Pepper Spray Madness Still Burns At UC Davis — Students Demand Chancellor’s Resignation

Mary Lou Lang Contributor
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Students at the University of California Davis are planning a “You Can’t Scrub The Truth” rally for Friday to double down on calls for the school’s chancellor to resign.

Embattled Chancellor Linda Katehi came under renewed fire in the past week after a Sacramento Bee report showed she spent $175,000 to bolster the university and her image online— by hiring a firm to scrap negative postings after students were pepper-sprayed in 2011.

Eight legislators, the university newspaper The Daily Californian, and the University of California Student Association have all called for Katehi’s resignation.

The Daily Californian did not respond to a request for comment, but in an editorial wrote, “Linda Katehi cares more about public image than the trust of her students.”

Kevin Sabo, president of the University of California Student Association said in a phone interview there is now a “general disillusionment” with the chancellor. He called Katehi’s statement earlier in the week an “elaborate apology” and indicated there has been “very little consequence and nothing substantial besides an apology” for Katehi.

According to Sabo, Katehi just gave “more empty apologies that are not having the impact she wanted.”

Katehi apologized for what she called a “series of highly publicized missteps” and said she hired online image consultants, not to erase online content, but to show achievements made by UC Davis.

“It seems like she’s trying to wait it out,” Sabo said. “I think students will continue to call for her to resign.”

When asked what he is hearing from students—the UCSA represents 240,000 students on all 10 UC campuses—Sabo said, “It’s pretty overwhelming from students—they have a lack of confidence in her.”

“Scandal has followed her wherever she has gone…” Sabo said. “She has made poor decision after poor decision.”

A Fire Katehi Facebook page shows numerous students are disenchanted with the chancellor. The rally planned on Friday outside the campus’ Memorial Hall had 1.5 thousand invitees, and 138 confirmed they would attend as of Thursday morning.

“After 36 days of the sit in, the struggle to fire Katehi continues,” the Facebook post says. “Despite ending the sit in, we have not ended the fight for a more accountable administration.”

“Come help us hold Katehi accountable and learn about the corruption the UC Davis administration has tried to scrub from our history!”

The Facebook page manager did not respond to a request for comment.

Sabo said the $175,000 could have been spent on “student issues that could have been improved.” He suggested using the money to hire two psychologists — since mental health is a big issue on campus — or three financial aid advisors to help students. The money also could’ve been used to pay for 12,000 students’ meals, he said.

When asked if the UCSA has further plans if Katehi doesn’t resign, Sabo replied, “we’ll have to have further discussions on what will happen.”

University of California Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi is no stranger to controversy. Aside from the pepper-spraying incident, it was revealed last month she profited from sitting on the boards of two textbook publishers — opening up accusations of a clear conflict of interest.

UC President Janet Napolitano did not respond to a request for comment.