November 23, 2011 / Education, Leadership, Politics, Youth

In Support Of Chancellor Katehi

by

Conflict with police has become a staple at Occupy Wall Street protests across the land. So why is one woman being singled out to take the blame, being asked to resign, and targeted for ouster?

For those not in the know, Linda Katehi is the Chancellor of UC Davis, where a viral video of police pepper-spraying sitting protesters was filmed on Friday, November 19th. Here’s the film, for those who haven’t seen it.

This incident started when alleged police brutality erupted on the UC Berkeley campus, where another viral video was filmed, when students attempted to occupy the campus with tents in protest of tuition and fee increases.

This film showed police officers using batons to beat back a crowd. UC Davis students then decided to protest in solidarity with students at UC Berkeley. Like Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau of UC Berkeley, Chancellor Katehi asked for police help in dispersing the students and preventing them from erecting tents on campus property. There is no evidence that either Chancellor coordinated with police about how to police the situations.

Here’s the video from UC Berkeley:

The reactions of both Chancellors have been somewhat similar. Both initially expressed support for the police. Both later apologized to the students and faculty. And both eventually called for an internal investigation. However, Chancellor Katehi has gone even further, meeting with students and faculty, and suspending the UC Davis Chief of Police. The only person currently facing suspension at UC Berkeley is a student protester.

In addition to the issue of police brutality, what matters here is that the treatment these two Chancellors have received in the aftermath of the incidents has been quite different, creating a double-standard, and suggesting that sexism is in play. While the students and faculty of UC Berkeley have called for an “independent investigation” of the university’s actions, they have not asked for the resignation of Chancellor Birgeneau. However, a movement begun via a letter penned by a white, male faculty member of UC Davis, Nathan Brown, has been calling for the resignation of Chancellor Katehi. This movement has started a petition with almost 80,000 signatures, and they are are now working to force her ouster. Here’s the opening of Professor Brown’s letter (full letter at the petition):

Linda P.B. Katehi,

I am a junior faculty member at UC Davis. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and I teach in the Program in Critical Theory and in Science & Technology Studies. I have a strong record of research, teaching, and service. I am currently a Board Member of the Davis Faculty Association. I have also taken an active role in supporting the student movement to defend public education on our campus and throughout the UC system. In a word: I am the sort of young faculty member, like many of my colleagues, this campus needs. I am an asset to the University of California at Davis.

You are not.

There’s so much tell all over this letter, and what it tells of is a blatant disrespect for women in positions of authority, and a lot of privileged arrogance on the part of this professor. From the very beginning, by refusing to use her title he is showing his disrespect. But let’s just dispense with the most obvious fact first: that universities do not need more white male professors; they need more women of all races, especially in positions of power. The letter and the volumes of internet articles about Katehi have in no way proven that she is directly responsible for the actions of police, or even knew what they would be in advance. Katehi, like Birgeneau, is “guilty” of merely asking for police assistance. One immediately wonders why Professor Brown doesn’t also target Chancellor Birgeneau, on whose campus physical violence in the form of several batons was wielded.

Some facts about women in academics: Women have addressed the old “pipe-line” defense of male domination on college campuses, but that hasn’t solved the problem of barriers to women in leadership positions. There’s still a glass ceiling in academics. As usual, it’s the statistics (PDF) that tell the story:

A recent study by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) piques interest in the current role of women in higher education. The examination of 1,445 colleges and universities reveals that while women earn more than half of all Ph.D. degrees granted to American citizens today, they still comprise only about 45% of tenure-track faculty, 31% of tenured faculty, and just 24% of full professorships in 2005-2006 (West and Curtis 2006). More women than men are in part-time or non-tenure track positions, and the increasing scarcity of women as you look at higher academic ranks is clearly shown. Participation of women is lowest in the doctoral-granting institutions, where women constitute just 34% of full-time faculty, 26% of tenured faculty, and 19% of full professors.

