Katehi holds open forum to answer students’ questions

As Tuesday came to a close, protesters continued to occupy the UC Davis Quad. Student EMTs worked to organize a schedule for the medical tent. Others tried to decide what to do with their tents over Thanksgiving break. Students not involved in the protest took time out of their day to ask protesters about the movement.

Some protesters said Tuesday that despite the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, many students are planning on continuing to occupy over the break. It is not very clear what will happen between Wednesday and Sunday, but one thing is for sure — there will be a holiday dinner.

Tuesday morning began with a  General Assembly (GA) at the Occupy encampment. Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, who visited the Quad earlier in the morning to talk to student protesters, returned for the GA but left after students told her she could not speak at that time, as it would be a breach of GA rules.

The chancellor got her chance to speak, however, last night in Freeborn Hall.

Katehi held an open forum for student dialogue, where students were encouraged to ask questions and express their feelings about the recent pepper spraying incident.  An estimated 1,134 people attended the meeting.

Katehi was joined on stage by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Fred Wood, UC Davis Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter and the interim UC Davis Police Chief Matt Carmichael. Annette Spicuzza, the police chief involved in Friday’s events,  is on administrative leave and was not a part of the panel.

After an opening speech, in which Katehi apologized for the pepper spray incident, students from the audience asked the panel questions.

Many members of the audience shouted in anger throughout the evening.

“One thing that I have learned is that I need to spend more time with the students,” Katehi said.

Katehi spoke with passion about the 1973 protests in Greece, which took place while she was a student.

“I truly understand the frustration and the anger students are feeling right now,” Katehi said.

She announced that the university would be covering the medical bills of those who were pepper sprayed and she would be asking that the charges against the students who were arrested be dropped.

Wood, who attended UC Davis as an undergraduate, also made an opening speech.

“I’ve been proud of our students throughout all of this. I hope together we collectively work with integrity and understanding,” Wood said.

The first half of the meeting was live streamed on the internet and many news stations filmed segments of the event. However, for the second hour of the meeting, filming and photography was prohibited in order to provide privacy to students.

During the forum, Katehi said that UC Davis Police do not directly report to her, they report back to Vice Chancellor of Administrative and Resource Management, John Meyer.

Meyer explained the thinking behind calling in riot police, and stated that concerns about what happened at UC Berkeley earlier this month played into the decisions that were made. He said he regretted what happened on Friday.

“Do I feel terrible about it? Absolutely,” Meyer said.

Meyer joined the panel  at 6:15 p.m., after students said they would like to see him on stage.

Carmichael said that he is interested in working with the students to better the relationship between the campus police and the students.

Audience members also brought up the relationship between racial issues and campus police, specifically citing a recent hate crime that took place on campus.

In response to many questions asked of the panel, the term “moving forward” was repeated multiple times. Talk of reassessing and changing current university and UC policies was prevalent.

The panel spoke of the five committees that have been assigned to look into the pepper spray incident. UC President Mark Yudof announced Tuesday that former LAPD Chief William Bratton will be leading the UC investigation.

“The truth is going to come out in the end, and all of this will come out publicly,” Katehi said.

In reaction to the events on Friday and the chancellor’s response, many groups on campus have called for Katehi’s resignation.

The UC Davis English department, specifically assistant English professor Nathan Brown, has asked Katehi to resign. The call for resignation has been placed on the English department’s official website.

The UC Davis physics department has also called for Katehi’s resignation, and has issued a press release which includes an open letter to UC Davis students, commending their actions on Friday.

By Tuesday evening, more than 85,000 people had signed a petition calling for Katehi’s resignation.

UC Davis alumni have also requested documents pertaining to the pepper spray incident. Along with many other groups on campus, they are calling for an investigation of the incident.

The ASUCD Senate passed a resolution in an emergency meeting on Monday night, condemning the use of pepper spray on students. In an ASUCD press conference held Tuesday, ASUCD President Adam Thongsavat spoke about the pepper spray incident, and announced a new student campaign regarding campus police.

“I would like to announce a new student campaign, called Students Together, that will ask that every private and public university in the United States review their campus police policies for non-violent protests, so that what occurred on Friday will never happen again,” Thongsavat said.

Members of various Occupy Movements, including Occupy Sacramento, have also expressed their support for the students who were pepper sprayed on Friday.

Throughout the forum, Katehi was questioned about the widespread public outcry that has led to calls for her resignation. When asked about the petition for her resignation, Katehi responded, “I acknowledge the petition.”

Katehi confirmed she will not be resigning.

STEPHANIE B. NGUYEN contributed to this article. HANNAH STRUMWASSER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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