UC Davis student protest of Chancellor Katehi enters third week

‘This is serious business to us, and we are not backing down’

‘She is rolling in money’

It’s been more than two weeks since dozens of UC Davis student-protesters first occupied Chancellor Linda Katehi’s office on the fifth floor of Mrak Hall. And, with each passing day, more food donations arrive, more wall space is covered with “Fire Katehi” signs—and it seems more likely that the two sides won’t come to an agreement.

Students are demanding Katehi be fired for accepting seats on the boards of DeVry Education Group, a for-profit company, and John Wiley & Sons, a textbook publishing company where she earned $420,000 from 2012 to 2014.

However, Katehi has the backing from University of California President Janet Napolitano, who, despite noting Katehi’s questionable decisions, stated she continues “to believe in the value of her contributions to the University.”

But the protesters say they intend to stay until Katehi is gone. “We want to make it clear to administration, and to anybody else who may be watching, this is serious business to us, and we are not backing down,” Ben Briskin, a protestor and junior entomology major at the university, told SN&R.

Katehi stepped down from the DeVry seat on February 29, just one week after accepting the $70,000-a-year position. Soon after, she sent out an apology to students and university faculty for accepting the seat, stating that it didn’t “comply with UC policy” and was “my mistake.”

But Katehi, who makes $424,000 a year as chancellor of UC Davis, also noted that she would continue to accept board appointments. In her 2015 chancellor’s report, she listed 19 board memberships, 13 of which she still holds.

In an attempt to make amends for her recent actions, she vowed to establish a $200,000 scholarship for undergraduate students—money that she says will come from her Wiley stock.

The student protesters, however, say that’s not enough. Briskin said that Katehi’s recent controversy casts a negative light on the university.“As things get harder and harder for [the students], we see that she is rolling in money,” Briskin said. “And that’s apparently not enough for her.”

Sacramento Assemblyman Kevin McCarty and three other lawmakers agree with the protesters’ demand for Katehi to resign. In a statement, McCarty called Katehi’s decisions “unseemly.” He also called for a legislative oversight hearing to look into the university system’s policy on moonlighting.

Although the Mrak Hall occupiers are focused on getting Ketahi fired, they hope it ultimately leads to a discussion of the larger systematic issues at the university level.

“We hope that this can be a stepping stone into a larger conversation about the urgency of breaking down these structures within higher education all over the country,” Briskin said.