UC Davis students stay overnight in protest against chancellor

Katehi protesters explain their position in words and song

Katehi protesters explain their position in words and song
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Katehi protesters explain their position in words and song

A handful of UC Davis students slept overnight Friday outside Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s office to protest her past acceptance of paid corporate board seats.

The reception area outside Katehi’s office Saturday was strewn with bags of hot Cheetos, boxes of Girl Scout cookies, rumpled blankets and couch cushions. The walls were plastered with resignation letters written by the student protesters, as well as hand-sketched cartoons depicting the chancellor as a miser and a tyrant.

Katehi, 62, has been under fire since The Sacramento Bee reported last week that she 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. She drew legislative calls for resignation after 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 since resigned her DeVry position, apologized and pledged $200,000 in Wiley stock toward a student scholarship fund.

More than a dozen people slept at Mrak Hall after a Friday protest and sit-in calling for Katehi’s departure. Annie Ashmore, 21, a third-year student majoring in biological sciences and minoring in human rights, said she does not think Katehi should sit on paid boards at “organizations detrimental to students” while serving as UC Davis chancellor.

Overnight, students discussed what they called “a manifestation of pervasive problems in terms of conflict of interest” between students and administration, said graduate student Emily Breuninger, 27.

They also built a blanket fort, wrote a protest song and made plans for how long to stay in the building and how to organize future protests leading up to finals week, which begins Tuesday. Ashmore said on Saturday night that 10 to 15 protesters remained in the office and that they plan on staying until Monday.They said they would not stop demonstrating until Katehi resigns or is fired.

“It’s pretty clear that the only people who want Katehi to stay in power are Chancellor Katehi and the people who work directly under her,” said Elly Oltersdorf, 21, a third-year history major. “The students don’t want her here, state legislators don’t want her here. ... It’s not good for the school, it’s not good for anybody.”

In a memo to top UC Davis administrators, Katehi apologized for accepting a seat in February on the DeVry board, which offered $70,000 in pay and $100,000 in stock annually. She called that decision an “error” and a “mistake.”

But Katehi defended her Wiley tenure, saying she wanted to improve the quality, access and affordability of books, adding that “my work on the board had no impact on UC textbook purchases.”

UC Davis spokeswoman Dana Topousis said Saturday that the school has “no plans to bring the students’ protest to an end.” She said Friday that “Chancellor Katehi respects the students’ rights of freedom of expression, and she encourages civil discourse.”

University of California President Janet Napolitano last week criticized Katehi for accepting the DeVry seat without permission and did not think it was appropriate to link UC’s reputation with the for-profit school. She said, however, that serving on outside corporate boards can help chancellors network and expand their knowledge.

Napolitano also called Katehi a “good chancellor” who should continue to lead UC Davis.

University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart joined the DeVry board at the same Florida meeting as Katehi in February, but she has retained her seat. Arizona students protested Friday against Hart, according to The Daily Wildcat, the student newspaper.

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.

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,

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.

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola

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