While representation of women at higher professorial ranks is disappointing, women are even more scarce on the administrative career ladder. Relatively few women advance to top academic leadership positions such as dean, provost, president or chancellor. An exception is in traditionally female fields such as nursing and education (Dugger 2001a), yet many social science and professional fields have shown substantial gender desegregation and an increasing supply of women for these positions. Where women are in top positions, it is typically in smaller, less prestigious schools. With women over-represented at instructor/lecturer ranks and less likely (controlling for experience, publications, and educational attainment) and taking longer to reach the associate and full professor ranks (Dugger 2001b) which generally are tapped for leadership positions, the small number of women administrators is yet another piece of the problem.

Some fair questions: Is being pepper-sprayed worse than being physically beaten? Worse than the scenes of professors and student being dragged off by their hair, as happened at UC Berkeley? Why is Chancellor Katehi being singled out amidst of sea of male figures of authority who have called for police assistance in dealing with the protests, including a male Chancellor and several male mayors? So far the biggest targets for Occupiers’ complaints about official reaction to their protests have been Chancellor Katehi and Mayor Jean Quan, of Oakland. Why? And what does it tell us about the nature of the protests?

There have been lots of reports of Occupy Wall Street’s “woman problem.” The issues range from male domination of General Assemblies, sexist rhetoric and treatment, and the physical safety of women at the camps. Apparently, you can add problems with female authority figures to the list. Let’s hope this obvious witch-hunt is unsuccessful.

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  • Kali

    Thanks for this. This was the first thought that crossed my mind but it is not addressed anywhere else, even on other feminist sites, as far as I know. I am sensing an even greater animosity towards Chancellor Katehi than towards the police officer who did the pepper spraying. The general pattern to accountability seems to be to go up (or down) the chain and stop wherever there is a woman in charge and hold her accountable before anyone else. It is also noteworthy that the UC Davis Chief of Police who was suspended is a woman. The male officers who did the actual pepper spraying are on *paid* administrative leave. It’s essentially a paid vacation for them and I doubt they will ultimately face any consequences for their actions.

  • Kali, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one. I just kept seeing one “feminist” after another jump on the train to get her removed, and I thought, “Are you even thinking about this in those ‘feminist’ terms you love so much?”

    As a woman in academics, I understood immediately what was going down. I’ve seen similar witch-hunts, and they are always led by male underlings like this. It becomes a crusade for them because they get so much attention, and because, if they fail, they are usually fired (eventually). I wrote to both Chancellor Katehi and Professor Brown, the latter of whom I reminded that his arrogance was looking quite privileged and seemed out of line with his so called “progressive” views.

  • Bes

    Well the occupy movement is considered to be liberal so of course you would expect scapegoating of women, disrespect of women in authority positions and in fact all women and an unsafe environment for women. How is this a shock given the behavior of Democrats toward women candidates since 2008? It is wrong and hopefully enough women from the movement will notice and say and do something about it, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  • Lara

    As a UCD student, I completely agree with what you are saying. Chancellor Katehi is one of 16 female chancellors in the United States, and before she became an administrator she was an electrical engineer (in fact, one of only two women to graduate in that field from her college in Greece, and the only women from her village to go to college). While I don’t believe the students are consciously reacting this way because she is a female leader, the animosity and demonization of her on campus is both frightening and disgusting.

  • Kevin Dawes

    I think I am failing to see the connection with how this is a sexist witch-hunt. Perhaps it is because I am also a privileged middle-class white male who is attending UC Davis, or perhaps it is because there is no clear evidence to this, only mere speculation. I am for Katehi to resign, but I can also state that it is easier to go after an individual who is at the top of the system then the system itself. Where this comes off as her being female, I do not understand. You provide general statistics about women in power, but you fail to connect to why people are asking Katehi to resign.

