By now, it’s no secret that UC Davis has been affected by a certain commotion involving our very own chancellor.
When Linda Katehi accepted a paid board seat with the Devry Education Group on March 2, UCD students wasted no time banding together to protest the now former chancellor. As more and more information on Katehi became available—like the notion that the chancellor received a whopping $420,000 while serving as a board member for John Wiley & Sons, a top publisher of engineering, math, and science—the uproar only grew stronger.
While Katehi quickly resigned from the board of Devry Education Group in the face of a critical public, the chancellor did not escape further scrutiny.
In the midst of protests and campaigns calling for the chancellor’s resignation, it was revealed on April 13 that Katehi shelled out thousands of dollars to scrub the web of the school’s 2011 pepper-spray incident. The revelation only provoked greater uproar.
As a result of many factors, Katehi has been suspended as chancellor since April 29, after refusing UC President Janet Napolitano’s request to resign. Yet, the divide between the chancellor’s supporters and adversaries remains clear, as some have gone as far as to organize a Fire Katehi campaign.
“There’s a history of unsupportive administration and students fighting back,” the Fire Katehi Facebook page said in a post on April 29. The statement made reference to 1992 dispute in a budget proposal over funding of the UC Davis Women’s Resources and Research Center.
With nearly 3,000 followers on the group’s Facebook page and coverage from distinguished news outlets, the association has succeeded. Through their inexorable efforts of protest outside of the chancellor’s office and through their social media campaigning, they brought attention to Katehi’s wrongdoings, as well as to administrative issues across the UCs.
And while the extent of the chancellor’s guilt remains unclear (the investigation into her alleged acts of nepotism and mismanagement of university funds is ongoing), the polarity of student views on the matter is difficult to ignore.
Aside from the campaign’s dedicated protesters and common adversaries, there are many students and faculty members who have supported Katehi or were, at the very least, conflicted by the allegations against the chancellor.
Molodanof continued to support Katehi until the chancellor’s suspension was announced. “Once the University of California came out with more concrete evidence, I began to shift more to a neutral point,” she explained. When it came time for the ASUCD Senate to vote as to whether or not Katehi should resign, Molodanof decided to vote with the majority, that Katehi should resign.
“A co-author who was introducing the bill said something to the extent of, ‘If you think our university deserves better, vote that way in regards to this bill,’ and that did it for me,” said Molodanof. “I felt like we did deserve better, but that doesn’t mean that I still don’t feel bad for the chancellor. As a strong woman in a leadership position, she got some pretty hard hits thrown at her, but she stood strong. I can’t imagine being in her position, and although I now believe that the Chancellor may have made multiple faulty decisions, I admire her dedication to our campus and her strength as a female leader.”
“For all the good that Linda Katehi has done for this university, she has also embarrassed us, pepper-sprayed us, ignored us, and failed us…This is an issue of trust and competence,” Adilla Jamaludin, ASUCD Senator and adversary of Katehi, added.
Not unlike the Fire Katehi community, however, Molodanof and other neutrals are interested in finding ways to prevent this kind of adversity within universities. Though Katehi adversaries are first and foremost interested in a official dismissal from her position, they’re also advocating for a total restructure of the administrative board. The desired outcome? A board that is both “democratic and transparent,” said Ruben Gil, a proponent of the Fire Katehi movement. “After all, we’re working to make this campus a greater place, not only for ourselves, but for the students after us.”