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An estimated 5,000 students, faculty, alumni and community members gathered at UC Davis yesterday for a rally in response to the campus police’s use of pepper spray on peaceful student protesters last Friday.
UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza and the two officers responsible for administering pepper spray during the peaceful protest — which resulted in 10 arrests and two hospitalizations — are on paid administrative leave while the Yolo County Sheriff’s Dept. investigates the incident. The demonstration’s assembly elected to re-establish the encampment that authorities disbanded Friday afternoon in protest of a systemwide policy banning the use of tents on university property.
UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi — who has received widespread criticism for her decision to deploy law enforcement to disperse Friday’s non-violent gathering — delivered a two-minute address during yesterday’s Occupy Davis general assembly. Katehi said she regrets her choice but avoided claiming responsibility for officers’ aggressive handling.
“I really feel horrible for what happened on Friday,” Katehi said. “If you think you don’t want to be students in the university like we had on Friday, I’m just telling you I don’t want to be the chancellor of the university we had on Friday.”
A petition organized by UC Davis English professor Nathan Brown calling for Katehi’s resignation has garnered nearly 73,000 signatures as of press time.
In an open letter to the chancellor, Brown said Katehi’s response to Friday’s peaceful demonstration contradicts her avowed concern for students’ interests and well-being.
“Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students,” Brown wrote. “I deduce from this discrepancy that you are not, in fact, concerned about the safety of our students. Your actions directly threaten the safety of our students.”
However, Katehi said she intends to remain in her position and repair her relationship with students.
“I know you may not believe anything that I’m telling you today and you don’t have to,” Katehi said. “It is my responsibility to earn your trust … I hope that I will have a better opportunity to work with you, to meet you, to get to know you. There will be many opportunities in the next few weeks to do that.”
UC Davis fourth-year international relations major Lauren Gray said the chancellor’s promise stands in contrast to the precedent she set during her two-year tenure.
“She’s never even walked through our campus; I don’t know who she is,” Gray said. “She’s been this mysterious and invisible overarching power over us that we’ve never seen. At what point did she want to get to know us on Saturday when she refused to come out and we waited three hours for her to have some media-filled procession in front of us?”
Meanwhile, UC President Mark G. Yudof held a teleconference with the 10 UC chancellors to discuss the multiple instances involving university police’s undue use of force on students, faculty and staff this month.
According to a statement from the Office of the President, Yudof’s staff is conducting an investigation into the incidents and re-evaluating the university system’s current police protocols.
“We cannot let this happen again,” Yudof said in the press release.
Although the UC administration will not release the restructured policy’s details until later this week, it is slated to include new stipulations requiring senior administrators to personally address a situation before the campus can deploy law enforcement.