RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi speaks to the Academic Senate on Tuesday, referring only briefly to the pepper-spraying.

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Katehi again vows campus reforms for UC Davis

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 19, 2012 - 12:34 pm

As Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi took "full responsibility" for the pepper-spraying of students on the UC Davis campus, only one tent remained on the quad.

It was one of those pop-up shade structures that had been set up to advertise a nearby apartment complex.

Just a week after the release of the first comprehensive report on the Nov. 18 incident, life on the campus appears like that at any other college.

The Occupy protesters are gone, and the quad is filled with sun-worshipping students playing music or preparing for Saturday's Picnic Day celebration.

But Katehi, in her first public comments since the release of the 190-page report from former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, clearly is determined to move quickly to address the problems outlined in the critique.

"The report illuminated very clearly and critiqued sharply the missteps within the administration and the police which led us to a very unfortunate and regrettable event," she said. "As I said in November and I repeat right now, I take full responsibility for the incident and I consider myself accountable for all of the actions that need to be taken to ensure our campus is a safe and welcoming place."

She added that she wants to see changes made that will ensure "that something like this does not happen again."

Katehi's remarks came during her annual State of the Campus report to the Academic Senate, and members were generally polite during and after her presentation.

"I appreciated the sense of urgency about the matter," said Ralph Aldredge, a mechanical engineering professor. "Mistakes were made by the administration and the police, and I'm confident that she'll do what's necessary to move us forward."

Stephen Wheeler, an associate professor of landscape architecture, said he hoped "that the university will get its act together and move on."

"We need leadership that talks about social needs and the vital role of the university in helping society think through its problems."

Katehi has apologized before for the handling of the police operation she ordered to remove tents set up on the quad as part of a protest against rising tuition.

She has maintained that she never would have agreed to send the police in if she had known they might use force. Reynoso's group found that she and her top administrators failed to communicate clearly with each other in their planning sessions to remove the tents.

The report, presented again Tuesday at a separate public session at UC Davis, also lambasted the campus Police Department for what it found to be a "dysfunctional" command structure.

Katehi promised the Senate she would conduct a "holistic top-to-bottom review" of the department.

She also suggested she would consider forming a police review commission, and said interim Chief Matt Carmichael already is seeking out independent experts to suggest improvements that can be made.

Campus officials say they expect changes in some campus operations to be made quickly, and Katehi noted after her remarks that the report "gives us guidance to move forward."

Meanwhile, Katehi waits for reports from the Academic Senate and the UC system, along with findings from the now-completed internal affairs inquiry into officers' conduct that day.

Katehi said no actions have been taken against administrators connected with the Nov. 18 incident and that it is "premature" to say whether any action will be taken.

She spoke only briefly Tuesday about the pepper-spray incident, spending most of her presentation on campus achievements and hurdles still facing UC Davis.

There were about 80 faculty members and others gathered for her remarks inside the Memorial Union. And, in a sign of how the focus on her is fading somewhat, there were only a handful of reporters and no television cameras present.

Reynoso himself said last week that he does not believe she should resign over the pepper-spray incident, and some students on campus Tuesday brushed aside questions about whether she should leave.

"She should stay, she should," said Mari Salazar, a 21-year-old fourth-year student from Monterey who is studying community and regional development. "I don't think it's solely her fault, what happened."

Bobby Vinograd, a 21-year-old history major from Southern California, was sitting with Salazar on the quad and said he believes most students' focus has moved on from Nov. 18.

"I mean, the whole Reynoso thing, I don't know what's going on, but I don't think it's as prevalent in people's minds as it was when there were tents on the quad," he said. "I'm ready for Picnic Day – I don't know about anybody else."

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