    We are asking her to resign because we have lost faith in her, she is not representing her students properly, primarily in the form of the increase in fees and tuition, and now this act of police brutality that was under her watch. She claims she wants to have a connection to students and keep an open dialogue on how to fix the problem. Well, then the question is why didn’t she try to come speak and negotiate with the peaceful protesters then send in riot armed police officers. Why did it have to come to police attacking students on their own campus for this dialogue to be open? I think you have twisted mere coincidence that women in power are being asked to step down into a female witch hunt. Personally, I could care less if it was a female or male or anything that allowed this barbaric act to happen on my campus, and I believe every student and faculty member is declaring the same as we stand in unity together.

    Nathan Brown’s article is no way undermining her for being a female, it is undermining her because of the misuse of power she has obviously demonstrated. His lack of using her title is no way connected to her being a woman, it is connected because he has lost respect for the position of power she is in.
    I believe that it is true that all universities and places of employment need more female employees, but you are just making just as sexist of a statement stating there should be less males. It should come to whoever is the most qualified and can fulfill their duties properly.

    The reasons he is not calling out Chancellor Birgeneau is because that is on Berkley’s campus. Brown is representing our campus, and even though we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers at Berkley, they need educated, informed and passionate leaders who are directly involved in their campus and in their life. Brown is not directly connected to Berkley, and him calling for the resignation of Birgeneau would be outlandish and unrepresented. Do not belittle a man who is standing up for what he believes in and trying to represent a minority that is being trampled on, because you are representing the same ideology.

  • Mary

    Wow. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I am a graduate student perspective, and I’d like to add that I’ve seen several incidents on Twitter and in online comments that belittle Chancellor Katehi for her “thick foreign [Greek] accent.” A young man in the town hall actually said it to her directly during the questions/comments portion of the discussion, joined in by the chuckles of several members in the crowd. I am appalled.

    I have been struck by the response of the Assistant Professors in the UCD School of Education. First, I think Dr. Enright’s response aligns with how I’ve been processing the issue. [Link to Dr. Enright’s post here: myucdlife.blogspot.com/2011/11/should-katehi-resign.html]

    I find Nathan Brown’s response — highly lauded and applauded throughout social media and among those present on the Quad on Monday — to be repugnant and overtly hateful in his attacks. His arrogance about his “value” (presented in contrast to his belief about Katehi) to the university does not speak well for his role in building a community of support for everyone on our campus. By the way, I’m not sure this is the CV of a woman who adds no “value”: http://chancellor.ucdavis.edu/.....9.2010.pdf

    At first, I thought he was bold for writing the open letter before he earned tenure. Now I am grateful his tenure prospects are thin, because he is not a faculty member I want working with young students who might not look deeper than their admiration for his outspoken support of their interests. Arrogance and charisma are dangerous when used to rip people down. In this case, so publicly decimating another human being. Bolstered by the public response, I am afraid he demonstrate a similar attitude toward others on our faculty and with students. “I belong and have value, you don’t” is an attitude that doesn’t belong in educational settings.

    At the rally, he took the stage and read his letter, but first, he took care to announce over the microphone that Chancellor Katehi was present (and pointed her out in the location near the stage). Video link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wCxUaH7-YQ You can hear that he was well-received in large numbers. For some, he is now a local folk-hero. But I was not alone in my disagreement with his tactics and proposals.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective. As a woman, I’ve been troubled by the way we’ve publicly flogged her, and the contrast to UCB’s Chancellor helped crystallize some of what bothers me. I think she is stepping forward courageously to tackle these issues amidst a climate of great hostility.

  • Mary

    Oops, disregard the typos above. It’s near the end of the quarter, and I’m wiped out…

  • the15th

    All I knew about Chancellor Katehi before is that she did a very good job handling a pregnancy discrimination case in the veterinary school. Great post, Anna Belle.

