02 May 2012

Spring cleaning in Davis

The UC Davis Academic Senate special committee investigating the now infamous pepper-spraying incident of Nov. 18, 2011 issued their final report (PDF). The special committee recommends that the Davis Executive Council call for the resignations of Chancellor Linda Katehi, Vice-Chancellors John Meyer and Fred Wood, and (now retired) UCD PD Chief Annette Spicuzza.

While the UCD Executive Council fell short of endorsing the call for resignations ("at this time" as they note), they passed a formal censure of the Chancellor.

These are quite extraordinary steps for the (usually sleepy) Academic Senate to take, it remains to be seen how they will be received in Mrak Hall and in Oakland.

18 April 2012

UCD PD Chief resigns

We were wondering whether any heads would roll as a consequence of the Reynoso report, and if so, how many. It looks like UCD PD Chief Spicuzza saw the writing on the wall and decided to resign her position at UC effective at the end of business tomorrow, Thursday, April 19. In her words:
As the university does not want this incident to be its defining moment, nor do I wish for it to be mine. I believe in order to start the healing process, this chapter of my life must be closed.

Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/crime/archives/2012/04/embattled-uc-davis-police-chief-annette-spicuzza-retires.html#mi_rss=Latest%20News#storylink=cp

12 April 2012

Leadership failure

If there is one thing the Reynoso report makes clear is that leadership failure was pervasive and widespread on Nov. 18. Here are some facts that we learned from the report, and some questions we'd like to see raised:
  1. The Chancellor's "Leadership Team" convened to address "extraordinary events" on campus was in fact a half-assed affair: the "team" met by conference call, nobody kept minutes, there was no record of what was  decided.
  2. The Chancellor exercised executive privilege when she shouldn't have and failed to exercise it when she should have: she is responsible for the tactical decision to remove the tents in the middle of a sunny Friday afternoon, as opposed to the wee hours of the morning, as Chief Spicuzza suggested; and she failed to communicate her indication that "no force was to be used".
  3. Chief Spicuzza comes across as particularly feeble: she failed to stand up to the Chancellor as to the timing of the police action (timing was a tactical decision, which was properly the Chief's purview). And she failed to stand up to her own police officers, when they insisted on taking riot gear, pepper spray, and paint guns to the Quad. After she delegated authority for the police action to "Officer P", she was still seen on the Quad relaying orders on her cell phone and taking video of the event.
  4. Officer Pike and the other unnamed police officer used an unauthorized weapon (MK-9 10% pepper spray, instead of the regular-issue MK-4 2% pepper spray), for which they had received no training, and used it improperly (MK-9 is "long range" to be used at least 6 feet from target). How and when did an unauthorized weapon end up on campus?  
  5. UCDPD repeatedly failed to follow proper police procedure: the supposed "plan" was in fact not consistent with guidelines and large portions were left blank.
Two people come across as eminently reasonable in this whole fiasco. Justice Reynoso, for those who attended the meeting yesterday or logged on to the webcast, turns out to be an objective, moral, principled figure. Appointing him was one of Yudof's wisest decisions. But the other person that should be commended is Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Griselda Castro: when the "Leadership Team" went apoplectic about the presence of "non-affiliates" among the protesting students, she kept a cool head and pointed that there was no evidence to that effect. She spoke forcefully to the Leadership Team for forty minutes about the need to buy time end explore options, but she was completely ignored, and the contrary view of Vice Chancellor Meyer (Chief Spicuzza's direct superior) that the tents had to be immediately removed prevailed.

