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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Davis Agonistes

The Davis Senate concluded its vote Friday on the motion to declare non-confidence in Chancellor Katehi.  The motion failed 697-312.  A second motion—the "five points" motion—that criticized the use of police force against the demonstrators but affirmed confidence in Katehi's responses to the police violence and her "impeccable performance of all her other duties" passed 586 to 408.  UCOP declared itself "gratified" by the results.

Clearly the Davis faculty is deeply split: about the campus leadership, about how to respond to the police violence, and about the general direction in which Davis is moving.  Slightly more faculty cast votes on the clear no-confidence motion than on the "five points" motion; Katehi's support on the latter dropped over 100 votes.  It is clear that the majority of the Senate Faculty are unwilling to break with the Chancellor.  Beyond this, how Davis will respond in the future to Katehi or to the reports about police violence on campus is unclear.

This ambiguity is especially evident if you read the "five points" motion.  Here is the language: 

"Be it therefore resolved that the Davis Division of the Academic Senate:
  1. Condemns both the dispatch of police in response to non-violent protests and the use of excessive force that led to the deplorable pepper-spraying events of November 18, 2011.
  2. Opposes all violent police responses to non-violent protests on campus.
  3. Demands that police deployment against protesters be considered only after all reasonable administrative efforts to bridge differences have been exhausted, including direct consultation with the leadership of the Davis Division of the Academic Senate.
  4. Accepts Chancellor Linda Katehi’s good faith apology.
  5. Expresses confidence in Chancellor Linda Katehi’s leadership and efforts to place UC Davis among the top 5 public universities in the nation."
As both David Copp and Daniel Cox have pointed out, the "five points" motion is internally incoherent.  On the one hand, it "condemns" the sending in of the police and their use of "excessive force" on November 18th but doesn't acknowledge that they were sent in by Chancellor Katehi.  On the other hand it "expresses Confidence" in her leadership.  The first 3 points raise serious questions about the Chancellor's judgment.  The last 2 suggest that in the end these questions don't really matter.    

In other words, the message sent here is that violence against students is "deplorable"—but let's put it into perspective: it was really a blip in Davis's rise to prominence and should be put behind us. 

Senate Faculty who did not think that the police violence was sufficient to declare no-confidence in the Chancellor had the option of simply voting no.  Given that, the "five points" motion appears to be an effort to appear to care about the violence to students without really addressing the issue.

What message does that send to students?


Charles Schwartz said...

Thank you, Michael, for your analysis and the closing question, "What message does that send to students?"

I expect that the Davis faculty are no more conflicted than those at any other UC campus. These are trying times (even, perhaps, for those of us who have enjoyed tenure).

Do we stand by academic and democratic principles or do we acquiesce to the political (policial) necessities of stringent financial conditions?

I would ask how many faculty members will take the time and trouble to raise these difficult questions before the students in their classes - whether in sciences, social sciences or humanities - and encourage them to ask and debate about the priorities we see in action.

xicano said...

A couple of issues to consider for more context: 1) Chancellors tend to not make unilateral decisions. Senate leaders are often at the table when admin decide how to respond to emergency situations. So are the EVC, vice chancellors and/or provosts, 2) advice is given by University counsel.

When UCSD blew up two years ago this week, the admin was clueless about how to react. In one tense meeting, I witnessed the Chancellor make a decision that was immediately rejected by key players in her cabinet.

Perhaps Katehi sent in the troops on her own. I doubt it. Or maybe she decided to not send in the troops but was outvoted. We may never know. My point is not that she should be absolved but that more than likely a whole lot of other people are implicated in the attack on the students.

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