In her first letter to students, UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi explained why she accepted paid board seats many have found questionable and apologized for the ‘distraction’ the issue has caused.
Katehi has been under fire since the Bee reported earlier this month that she accepted a board position paying $70,000 annually with $100,000 in restricted stock units from Devry Education Group, which is under scrutiny by the federal government. She stepped down from the board and apologized, but drew further criticism when it was reported that she had previously earned $420,000 on the board of textbook publisher John Wiley & Sons.
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Roughly 30 students have occupied the fifth floor of Mrak Hall in protest of the appointments for more a week. The students and five state legislators have called for her resignation.
To students, parents, faculty, alumni, donors, staff and to the broader UC community, please know I remain deeply committed to this great university.
UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, in letter sent Thurday to students
In her letter, emailed to students’ university accounts Thursday night, Katehi said it was her responsibility as a leader and a woman to accept board positions.
“Service on public and private boards is widely recognized as a responsibility of academic leaders,” the letter said. “As a woman and a STEM scholar, my service has helped to correct the chronic lack of diversity on a number of boards.”
Still, the chancellor called her acceptance of the DeVry seat a “mistake” and apologized for the “distraction this has caused our university community.”
She had not complied with UC policy when she accepted the DeVry seat, she said, but was in compliance with the policy when she took the Wiley & Sons seat.
We’re particularly upset that she didn’t mention our existence
Emily Breuninger, UC Davis student protestor
University of California President Janet Napolitano told The Bee that Katehi had turned in paperwork to allow her to assume the DeVry board seat, but had not received her permission. The Wiley & Sons seat had been approved by the Office of the President before Napolitano’s tenure began in 2013.
“My pledge to the UC Davis community is to more carefully vet such invitations and to meticulously follow UC approval procedures in the future,” Katehi said in the letter.
Katehi told students she joined Wiley & Sons to help it improve materials and to make them more accessible and affordable to students. “While I recognize and appreciate the concerns raised by many in our community about my service on the Wiley board, my work on the board had no impact on UC textbook purchases,” she wrote.
She also addressed her position on the advisory panel of King Abdulaziz University, a school based in Saudi Arabia. That institution drew scrutiny in 2011 when the journal Science alleged that it was paying renowned scholars to list it on research citations to improve the school’s international ranking.
Katehi said she did not participate in any meetings, wasn’t paid and that the appointment complied with UC policy.
“My goal was to increase student diversity,” she said.
Annie Ashmore, one of the student protestors, said Katehi should have apologized for accepting both the Devry and Wiley & Sons seats. Ashmore disagreed with Katehi assessment that her seat on Wiley & Sons’ board had no impact on textbook purchases on campus.
“I feel frustrated,” Ashmore said, adding that the chancellor did not address other student concerns.
Katehi spoke to student protesters briefly earlier this week but didn’t answer questions during the encounter. The students in turn refused to set an appointment, wanting to discuss the issues immediately.
In the letter, the chancellor repeated a pledge to establish a $200,000 scholarship fund for California undergraduate students at UC Davis from the Wiley & Son stock proceeds.
“To students, parents, faculty, alumni, donors, staff and to the broader UC community, please know I remain deeply committed to this great university,” she said. “I am proud of what we have accomplished together.”
Ashmore said the protest will continue with a group of 10 to 15 students during spring break. They may hold a rally soon to encourage more students to join them.
“This won’t change anything,” she said.
Legislators have called a joint oversight hearing on the outside employment of University of California and California State University executives. The Assembly budget subcommittee overseeing education finance and the Assembly Higher Education committee will hold the hearing on April 4.