Interim UC Davis Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter launched the fall semester Tuesday by saying he could not recall a moment during his lifetime when the political discourse of the nation was more starkly polarized, dysfunctional or lacking in civility.
“Media, whether online or on-air, seem only to amplify the shrillness of speakers exchanging barbs and frequently ungrounded assertions,” he told about 600 students, faculty, staff and community members in an apparent allusion to this year’s presidential politics. “And the 24-hour news cycle leaves no one a moment for reflection.”
His remarks during the fall convocation in the Mondavi Center were the stepping-off point for videos, student performances and a keynote address by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye about the need for a higher level of civil discourse and response to conflict.
“In these contentious times, it is more than ever crucial that we improve our capacity to conduct debates and dialogue … one that fearlessly pursues truth by critically engaging with the broadest range of ideas,” Hexter said.
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It was Hexter’s first time presiding over the convocation. He has led the campus since April, when then-Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi was placed on leave while outside investigators examined allegations of misconduct. Katehi resigned in August. UC regents voted last week to confirm Hexter as interim chancellor of UC Davis until a new campus leader is found.
UC classes start Wednesday. The university estimates its fall quarter enrollment will be 35,700. Of that, new freshmen and transfer students are projected at about 9,400.