It has been nearly a week since UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi announced with great fanfare a new era of transparency.
In meetings with civic leaders, state lawmakers, The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board, faculty and students, she apologized profusely for misjudgments and missteps that, unsettlingly, came to light only because they’d been caught by local activists and Sacramento Bee reporters. And, she said, documents and emails requested under the California Public Records Act would bear out her claim that no new issues were being hidden.
Alas, it appears not even a week can go by without intrigue in the Katehi Administration. On Tuesday, amid rumblings that UC President Janet Napolitano had finally concluded it was time for her resignation, Katehi halted her redemption tour and went radio silent. Some faculty members pleaded her case in letters to state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Napolitano, but students renewed calls for her to go.
Facts might bring clarity. But tick tock: The Bee still has not received documents that supposedly would verify her responses to criticism of her. Given Katehi’s past questionable decisions, from risking the university’s reputation for a $70,000 board seat at a for-profit college to hiring a search engine optimization firm to bury references to the pepper-spray incident that harmed the university’s – and her – reputation, “trust but verify” is unfortunately the public’s only choice.
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And it may even be too late for that, given the events of this past week, and the ongoing lack of verification.
Katehi has been given the benefit of the doubt for months, partly because of her skill as a rainmaker for the university, and partly because she’s an accomplished scholar. Civic leaders, particularly in Sacramento, where she has pushed for a satellite campus, have also come to her defense.
If Katehi’s explanations are true, they will be borne out in the requested documentation. If not – well, if not, then she needs to resign, or leave her position without any more drama.
In last week’s meeting with The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board, she insisted that no favoritism had occurred in the the university’s employment of her daughter-in-law, son and husband. And, she said, the hiring of reputation management consultants had been solely to burnish the university’s reputation. None of it had been for herself, she said, and in fact, she had had so little to do with the move that she didn’t even read the contract.
If all that is true, it will be borne out in the requested documentation. If not – well, if not, then Katehi needs to resign, or leave her position without any more drama. The totality of her issues has clearly begun to interfere with her ability to manage. And, on top of the sexual harassment controversies at UC Berkeley, it impacts the overall credibility of the UC.
Leadership is shown in a variety of ways. One is reserving center stage for the cause you’ve promoted. UC Davis is important to the Central Valley and to the students it serves.
Katehi said last week that she’d like to be in the chancellor role for five more years; this week that doesn’t seem likely. If we are nearing the end of her tenure, here in the final weeks of the academic quarter, she’d be well advised to spend her last days devoted to a smooth, successful transition.
The travails of a single chancellor can’t be permitted to overshadow the ongoing success of a great public university.