Linda Katehi, chancellor of the University of California at Davis, has been under fire for years. The notorious fall 2011 incident in which campus police pepper-sprayed a group of peaceful, seated student protesters brought Katehi under national scrutiny. In the more recent past, a series of scandals has swirled around her, and UC Davis students have engaged in a series of direct actions intended to force her resignation or firing.
This week the wall began to crumble.
On Monday Katehi met with UC system president Janet Napolitano. Nobody knows for certain what was said in that meeting, but yesterday Katehi felt it necessary to announce that she intended to remain as chancellor. The president’s office, asked for comment on whether Katehi had been pushed to resign, declined to comment. Until last night.
Yesterday evening Napolitano announced that Katehi has been placed on paid administrative leave for ninety days while the university investigates a number of allegations against her. In response, Katehi’s personal attorney declared that the investigation “smacks of scapegoating and a rush to judgment driven purely by political optics, not the best interests of the university or the UC system as a whole.”
The language in the attorney’s statement struck me as surprisingly aggressive at first—surely if you’re fighting to keep your job, you don’t want to unnecessarily antagonize the people who will decide whether you keep it. But then I read Napolitano’s letter to Katehi announcing the suspension.
Frankly, it’s brutal.
The letter lays out four separate areas of concern, and in each, Napolitano makes it clear that she believes the evidence against Katehi has already damned her. Regarding concerns about the employment and salary of Katehi’s son and daughter in law, the letter lays out a web of decisions that strongly point in the direction of flagrant malfeasance before concluding with this: “you have verbally assured me that all matters relating to the employment of your husband, son and daughter-in-law have been consistent with policies and procedures, but documents and other information appear contrary to that assurance.”
The letter’s discussion of UC Davis’s use of paid consultants to shore up Katehi’s reputation in the wake of the pepper-spray incident uses similar language:
“Despite public statements to members of the media, as well as to me, that you were not aware of or involved with these particular contracts, documents prepared in response to a Public Records Act request indicate multiple interactions with one of the vendors and efforts to set up meetings with the other. Misrepresentations made in the course and scope of employment raise concerns about whether such statements are consistent with the University’s Standards of Ethical Conduct.”
In short: “I don’t believe you.”
The letter goes on to say that Katehi will also be investigated for possible misuse of student fee money, including in the compensation of her family members, but the real knife to the ribs comes at the end.
The current wave of criticism of Katehi came with the disclosure that she had taken a highly compensated position on the board of directors of DeVry, a for-profit college chain, while chancellor. With that in mind, take a look at Napolitano’s closing:
“I am deeply disappointed to have to take this action. As I said when I defended you after you accepted the DeVry Board position, another violation of University policy, you have done some great work for UC Davis. Given the accumulation of matters that require investigation, however, it is both necessary and appropriate to address these matters in a fair, independent, and transparent manner.”
I’m going to go ahead and say it: Katehi won’t be back.