UC Davis students end sit-in calling for chancellor to resign

UC Davis students calling for the resignation of Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi ended their sit-in at the campus administration building Friday around noon, five weeks after their protest began.

The demonstration concluded after a morning session in which they steam-cleaned carpets and cleared out a refrigerator. They left red and pink roses on the floor afterward and 32 protesters marched toward a campus flagpole, many carrying signs and wearing silver duct tape over their mouths with the words “Fire Katehi.”

The students began their protest five weeks ago after revelations in The Sacramento Bee that the chancellor had accepted seats on private corporate boards.

Protester and graduate student Emily Breuninger said earlier Friday that the students had been discussing for a week whether to end the sit-in and voted unanimously Thursday night to move on to other forms of protest.

“Ultimately, we feel that we’ve effectively brought local, national and international attention to the unethical behavior of this administration,” she said. “I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved.”

This week, The Sacramento Bee revealed that the school spent at least $175,000 to scrub negative references from the Internet about UC Davis and Katehi and the 2011 pepper spraying of students by campus police. Seven lawmakers also have called for Katehi to resign.

UC Davis did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment on the sit-in’s conclusion. The move came one day before the annual picnic day celebration at UC Davis on Saturday that typically draws thousands of participants.

The students have been sleeping in shifts at Mrak since the takeover, making certain there are always a handful present to ensure the university does not lock them out. They have been supplied with food and cash for supplies from supporters, who they say include fellow students, faculty and members of the community.

A table in the hallway had been packed with jars of peanut butter, jams, baby carrots and other snacks brought in from Costco runs they have made as they continued their vigil through finals and the campus spring break.

But the students have said in interviews in recent days that the stress of their effort has left them exhausted and concerned for their studies and that they were discussing whether to vote to end the sit-in.

“It’s been five weeks, and the natural physical and academic toll is really starting to get to some people,” Breuninger said Thursday, before the decision to end the sit-in was made. “People are getting sick and starting to fall behind.”

Another student said earlier in the week that discussions had begun in recent days about what move to make next.

“We’re currently debating that,” graduate student Patricia Bohls said in an interview Tuesday at Mrak. “We’ll see what ends up happening over the next week or so, but even if we end up leaving that doesn’t mean were de-escalating.

“We’ll definitely escalate it in some other way, even if we decide to end the sit-in part of this protest.”

Breuninger said that after the vote Thursday the students began cleaning up the lobby area, removing their supplies and emptying the refrigerator in an attempt to leave the building as they found it.

The students also have said they are concerned about retribution from the university in the form of discipline, something a UC Davis official said last week was not a step the university was planning to take yet.

Sam Stanton: 916-321-1091, @StantonSam

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