Yesterday I reported on the slipshod, unprofessional “social media reports” that consultancy group IDMLOCO provided to UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi this spring while she was trying to get out from under an avalanche of bad publicity. Those memos, leaked by the Sacramento Bee this week, show IDMLOCO to be … well, you can click the link and see what they show. Because today I came to say nice things.
This spring, a group of UC Davis students opposed to Katehi spent a month sitting in at the lobby outside her office on campus. In an email obtained by the Bee, IDMLOCO urged Katehi to let them protest.
“At this time,” the email read, “removal will only fuel the current negative conversation and drive focus back to the Occupy protester removal in 2011.” The writer went on to say that “though the sit-in has caused a spike in media volume, it will die down if the university does not cause incident.”
IDMLOCO’s assessment of the staying power of the sit-in story may have been a bit simplistic—while mass media coverage tends to drop off after a while, such occupations often build in local attention over time—the essence of their advice was correct. For an administration trying desperately to shed its image as a coterie of thugs, sending the cops to roust yet another peaceful protest could only end badly.
In 2016, most college presidents understand this fact intuitively. Although some are still inclined to send in the cops to put down campus demonstrations, the reflexive, casual use mass arrests and police violence is far less common in the United States today than it was six or eight years ago. There are a lot of reasons for this, and they’re worth exploring in detail, but in the history of the twenty-first century American student movement one moment stands out as a pivot point where state violence is concerned, and it’s this one:
Most college presidents have learned the lessons of Linda Katehi’s first, worst mistake. That Katehi still needs to pay people to tell her not to make it again is all the evidence we need that she’s unfit to serve as chancellor of the University of California, Davis.