Editorials

Hey, ho, Katehi protesters, time to go

UC Davis students reject provost’s call to end Katehi protest

UC Davis Provost Ralph J. Hexter met with student protesters last week who are occupying the reception area outside Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s office on the fifth floor of Mrak Hall, but failed to convince them to leave.
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UC Davis Provost Ralph J. Hexter met with student protesters last week who are occupying the reception area outside Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s office on the fifth floor of Mrak Hall, but failed to convince them to leave.

As protesters camped in her office and disrupted testimony with finger snapping and coughing, UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi apologized again this week for her brief, but eventful, stint on the board overseeing DeVry University.

Katehi certainly erred, as she acknowledged to lawmakers at an oversight hearing on Monday. Lending the University of California’s legitimacy to a for-profit college in exchange for a $70,000-a-year board seat was a cringeworthy lapse in judgment.

And when she turned out to have joined other questionable boards, including that of a college textbook vendor, the error was magnified, though faculty, not chancellors, decide which books are assigned for university classes.

But Katehi has now been apologizing for more than a month. And while time will tell whether her stewardship has worked well for UC Davis, it’s past time for the students to end the demonstrations they’ve staged since March 11.

The students want Katehi to resign and the UC to admit to some structural moral failing. But in life, not every bad call is a fireable offense, and not every bit of wrongdoing is proof that the system is broken.

Forcing university staff to work around sit-ins, heckling harried administrators, using passive-aggressive gestures and noises to subvert public hearings – these are within the students’ First Amendment rights and staples of the Occupy handbook. But they aren’t furthering their cause, unless that cause is to annoy taxpayers and make parents wonder whether anyone actually is going to the classes they’ve paid for.

The students want Katehi to resign and the UC to admit to some structural moral failing. But in life, not every bad call is a fireable offense, and not every bit of wrongdoing is proof that the system is broken.

Katehi also has accomplished some great things for UC Davis, in fundraising, in enrolling in-state students and in improving the campus’s academic stature. And to the extent that potential conflicts need to be exposed and addressed, the system actually has worked well.

Katehi’s conflict was picked up within a week by local activists, lawmakers, the press and UC President Janet Napolitano. The chancellor swiftly quit the DeVry board and donated the stock compensation from the textbook company to a scholarship fund for students. The UC is re-examining its policies on outside board commitments. And even CSU took a look at the policy for Cal State presidents on outside employment and realized it needs to be tightened.

Nor are the consequences likely to end there. Katehi’s annual performance review, by Napolitano, has yet to be completed.

The UC president can put a stern note in the chancellor’s personnel file, or recommend that the regents deny her next raise, or suggest that, after the 2011 pepper spray debacle, Katehi’s next mistake at UC will be her last. Any of those options would be acceptable.

Kids, there are lots of ways to make sure a public institution is doing its job for the public. Why settle for juvenile antics and demands for apologies?

UC Davis Provost Ralph J. Hexter met with student protesters last week who are occupying the reception area outside Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s office on the fifth floor of Mrak Hall, but failed to convince them to leave.

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