December 8, 2011
To: Chancellor Linda Katehi
Dear Chancellor Katehi,
We, the undersigned faculty, after careful review of the events of the past two weeks and the events leading to the broad-based student/faculty strike, are compelled, for the good of the University, to write to ask you to step down as Chancellor of UC Davis. We acknowledge your genuine apology for the police actions. We acknowledge your genuine statement that you do not want to be Chancellor of the University we had on that fateful Friday. We acknowledge that you came to UC Davis with the hopeful vision of raising UC Davis’ ranking to be among the top 5 universities in the country. We recognize the work that you have done towards those goals.
The police actions against the students on November 18, 2011 are horrific in and of themselves. However, we have come to the conclusion that the events of Friday, November 18, do not stand on their own as misjudgments or miscommunications. We have come to the conclusion that the police actions against the students’ rights of peaceful protest and free speech are symptomatic of larger structural problems with the system-wide goals developed under President Yudof’s leadership, which you embraced and enacted. Most particularly we see the police actions and administration’s responses over the past two weeks as consistent with the goals of transforming the most powerful and most respected public university in the world into a private university inaccessible to large sectors of the California community it is designed to serve. It is the commitment to the public good that initially attracted us to come to this outstanding university. It is the commitment to the public good that UC Davis has stood for that kept us here. It is this commitment to the public good that UC Davis has prided itself on and marketed as its trademark. It is this commitment to the public good that is being eroded under the plan for development embraced and enacted by your administration.
Between 2004 and 2015, the tuition and fees at UC Davis will have increased nearly four-fold, reaching over $22,000. With the addition of rising costs for housing, food, books and other fundamentals, UC Davis will no longer be affordable to a large sector of the working class and even the middle class of California. This is the public good that UC Davis must serve.
These increases are unacceptable for a public university whose charter upholds the need to provide quality education for all California residents. By 2007, student fees had come to cover 100% of university teaching costs. Nevertheless, since 2007, student fees have nearly doubled, while the university economized in all areas of teaching: firing lecturers and staff, freezing instructor and faculty wages and enforcing furloughs, increasing classroom sizes and teaching workloads for faculty and graduate students, creating staff pools disconnected from the students or faculty they served, cutting department budgets. Students have to make choices between fees and fundamentals. Faculty have to take up staff work and pay from their personal funds for teaching costs while staff work has increased as staff numbers have declined. Despite several years of student protests against increases in tuition and fees, the UC Davis administration has not staked a strong position in support of the students and in opposition to the escalating cost of education. UC Davis has followed the trajectory of neoliberalization and privatization that began before the 2008 financial crisis and before your leadership. Your administration embraced and advanced that trajectory. The long-term cuts to public education and the privatization of the university have accelerated under your leadership. In this age of austerity, the ranks of the administration have grown at UC Davis at a faster rate than any of the other UC campuses and administrative salaries have become bloated. As administration absorbs more and more of the revenues of the university, more and more minority, working class, and even middle class students are being excluded from a quality education that the public university has stood for.
This market-driven schema that is bringing more and more public goods into the private domain, is carried out on the backs of the working and middle classes. This market fundamentalism sees public education as a commodity and stock rating rather than as a public resource, an investment in the people of this great state, a commitment to the public good. This is no way to manage a university dedicated to fairly and equally educating our citizens.
The Office of the President and your administration have argued that the UC is bankrupt. We at UC Davis find this assertion not only misleading but also put to nefarious ends. By accounts from UC Davis’s numerous offices, our campus has had an increase in a number of revenue streams (except state funding) over the past several years. This year marks the highest amount of funding in contracts, grants, and private donations to UC Davis. We are three-quarters of the way in the campaign to raise $1 billion. The state contributes around 18% of UC Davis' operating budget. State cuts are not proportional to increased revenue from tuition hikes and increased funding in other sectors. Some top-level UC administrators have even welcomed the decline in state funding, which comprises “restricted” funds, meaning they can only be applied to teaching costs. Private funds contributions are “unrestricted.” They can be set against bonds, of which the university has one of the highest ratings nationwide (despite the financial crash of 2008).
