Dear Chancellor Katehi,
By now most aware people on the planet have watched aghast the footage that depicts your police drenching (literally drenching!) passive protesters with pepper spray. Years ago we watched the police beat Rodney King to the very brink of death, and those defending themselves against charges told us we did not see what we saw. And as we watch the Syrian heroes die in their thousands on the streets of Damascus, the Syrian regime tells us we do not see what we see. Thus your university police, in their stance today, place themselves in big company. Did not the university police record their own films? Show those to us so we may see that reality. The world watched your police walk unimpeded around and through the hapless, passive protestors. Despite their excuses, your police WERE NOT cut off from re-enforcement. We saw what we saw, and we place more faith in our eyes than in the self-serving inaccuracies of your police. Reporters on the scene tell us your officers apparently enjoyed their acts of cruelty—and afterwards slunk away ashamed, clubs in hand, fearing a reaction from a crowd that remained non-violent. The victims showed heroic restraint. The perpetrators, those under your control, Chancellor Katehi, ran wild.
And were you yourself even there at that momentous event? Would not your presence define the very core of your job? Name for us, please, the item on your calendar which kept you away when responsibility demanded you stand in the flesh to see your policies unfold. We do not spot you, bullhorn in hand, pleading with protestors. Chancellor Katehi, the footage we see puts the lie to the excuses that pour from your underlings today. Tell us what you saw with your eyes on the most important day in your career. Perhaps you cannot—perhaps you were chased off by the threat of a little whiff.
Let us compare for a moment the seriousness of two acts on your campus, the protest by sitting occupiers, arms interlocked, and the pepper-spraying of those protestors by your police. Were the protestors breaking your rules? Well, yes, in the rightly-admired and patriotic tradition of your campus and of American’s forefathers and of the free downtrodden world-wide, they broke your rules, your beloved rules. I want you to know (in case no one else has told you this) that you are NOT the chief administrator of the universe, and yours are NOT the most important rules to guide the acts of humans on this planet. The damage you did the protestors (what percentage of them your own students?) exceeded any damage the protestors could do to the quad by staying there. But I think you know this. Were we not sickened by the sight, how ludicrous it would be to consider both in the same breath: a silly task force you might convene to investigate the brutal attack and your complaint that protestors ought to obey you. After you bid the police unleash the worst part of themselves, well, the hurt they worked upon protestors displays a callous and breathtaking lack of person-hood.
After viewing those images, everybody with eyes to see and a heart to feel knows that rather than call for a task force you should stand up to take personal responsibility. You should enumerate the methods whereby you will try to make amends for the brutality. Rather than insult our eyes by calling for a taskforce to discuss how to make your campus “a better place of inquiry, debate, and even dissent,” you should seek to come to grips with how you will live with the excoriating shame any normal person would feel after such an abandonment of humanity. Unable to avoid educational jargon even in this—an emblematic event in our nation’s decent from greatness—you cannot refrain from referring to the brutal attack as an “outcome.” How egregious, Chancellor Katehi. How shameful. Millions assess your outcomes today as the worst possible, the worst imaginable. When will you apologize?
I’ve worked thirty-five years in education, and I know one thing with absolute and resolute clarity: You’ve proven you’re no educator. Your statements to the press today make very clear what matters most to you in this world is that people (all people, of course, being of lower rank than you) obey when you issue orders. If they don’t obey, you’re going to hurt them. What we saw today was the pre-trial stage of punishment carried out by your university under your leadership. I put it to you: that quad is more the people’s than the chancellor’s.
What those protestors achieved yesterday on their quad (a college quad, for pity’s sake!) was at least one hundred times more important than any event you scheduled for the same location. Why were you not standing with your students and praising their ideals? Why did you physically injure them? Yesterday you set down in adamantine that those from whom you demand compliance by threat of pain will forever abjure any linkage of your name with respect. And you know well by now that you have strengthened and sustained that which you sought to stop.
You insist you broke no policies. And I will grant you there may be no express policies in the books that prohibit hosing down passive, non-violent protesters with pepper spray, but does that make you a good person? Who would foresee the need to write such a farcical policy? To reach for this defense shows a lack of wisdom, and wisdom we expect from a university chancellor. You insist you work “personally very hard” to make UC Davis “a safe campus for all.” Tell that to those hospitalized. And tell it to their parents. I doubt you would enter the same room.
Your behavior is appalling, worse than appalling, particularly in light of your “Principles of Community.” Fire those you assigned to use that horrific pepper weapon on the protestors. Fire the UC Davis employees on the ground and in oh-so-sacrosanct administrative offices who took no action to stop the brutality. Then consider the best outcome for higher education, and, with all due speed, resign.