Cruz Reynoso, the former state Supreme Court justice whose task force blamed "systemic and repeated failures" of UC Davis' leadership for the pepper-spraying of students last fall, said Thursday that Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi should stay on the job and enact reforms to prevent a recurrence.
"She should not resign. The balance is that she has done a lot of good despite this drastic poor judgment," Reynoso said, a day after releasing an investigative report that faulted the chancellor for failing to make clear to campus police she wanted no force used in dispersing protesters and taking down an Occupy encampment on Nov. 18.
Reynoso said he was impressed by the chancellor's response: a written statement Wednesday vowing to protect students' "safety and free speech" as the university learns "from the difficult events."
But difficult days of reckoning are hardly over for the Davis chancellor or the university community.
The task force next week will hold two on-campus town hall meetings on its findings that Katehi exhibited poor judgment in insisting police clear out the encampment in midafternoon and that administrators failed to investigate inaccurate reports that protesters were largely non-student outsiders.
On Thursday, UC Davis philosophy professor Aldo Antonelli, who in February backed an unsuccessful no-confidence vote by the faculty against the chancellor, wondered if the results of such a vote might turn out differently now.
"The chancellor executed executive privilege when she shouldn't have, but didn't exercise it when she should have," said Antonelli, after reading through the 190-page report. "She was responsible for the raid being carried out in the daytime, but then didn't make it clear she didn't want force used.
"She was definitely guilty of a lapse of judgment, and she did not do her job properly."
He said the report "vindicated" faculty members who sought the no-confidence vote which didn't call for Katehi's resignation.
Katehi, who has kept a low profile since the report's release other than to issue her written statement, is due to meet with task force members Tuesday. The president of the University of California system, Mark Yudof, also will meet with Katehi in the near future, said his spokesman, Peter King.
King noted that Yudof has consistently supported Katehi in the wake of the pepper-spraying incident, saying she called for the task force investigation and has "apologized and admitted mistakes."
Meanwhile, as Katehi reviews the task force report, UC Davis spokesman Barry Shiller said the chancellor has no plans to grant interviews.
"The entire administrative leadership team is very appropriately focused on digesting, taking stock and mapping out a plan going forward," he said.
Campus administrators were the target of worldwide outrage last November when video clips of campus police Lt. John Pike calmly pepper-spraying a group of protesters who were seated on the ground, arms linked, spread across the Internet.
Pike and other officers moved in on the demonstrators after Occupy UC Davis students and other protesters rallying against tuition hikes refused to take down their encampment.
The police action prompted some students and faculty members to call for Katehi's resignation.
Until then, Katehi had won praise after her 2009 hiring for improving private fundraising and pledging to make UC Davis a top-five public research university. A former provost at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she is a renowned scholar in electrical and computer engineering.
Entomology professor Walter Leal, a Katehi supporter, said Thursday, "this one issue should not disqualify her as chancellor given everything she has provided."
While 69 percent of faculty rejected a condemnation of the chancellor's dispatching of police to deal with the nonviolent protests last fall, 59 percent in the February vote backed an expression of confidence in her overall leadership and "good-faith apology" for the pepper-spraying.
Yet viticulture professor Linda Bisson, chair of the Academic Senate, said Thursday that a special faculty committee is due to issue its own report soon on the incident, saying: "I am expecting they will have a very powerful report."
Bisson said the committee is looking at "cultural attitudes" that may have led to the pepper-spraying, as well as suggestions on how "the campus administration culture has to change."
Bisson said she didn't know if faculty members would offer another expression of confidence or lack of it in the chancellor. "I think all things are still on the table," she said.
But she added it would be unfair to pin the police action squarely on Katehi.
The Reynoso report also took wide aim at what it called a "very dysfunctional" campus police force. It noted that officers ignored Chief Annette Spicuzza's instructions not to wear rior gear or carry batons into the demonstration.
The Reynoso report cited errors among multiple administrators in failing to understand or communicate Katehi's request to police that they refrain from any use of force to avoid "another Berkeley" a reference to a protest that police broke up with batons at that UC campus.
The report noted the type of pepper spray canister that Pike used had neither been approved for campus use nor included in officer training.
Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education in San Jose, said the findings showed a stunning lack of competence in dealing with protests that are hardly an "exotic event on college campuses."
"Flawed judgment is probably the understatement of the year," Callan said. "It was not just flawed on the ground but flawed from the very senior management right down through the police."
The Reynoso report recommended a range of solutions that include developing university policies for campus protests and civil disobedience, training officers in "modern and contemporary" campus policing and improving communication among administrators, faculty, staff and students.
Rebecca Sterling, the UC Davis student body president and a task force member, said the university and its chancellor should thoroughly review the recommendations.
"She must understand her leadership is critical and it was not up to par with the university's expectations," Sterling said, adding: "There will be a lot of repercussions and a lot of steps to make it right."