Critical revenue streams for the university have increased. But, due to structural constraints within the corporate university model, this money is being funneled away from departments, classrooms, and student services. The university administration has become a corporate-executive colossus which overshadows teaching as the primary responsibility of the university. Students are paying more for less, and educators are working harder with fewer departmental tool sets. Staff are overburdened with little hope of wage increases to counter inflation.
Unfortunately, we have come to the conclusion that this privatized model of education being implemented at UC Davis is consistent with positions you have defended in Greece. We have witnessed, at Davis, the crippling impact of this privatization on our ability to offer substantive learning opportunities and creative curricula for students. We have come to the conclusion that this model puts growth over quality education, profits over students, and the private interest over education as a public good.
We recognize that you have taken responsibility for police activity on campus. After careful examination of the record of these two years of your administration, however, we find a pattern consistent with models of higher education which violate the trust of a public university. The pepper-spraying of the students by UC Davis Campus police on November 18, 2011 is symptomatic of a vision in which the students are not the primary and most precious members of this public university. The silencing of the students reflects a vision that does not respect the constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful demonstration. The tactics of removal of quiet encampment and arrests of non-resisting students bodes ill will for well-intended civil disobedience, a tradition this country reveres. The militarization of the campus through police action, surveillance, monitoring is a pattern consistent with the March 4th 2010, and on November 20th, 2009, incidents during which peaceful students were arrested and sustained serious injuries due to pepper spray, tasers, and batons -- following university policies purported to provide “a safe environment for all to learn freely and practice their civil rights of freedom of speech and expression.”
We hold these principles to be sacred: The University of California, Davis is a public university. It must honor its public trust and serve the students of this state by providing quality, affordable education. The primary responsibility of the university and the primary assets of the University are its students, its faculty, and its staff. The role of the administration is to serve the students and the faculty—to serve the public trust. Safety for the students entails safely delivering on the public trust for their education.
After careful consideration, we have come to the conclusion that we no longer have confidence in your commitment to UC Davis’ mission as a public university whose foremost responsibility is providing affordable and quality education to students of this great state.
For the good of the public trust that we all hold dear, we believe it is now time for changes in the direction of our university. We commit to working with the students, staff, and future administrations to make quality and affordability in education once again the university’s main priority. We commit to working with the students, staff, and future administrations to ensure democratic and transparent governance, including public access to full budgets and public accountability for funds. We commit to working with students, staff, and future administrations to allow the key constituents of this campus to participate in the crucial decisions concerning the financial operation of the university and our students’ welfare. We commit to the public trust of the public University of California. Now it is time for the administration to join us in this commitment.
Ali Anooshahr, Associate Professor, History
Gina Bloom, Associate Professor, English
Seeta Chaganti, Associate Professor, English
Joshua Clover, Professor, English
Christina Cogdell, Associate Professor, Design
Daniel Cox, Professor, Physics
Christyann Darwent, Associate Professor, Anthropology
Omnia ElShakry, Associate Professor, History
Jaimey Fisher, Associate Professor, German and Cinema and Technocultural Studies
Elizabeth Freeman, Professor, English
Kathleen Frederickson, Assistant Professor, English
Noah Guynn, Associate Professor, Department of French & Italian
Hsuan Hsu, Associate Professor, English
Suad Joseph, Professor, Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies
Neil Larsen, Professor, Comparative Literature
Sunaina Maira, Associate Professor, Asian American Studies
Flagg Miller, Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Susan Miller, Associate Professor, History
Simon Sadler, Professor, Design
Seth L. Schein, Professor of Comparative Literature
Juliana Schiesari, Professor, Italian and Comparative literature
Sudipta Sen, Professor, History
Jocelyn Sharlet, Associate Professor, Comparative Literature
Scott C. Shershow, Professor, English
Scott Simmon, Professor, English
James Smith, Associate Professor, Anthropology
Smriti Srinivas, Professor, Anthropology
Baki Tezcan, Associate Professor, History and Religious Studies
Clarence Walker, Professor, History
Karen Ann Watson-Gegeo, Professor, Education
David J. Webb, Senior Lecturer, Physics
Joe Wenderoth, Professor, English
Michael Ziser, Associate Professor, English
Last updated December 22, 2011