UC Davis paid to repair its online image
Three more state lawmakers called Thursday for the resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, citing revelations about her efforts to scrub the Internet of negative postings about campus police pepper-spraying students.
Assemblymen Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, and Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, said they were moved by a report Wednesday in The Sacramento Bee that UC Davis had spent at least $175,000 on consultants to scrub online references to the November 2011 pepper-spraying of students and improve the image of the university and chancellor.
Gatto first posted his call for the resignation on Twitter on Thursday morning: “Spend millions on PR while students costs soar? It’s time for Katehi to resign.”
“Her serving on the board of textbook companies was sufficient enough grounds, but her recent article detailing large and questionable PR expenditures cemented it in the minds of many,” Gatto said later via email.
All told, seven state lawmakers have called on Katehi to step down. Assembly members Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville; Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego; Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento; and Evan Low, D-Campbell previously asked her to resign after The Bee reported that Katehi had accepted questionable paid board seats they said posed a conflict of interest.
Hours after Gatto’s statement, Rodriguez became the sixth legislator to call for her resignation when he retweeted The Bee story with this statement: “@ucdavis don’t spend millions to cover up a bad reputation. Invest in students. Time for Katehi to resign.”
“Chancellor Katehi’s decisions have raised serious questions about her ability to lead UC Davis and represent the University system,” Rodriguez in a follow-up statement to The Bee. “The University of California campuses should be making decisions that serve the best interest of students, not executives.”
Stone, chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that as the Legislature considers the UC budget, “it is very disturbing to hear that a Chancellor has been spending precious public resources on a PR campaign to obfuscate questionable decisions. Clearly it is time for Chancellor Katehi to move on.”
In a statement issued Thursday after national media outlets reported on The Bee’s findings, UC Davis said, “Communicating the value of UC Davis is an essential element of our campus’s education, research, and larger public service mission. Increased investment in social media and communications strategy has heightened the profile of the university to good effect.”
The Bee reported last month that Katehi, 62, had accepted a paid seat on the board of DeVry Education Group as the for-profit company faces federal allegations of exaggerated job-placement claims. In the face of criticism, Katehi resigned from that seat and apologized before receiving the $170,000 in annual stock and salary that board members receive.
The Bee subsequently reported she had received $420,000 in three years for serving on the board of textbook publisher John Wiley & Sons. She has defended her tenure on that board, but pledged $200,000 in Wiley stock toward a scholarship fund after facing criticism from students who said that position posed a conflict of interest while she oversaw a campus of students facing high textbook costs.
Katehi earns $424,360 annually as UC Davis chancellor. UC President Janet Napolitano has said Katehi made mistakes – such as taking the DeVry seat without permission from Napolitano – but that she has been a good chancellor who should remain at UC Davis.
Two other local state lawmakers, Sens. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, previously questioned Katehi’s decision to accept the DeVry seat but said she should remain as chancellor. Another local lawmaker, Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, called on her to resign but rescinded that stance after she apologized to students and talked to him by phone.
UC Davis students have been camped outside Katehi’s office for more than a month in an effort to force her out.
A similar controversy involving DeVry also is playing out at the University of Arizona, where President Ann Weaver Hart accepted a DeVry board seat and has refused to step down from it despite protests. The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson reports that her refusal led 21 lawmakers to ask for her to resign from the UofA.