “remarkable” to say the least for a number of reasons, including the lack of provocation for the assault, the large number of objects (students, people) upon whom the agent (pepper spray) was deployed, and the indifference with which the agent was applied.


  • http://tinyurl.com/ucdavis-physics-katehi-letter Friend

    November 22, 2011


    The faculty of the UC Davis physics department held an emergency faculty meeting in
    the late afternoon of Monday Nov. 21 to discuss the response to the recent pepper-spraying
    incident on campus. This followed extensive informal discussions among faculty, students, and staff, including an “open house” in the chair’s office earlier that day.

    The following actions were taken:

    • The physics faculty voted *unanimously* to issue an apology to students and post it on the department web page. (Link to apology)

    • A majority of the Faculty of the UC Davis physics department also signed a Letter calling for the resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi. (Link to letter to Katehi)

    These actions were not taken lightly, and followed serious and substantive deliberation and debate on the issues.

    [End Press Release]



  • Kathy Miller

    First and foremost, I believe wholeheartedly in a person’s right to free speech and to assemble peacefully – especially when the intent is to bring about change. But secondly, and with equal importance, I believe consideration must be given to the fact that one person’s rights end where another’s begin. And in the case of the UC Davis sit-in, as with the other numerous “occupy (insert City name here)” demonstrations, I believe the land owners, the tenants, the students, the business members, the faculty – basically all the other people who are adversely affected by the protesters have a right to conduct their regular business without being disturbed or upset.

    In each “brutality” case the protesters were given ample time to prove their point before being asked to disband and they did not, therefore they get what they get (fair or otherwise – I’m not passing judgement on the justification for the pepper spraying incident, I don’t have enough facts to pass judgement). The demonstrations have gotten plenty of publicity, but have done little to affect change. And it’s little wonder quite frankly. Today on the radio I was listening to (yet more) sound bites from occupy protesters. The question was “why are you here?” The answers, all the same, were “because we believe in the cause and we want to show our support.” Meaning: “we have no idea what we’re mad about, but we’re hear because we’re mad.” Protests are for the impassioned, not necessarily the intellectual.

  • Neal J. King

    Kathy Miller:

    “In each “brutality” case the protesters were given ample time to prove their point before being asked to disband and they did not, therefore they get what they get (fair or otherwise – I’m not passing judgement on the justification for the pepper spraying incident, I don’t have enough facts to pass judgement).”

    The point is not that the students weren’t warned, it is that the measures taken were unnecessarily brutal. They were not resisting arrest: They could have been removed without pepper spray.

    If your argument were valid, it would also be permissible for the police to say, “We’re going to machine gun the square in 5 minutes. If you’re still here at that time, you’ll get what you get.”

    Somehow, I think that even today’s Supreme Court would conclude that this would constitute cruel & unusual punishment.

  • John Conway

    Matt (former comment #107), you are out of here.

  • John

    Kathy Miller: I am flabbergasted. You really don’t have enough information to pass judgement on the pepper spraying incident? When police use pain as a means of coercion against non-violent protesters, that’s torture. Here, the torture was brutal, public, and chillingly casually and coldly administered. What more information do you need?

    When you say “they get what they get” Kathy, my blood runs cold. What kind of human being would say a thing like that?

    And why has our chancellor not come out unequivocally against the use of torture by the UC Davis police, even now?

  • Martin

    I just wanted to add fuel to the fire, in case the holidays had any diminishing effect.

    “In a town hall meeting with students and faculty last week, Chancellor Katehi refused to answer numerous questions about whether she authorized the use of force, and whether she knew riot police were going to be involved.”


  • Martin

    Well, it seems that the UC Berkeley police are defending their actions from the Berkeley incident, and that the viral video was a misrepresentation of the event. Apparently, police were hit with skateboards and backpacks.

    Is that a go-ahead to yank a professor by the hair to the ground?

  • Charlie

    I’m a UC Davis alumnus, now associate professor at another university. I paid my own way through university, starting at age 24, back when that was possible (barely) from 90-94. Tuition was already skyrocketing at the time … I could not have done what I did a few years later. I am in very strong agreement with the student protesters. We are moving rapidly toward a system that rewards the few (the “1%”) at the expense of everyone (and these few have duped so many to believe it is somehow in everyone’s best interest). We can all look forward to a diminished country if these students loose heart and fail in their efforts.

    I don’t know enough to comment on Katehi’s responsibility specifically. I feel that any administrator or faculty anywhere should feel some urge to protect student’s well-being (starting with their physical safety) and must see this as a monstrous event. Perhaps some feel that there was a tough choice here, weighing the dangers of police force versus the danger of “lawless” students (the latter danger not quite but darn near zero, from all the evidence that I have seen). It was a stupid choice though, because now you will have more of both.

  • Daniel Cox

    Kathy Miller:

    Whatever you may feel about Occupy in general, the UC Davis students have been very clear on their intentions about mitigating tuition hikes and possibly rolling them back, increasing the share of the wealthy in state tax revenues as a means to increase educational support, reducing loan burdens for students, and improving the economic climate for postdegree careers.

  • Daniel Cox

    Kathy Miller:

    Whatever you may feel about Occupy in general, the UC Davis students have been very clear on their intentions about mitigating tuition hikes and possibly rolling them back, increasing the share of the wealthy in state tax revenues as a means to increase educational support, reducing loan burdens for students, and improving the economic climate for postdegree careers.

  • Daniel Cox
  • Daniel Cox

    Apologies for the double post – phone troubles. Another beautiful piece on the Occupy demands and why the Chancellor should resign. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/world-wide-mind/201111/the-turning-point-the-moral-example-uc-davis-students

  • Michael

    Why is this woman still Chancellor? Is she to well connected to be dismissed?
    If most of the faculty and student body want her gone, whats the holdup? Could it be the over the top UC system which is squeezing the students for more tuition money?

  • Daniel Cox

    Michael-in fact it is not clear most of the student body and faculty want her gone. Many are expressing support and look forward to the outcome of the investigations. YOu can see this letter for example in today’s Davis Enterprise, from faculty in support of the chancellor:


    I do know there is a large number to offset this list, but honestly, I do not know how many.

  • Neal J. King

    Michael & Daniel Cox:

    – From my position of ignorance, I too would await the report of the investigation.

    – It is also not clear that it is the role of the faculty and student body to determine who shall be the chancellor of UC Davis. I rather think that it is the role of the UC Board of Regents. Now, if her position is so damaged that she cannot work effectively with the faculty and student body, that would be a problem; but, as Daniel indicated above, that is not clear; and even if it were true, that would have to be a determination by the Board of Regents.

  • Daniel Cox


    The chancellor does serve at the behest of the regents ultimately. However, if she lacks support from a large fraction of faculty and/or students, this must be taken seriously as a message to the Regents.

  • http://www.baklawa.moja-turcja.eu Devin Mcqueeny

    There are certainly quite a lot of particulars like that to take into consideration. That could be a great level to convey up. I provide the ideas above as general inspiration however clearly there are questions just like the one you carry up where the most important factor will probably be working in sincere good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged round things like that, however I’m certain that your job is clearly recognized as a fair game. Each girls and boys really feel the impact of only a second’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  • Michael G

    Thanks for giving the order to spray the criminals who have no respect for the rights of other people using the campus. The problem is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC. Go there and protest; even better, vote out the liberals who voted the laws, or lack of, that allow greedy wall-streeters to screw us all.

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