  • Good catch, the15th. Here was the result of that action, and now I’m wondering if this is playing a role: http://scienceblogs.com/gregla.....havior.php

  • Patrick

    Often a scandal serves as an excuse to get rid of someone who is awful but previously untouchable. As a faculty member at the University of Illinois, I was able to witness first hand how terrible then Provost Katehi treated faculty, students, and common decency. She was implicated in the admissions scandal at Illinois, but left for Davis before any action was taken against her. However, the white male president and chancellor at Illinois were forced to resign. The former president of Harvard, Larry Summers, is a vile person who was deeply despised by faculty, but could only be forced out when he made a misogynist statement. Perhaps the Berkeley chancellor has more redeeming qualities than Katehi, or perhaps no video of the police violence has gone viral. And no ire has gone towards Yudof, strangely. Still, the assistant professor of English, white and male though he is, showed quite a bit of courage attacking an administrator so forcefully – he certainly risks not getting tenure! In the humanities at least the majority of faculty are women – I suspect he must be fairly comfortable with women in authority positions.

  • It’s getting worse. Nathan Brown is now referring to her as “Chemical Linda Katehi” because she was involved with a council of educators that advised Greek universities. It’s a long story, but you can read it at the link. My question first is: Ladies & Gentlemen, what are we gonna DO about it?

    http://bicyclebarricade.wordpr.....versities/

  • Here’s what I’m doing about it: http://peacocksandlilies.com/2.....alifornia/

    There are tons of UC & UC Davis e-mails published there, if you want to follow up with your support. When you have time, of course. I realize it’s Thanksgiving…

  • Kevin Dawes

    I think I am failing to see the connection with how this is a sexist witch-hunt. Perhaps it is because I am also a privileged middle-class white male who is attending UC Davis, or perhaps it is because there is no clear evidence to this, only mere speculation. I am for Katehi to resign, but I can also state that it is easier to go after an individual who is at the top of the system then the system itself. Where this comes off as her being female, I do not understand. You provide general statistics about women in power, but you fail to connect to why people are asking Katehi to resign.

    We are asking her to resign because we have lost faith in her, she is not representing her students properly, primarily in the form of the increase in fees and tuition, and now this act of police brutality that was under her watch. She claims she wants to have a connection to students and keep an open dialogue on how to fix the problem. Well, then the question is why didn’t she try to come speak and negotiate with the peaceful protesters then send in riot armed police officers. Why did it have to come to police attacking students on their own campus for this dialogue to be open? I think you have twisted mere coincidence that women in power are being asked to step down into a female witch hunt. Personally, I could care less if it was a female or male or anything that allowed this barbaric act to happen on my campus, and I believe every student and faculty member is declaring the same as we stand in unity together.

    Nathan Brown’s article is no way undermining her for being a female, it is undermining her because of the misuse of power she has obviously demonstrated. His lack of using her title is no way connected to her being a woman, it is connected because he has lost respect for the position of power she is in.
    I believe that it is true that all universities and places of employment need more female employees, but you are just making just as sexist of a statement stating there should be less males. It should come to whoever is the most qualified and can fulfill their duties properly.

    The reasons he is not calling out Chancellor Birgeneau is because that is on Berkley’s campus. Brown is representing our campus, and even though we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers at Berkley, they need educated, informed and passionate leaders who are directly involved in their campus and in their life. Brown is not directly connected to Berkley, and him calling for the resignation of Birgeneau would be outlandish and unrepresented. Do not belittle a man who is standing up for what he believes in and trying to represent a minority that is being trampled on, because you are representing the same ideology.

  • Kevin Dawes

    Thank you for acknowledging my comment, it truly illustrates your reputation as an academic to engage in intelligent and respectful debate. There is absolutely no evidence in the Physics department’s letter for the resignation of Katehi that is sexist, makes any remarks about “chemicals” AND they even call her Chancellor Katehi. There is no connection between Brown and the Physics department, which you magically pulled out with no evidence, besides their desire for KAtehi to resign. So, stop your spread of hate for people who are standing up for their cause, you are not welcome to the UC Davis fight if you fail to even understand the circumstances.

