UC Davis chancellor took DeVry post at Florida meeting against policy

Controversy not an unfamiliar companion for UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi has undergone significant scrutiny and criticism during her tenure at the university, stemming from incidents such as the pepper-spraying of peacefully protesting students to her service on corporate boards.
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UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi has undergone significant scrutiny and criticism during her tenure at the university, stemming from incidents such as the pepper-spraying of peacefully protesting students to her service on corporate boards.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi violated University of California policy when she accepted a paid board seat with embattled DeVry Education Group at a Florida meeting last month, a UC spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Katehi resigned the $70,000-a-year seat Tuesday after hearing concerns about her appointment with for-profit DeVry, which faces scrutiny from federal officials for allegedly deceiving students about job and income prospects.

Katehi was in Weston, Fla., from Feb. 15-18 for a DeVry board orientation and meeting, UC Davis spokeswoman Dana Topousis said Wednesday. A Katehi spokesman mistakenly said Tuesday that she had not attended DeVry meetings.

The chancellor filed paperwork with the University of California to start the review process for the board seat, but Katehi’s request was never considered or approved by President Janet Napolitano, said University of California Office of the President spokeswoman Dianne Klein.

“It is not allowable under our policy to accept a position without receiving approval prior,” Klein said.

Topousis said the chancellor followed UC policy when she filed the paperwork.

“I think, from her standpoint, she did everything she had to do,” Topousis said.

The UC president and Katehi discussed the board appointment before the chancellor submitted her resignation, Klein said.

DeVry paid for Katehi’s travel to Florida, and the chancellor took vacation days from UC Davis for her days of missed work, Topousis said. She didn’t receive compensation from DeVry for the meetings, according to Topousis.

The Federal Trade Commission suit filed against DeVry on Jan. 27 contends that the company made false and unsubstantiated claims when it began advertising around 2008 that 90 percent of its graduates obtain well-paying jobs in their fields within six months of graduation. Federal officials also take issue with a 2013 claim that DeVry graduates earn more than other graduates.

DeVry, which operates 13 campuses in California, said in a January statement that it “intends to vigorously contest” the FTC complaint, which it believes relies on “anecdotal examples that exaggerate the allegations but do not prove them.” A DeVry spokesman did not return calls for comment.

Students cannot receive Cal Grants to attend the for-profit institution, according to the California Student Aid Commission. Under state law, colleges are ineligible for Cal Grants when they have high loan default rates, low graduation rates or both.

Katehi spokesman Gary Delsohn said DeVry approached Katehi about the seat in December, before the company was sued by the Federal Trade Commission.

At the February meeting, DeVry board members voted to add Katehi and University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart to the board.

DeVry board members earn $70,000 annually, as well as restricted stock units with an approximate value of $100,000, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Katehi earns $424,360 a year as chancellor of UC Davis.

Critics this week questioned why Katehi agreed to lend the University of California’s stature to a for-profit college system trying to defend its higher education legitimacy. At February’s meeting, Katehi and Hart became the only two sitting university presidents on the DeVry board, joining a group that largely consists of business executives.

Hart said in a statement Wednesday that she will remain on the board and that she was “fully briefed” on the FTC complaint. University of Arizona spokeswoman Chris Sigurdson said Hart accepted the board seat with the full knowledge and support of the Arizona Board of Regents leadership and general counsel.

Ed Howard, senior counsel for the Center for Public Interest Law, called Katehi’s trip troubling. The Center for Public Interest Law was among several public advocacy groups that sent a critical letter to Katehi on Tuesday before she announced her resignation.

“If she went to a board meeting, it becomes very, very unlikely that she did not know about the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit,” he said. “How did DeVry entice her to join and what did the chancellor know and when did she know it?”

University of California President Janet Napolitano says UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi had good intentions when she accepted a seat on the board of DeVry Education Group. The chancellor has since apologized and taken other appropriate measures,

A peaceful protest Friday seeking the resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi morphed into a sit-in in her office lobby with 35 students and protesters criticizing her acceptance of questionable board seats.

Katehi protesters explain their position in words and song

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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