Nearly a year after police pepper sprayed protesting students at the University of California, Davis, UC officials today released thousands of pages of internal documents and emails related to the aftermath of the incident.
The document release comes in response to Public Records Act requests from The Bee and numerous other media organizations that were filed immediately following the Nov. 18 incident. However, disclosure of the documents was delayed while university officials said internal reviews of the matter and a criminal investigation was conducted.
Now, legal fights over the incident have largely been completed, with no criminal charges filed and university officials agreeing to a settlement that was announced in September and calls for the payout of roughly $1 million to students hit with the pepper spray.
The incident has cost more than $2 million in legal and other fees, and the documents released this morning show the widespread effect that video of the pepper spraying had on the reputation of UC Davis and chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.
"You must feel very powerful right now having been directly responsible for the bodily harm to students," an email sent to Katehi the morning after read. "Good job there chancellor."
"What on Earth is wrong with you?" wrote another man who indicated he had worked with her at the University of Illinois.
Numerous similar messages were sent to her demanding she resign, according to the documents released today.
But Katehi also received strong support from academics nationwide who offered statements on her behalf and advice on how to handle the controversy.
An email from Gino Cortopassi, a UC Davis professor of molecular biosciences, suggested she "can weather this storm" as long as she could make the case that she did not authorize the use of force against the students, who had gathered on the quad for a protest against rising tuition.
"The mood of the students, and to some extent the faculty, is that for that image of pepper-spraying peaceful protesters there has to be somebody to blame," Cortopassi wrote. "I fear if you are not able to distance yourself from that image it will be difficult to remain the effective, powerful force for positive change that you have been up to now at UC Davis."
Katehi rejected calls for her resignation and apologized publicly for the incident. Internal investigations found a woeful lack of leadership within the campus police, as well as among the campus administration hierarchy.
Under terms of the settlement reached in a federal lawsuit filed by 21 of the students, Katehi has agreed to write personal letters of apology.
She has insisted that she never would have authorized the police to move if she had known they planned to use force.