  • Brian Riley

    Sorry, you lost all credibility by writing: “Is being pepper-sprayed worse than being physically beaten?” Even in that context that you provide (comparing the incident at UC Davis and the incident at UC Berkeley), by asking that question you are attempting to imply that the use of the pepper spray on UC Davis students is somehow excusable or understandable, at least vis-a-vis Katehi’s position as Chancellor. That is outrageous and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    Instead of trying to excuse Katehi’s behavior, you should be calling for the ouster of *both* Katehi and Birgeneau. This has nothing to do with glass ceilings.

  • Susan

    Bes, let’s not go overboard. Liberals and Democrats are no more anti-woman than conservatives and Republicans. It’s just that we have expected them to be better. They may never have been but it was so obvious in 2008 that it couldn’t be ignored or explained away any longer.

  • Milan Moravec

    UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau brutal use of batons on his students. Campus UCPD report to chancellors and take direction from their chancellor. University of California campus chancellors vet their campus police protocols. Chancellors knowledgeable that pepper spray and use of batons included in their campus police protocols.

    UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and UC Davis Chancellor are in dereliction
    of their duties.

    UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and UC Davis Chancellor need to quit or be
    fired for permitting the brutal outrages on students protesting tuition increases
    and student debt

    Opinions? Email the UC Board of Regents marsha.kelman@ucop.edu

  • Mary

    Rereading my earlier post, I realize I wrote it shortly after scanning through Facebook posts on the UCD wall that freely used terms like b*tch and warty old c*nt to describe Katehi. I’m usually better about not hitting “send” in the heat of the moment, but in this case, I wasn’t.

    I try to avoid making assumptions about an individual’s intent or motivation. I failed in this case. I owe Assistant Professor Brown an apology. I *strongly* disagree with the way he is speaking to and about Chancellor Katehi, in part because of the personal nature of his attacks on her. Unfortunately, I did the very thing I found offensive by calling into question how he’ll treat his students and colleagues.

    If you prefer not to delete my earlier comment, I request that you please post my apology to accompany it.

    Many thanks for your consideration.

  • Mr. Dawes,

    It is late, so this will be brief, and I may have more to say tomorrow. However, I thought it important to respond to the ridiculous notion that UC Davis Faculty have no vested interest in pursuing Birgeneau, even as they protested in solidarity with students at UC Berkeley. As I said in comment on my persona blog:

    “It is entirely disingenuous of them to protest in solidarity with students at Berkeley, but then claim they have no responsibility in protesting Berkeley’s leadership when they are protesting their own. It blows the lid off the lie behind the protest against the chancellor and reveals certain UC Davis faculty to be the hypocrites they are. It is a folly that can be corrected, but instead the faculty are fighting back against correction. That’s a major tell, too.”

    I do intend to respond to several other comments tomorrow, especially yours, Mary, which I thought were thoughtful and not anything like Professor Brown’s. I do want to thank you for alerting me that he does have the security of tenure. That was a rather helpful detail.

  • *Does NOT have the security of tenure. Apologies for the typo; it is rather late, and well past my bedtime. 🙂

  • Mary

    Thanks, Anna, but I crossed a personal line by making statements about his character rather than focusing on what I don’t appreciate about his behavior. One thing I admire about nonviolent protest is that even the language honors the dignity of those with whom we disagree. I didn’t live up to those standards when I wrote my initial comment.

  • Milan Moravec

    Chancellor Birgeneau must quit, retire, or be fired for allowing his University of California Berkeley campus police to use batons on his students protesting increases in tuition.

    Chancellor Birgeneau is accountable

  • Liberte

    All chancellors should be held accountable for any police action on their respective campuses.However, this does not absolve Ms. Katehi’s
    actions nor should it.

    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2.....-n28.shtml