Controversy not an unfamiliar companion for UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi
Three more state lawmakers called Thursday for UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi to depart after she accepted questionable paid board seats that they said posed a conflict of interest.
Assemblymembers Luis Alejo, Jim Cooper and Lorena Gonzalez asked Thursday for Katehi to leave her post, bringing to five the number of state lawmakers who have called on her to resign or be removed. Assemblymen Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, and Evan Low, D-Campbell, previously asked Katehi to resign.
Alejo, D-Salinas, is the chairman of the California Latino Legislative Caucus and a UC Davis School of Law graduate. Gonzalez, D-San Diego, is chairwoman of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, while Cooper, D-Elk Grove, sits on the Assembly Budget Committee.
Katehi, 62, has been under fire since The Sacramento Bee reported this month 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. McCarty and Low called for her 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. UC President Janet Napolitano has said, however, that she has been a good chancellor who should remain at UC Davis.
The latest calls for Katehi to leave UC Davis came just before legislators scheduled a joint oversight hearing on 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, McCarty announced Thursday.
“After meeting with Chancellor Katehi this week, I found her explanations unsatisfactory and disappointing,” Alejo wrote in his letter to Napolitano and the Board of Regents. “I believe Chancellor Katehi’s ability to serve as an effective leader of a UC campus is compromised. To restore the public’s trust in the leadership of UC Davis and the University of California as a whole, Ms. Katehi should resign or be removed from her position as Chancellor of UC Davis.”
Alejo said that Katehi’s decisions to accept paid board seats from DeVry and Wiley & Sons were “indefensible while the cost of attending a public university in California soars increasingly out of reach for our young people, many of whom must take on huge student loan debt just to get an education.”
Cooper said in his statement: “It saddens me to think that while our students are strapped with student debt to pay for the astronomical prices of college textbooks, Chancellor Katehi in a clear conflict of interest received $420,000 from the same textbook publishers that are exploiting our students.”
Cooper wanted to issue his statement last week, but decided to give Katehi a chance to resign on her own, said Cooper spokesman Skyler Wonnacott. “A whole week went by and she hasn’t done anything,” Wonnacott said. “The assemblyman doesn’t think she has properly addressed the situation.”
UC Davis spokeswoman Dana Topousis responded that under Katehi’s watch, UC Davis has enrolled more California undergraduates and has more women pursuing STEM programs than at any other UC campus. She also said that “because of Chancellor Katehi’s direction, the campus is on track to become an Hispanic Serving Institution by 2018-19.”
Topousis added that the school’s endowment reached $1 billion and research funding surpassed $700 million under the chancellor.
Katehi earns $424,360 annually as UC Davis chancellor.
Katehi and Napolitano have acknowledged that Katehi’s DeVry seat was a mistake, but they have defended her Wiley board tenure from 2011-2014. They said it did not pose a conflict of interest because Katehi is not directly involved in selecting the materials that professors use.
After Alejo and Cooper became the third and fourth lawmakers to call for Katehi’s departure Thursday, Gonzalez said on Twitter, “Make that 5. She needs to go.”
Gonzalez’s spokesman, Evan McLaughlin, confirmed she wrote the tweet.
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 not have to resign.
UC Davis students have been camped outside Katehi’s office for nearly a week in an effort to force her out. Katehi addressed them briefly Tuesday and offered to meet with them elsewhere, but students said they would only talk in the open area outside her office.
Alejo also called for Napolitano’s office and the Board of Regents to immediately change UC policies to prohibit senior managers from taking paid outside board seats.