By Connor Jang and Georgia Johnson
UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi has been placed on investigatory administrative leave Wednesday night following extensive calls for her removal by students, faculty, community members and lawmakers.
In an email statement, the UC Office of the President (UCOP) noted various concerns surrounding Katehi’s alleged violations of UC policy, which include employment and compensation of her family members, possible inappropriate use of student fees, and contracts to improve UCD’s and her personal reputation online.
“The serious and troubling nature of these questions, as well as the initial evidence, requires a rigorous and transparent investigation,” the statement read.
UC President Janet Napolitano promised to launch an independent investigation to determine if Katehi violated university policies by the start of the 2016-17 school year.
“I am deeply disappointed to take this action,” Napolitano said in a statement. “But Davis is a strong campus, nationally and internationally renowned in many academic disciplines. I’m confident of the campus’s continued ability to thrive and serve California students and the Davis community.”
Since her appointment in 2009, Katehi has faced ongoing, widespread criticism after the Sacramento Bee revealed in early last March that she held multiple seats on the corporate boards of Wiley & Sons, a textbook company, and DeVry Education Group and King Abdulaziz University, both for-profit educational institutions. These board seats augmented her annual UC salary of $424,360 by an additional $420,000 from 2012-14.
Napolitano said Katehi’s daughter-in-law received promotions and salary increases equating to over $50,000 in two and a half years, according to the Los Angeles Times. Napolitano said Katehi’s son also held a paid research position in a program in the same department.
“It does not appear that appropriate steps were taken to address, document or obtain approval for the fact that your son now reported to your daughter-in-law, who, in turn, was supervised by one of your direct reports,” Napolitano wrote in a letter to Katehi, according to the LA Times.
The Sac Bee revealed in mid-April that Katehi allocated at least $175,000 in university funds to pay a strategic communications company to bury negative posts of UCD from the internet, specifically the 2011 pepper-spray incident in which 21 UCD students and alumni were sprayed during a peaceful protest.
Students and UCD community members recently occupied the fifth floor of Mrak Hall — the main administrative building at UCD and the location of the chancellor’s office — for five straight weeks. Seven assemblymembers and one state senator have called for Katehi’s resignation, and the UC Student Association (UCSA) also called for either her firing or resignation.
These protesters organized several actions, including a campuswide walkout, a rally, unauthorized participation in the Picnic Day parade and most recently a viewing of “Katehi’s Closet,” an exhibit where students demonstrated an art project with a laundry list of criticisms written on paper clothing strung on a line.
“The UC must do better by its students. Katehi collected a $425,000 salary while students on her campus skipped meals, lived in their cars, and sat on the floor in their classrooms,” said UCSA President Kevin Sabo in a statement. “The UC has plenty of challenges — nefarious chancellors should not be one of them. We applaud President Napolitano’s decisive action and commend her for standing with students.”
UCD Provost Ralph Hexter will serve as acting chancellor until the regents take further action.
“It is with a heavy heart that I take on the duties of UC Davis Chancellor on an acting basis under the present circumstances,” Hexer said in an email to the campus community. “I appreciate the kindness and encouragement of our diverse campus community. I ask for your continued support as we move our great university forward.”