11 April 2012

The Reynoso report

The report is out. It looks like the whole chain of command engaged in a spectacular failure of judgment. In fact, the headings of the different subsections already provide a summary of the findings: 
  • There was a failure to investigate whether or not “non-affiliates” in the UC Davis Occupy encampment were present.  
  • The administration decided to deploy police to remove the tents on Nov. 18 before considering other reasonable alternatives.  
  • The scope of the police operation to remove the tents was ineffectively communicated, not
    clearly understood by key decision-makers, and, accordingly, could not be adequately evaluated as to its costs and consequences.  
  • There were no clear lines delineating the responsibility for decision-making between civilian administrators and police.  
  • There was confusion as to the legal basis for the police operation. 
  • The leadership team’s informal, consensus-based decision-making process was ineffective
    for supporting a major extraordinary event.  
  • The UCDPD failed to plan for the intended action according to standard operating procedures.
    Notwithstanding the deficiencies in the operations plan, the incident was not managed according to the plan.  
  • The decision to use pepper spray was not supported by objective evidence and was not authorized by policy.  
  • The pepper spray used, the MK- 9, First Aerosol Projector, was not an authorized weapon for use by the UCDPD.  
  • There is a breakdown of leadership in the UCDPD.  
  • The chancellor bears primary responsibility for the decision to deploy the police at 3 p.m. rather than during the night or early morning, which is a tactical decision properly reserved for police authorities.  
  • The chancellor bears primary responsibility for the failure to communicate her position that the police operation should avoid physical force.  
  • Many members of the leadership team, including the chancellor, vice chancellor Meyer, and vice chancellor Wood, share responsibility for the decision to remove the tents on Friday and, as a result, the subsequent police action against protesters.  
  • Chief Spicuzza bears individual responsibility for failing to challenge the leadership team’s decision on the time of the police operation and for not clarifying the role the police were expected to play during the operation. She is also responsible for numerous deviations from best police practices both before and during the operation as detailed in the Kroll Report.
  • Officer P bears individual responsibility for abdicating his duties as
    incident commander.
  •  Lt. Pike bears primary responsibility for the objectively unreasonable decision to use pepper spray on the students sitting in a line and for the manner in which the pepper spray was
It's a pretty damning indictment. One wonders which heads will roll. 

09 April 2012

UC decline

UCOP's recent memo to the Regents outlines the effects of years of ruthless cutting at the University of California (thanks to Bob Samuels for the pointer):  
  • At UC Riverside, [students] will walk onto a campus where enrollment has grown in the last three years by nearly 3,000 students – many of them the first in their families ever to attend college – while at the same time the number of faculty has been reduced by five percent. The result: class sizes have grown by 33 percent. Introductory physics classes that used to average 95 students have exploded in size in three years to 573 students.   
  • At UC Davis, students will find an acclaimed medical center that has eliminated all State supplemental support for clinical care. Just as the campus’ athletic program had begun to mature, four sports had to be eliminated to help meet the need to make $106.5 million in cuts in four years.
  • At UC Santa Cruz, students will be provided with 84 fewer course offerings and their class sizes will have spiked 33 percent. The student-faculty ratio has exploded by nearly 15 percent, and the campus lacks funding for 125 faculty FTE – 14 percent of its faculty positions. Yet for all the cuts, the campus still faces a daunting $38 million budget gap.  
  • UC Santa Barbara has over 1,000 more students than it did three years ago, but the number of staff has declined by 450 (nearly 11 percent) during that time, and the faculty has remained the same size. The results are fewer student services, larger classes and discussion sections, and reductions and eliminations in many programs.   
  • And across the system, pension costs alone will rise to $1.8 billion annually in the next five years – an expense that campuses did not have to shoulder as recently as three years ago. If there is no increase in either State funds or tuition during this time, campuses will have to find the equivalent of funding for 7,000 staff or 3,900 faculty to fund this expense alone.
  • At UC Berkeley, despite its more mature capacity to raise private funds and attract non- resident students, the campus forecasts that – even with stable fee increases – it could face at least a $200 million budget gap within six years due to exploding pension contribution costs.  

Similar conditions exist on every other UC campus – from UCLA and San Diego to Merced, Irvine and Santa Barbara. The University faces an unprecedented threat to academic quality.   While this is a welcome change from the fiction that the University can absorb whatever cuts the state throws at it, the memo engages in some measure of wishful thinking when outlining possible solutions to the current dire situation, from increased indirect cost recovery to private philanthropy. 
Perhaps the most promising avenue is the multi-year funding agreement with the state included in the Governor's latest budget. But the agreement is contingent on voters' approval of the Governor's "revenue-enhancing initiative" this fall, failure of which would result in another $200M mid-year cut. 

06 March 2012

$37,000 Chancellor Pay

UC Davis is mentioned in a Slate piece investigating skyrocketing compensation of public university executives as an example of such excesses. Chancellor Katehi's $400,000+ yearly compensation is compared to Chancellor Mrak's 1969 compensation of $37,000 (inflation-adjusted: $226,000). Mrak's successor, Meyer, was hired in 1974 with annual compensation of $47,000 (corresponding to $214,000 when adjusted) and left in 1987 with compensation of $98,000 (which adjusts to an amount, $195,000, which is actually lower than the one is was hired at). Did we mention that Mrak and Meyer actually knew how to deal with student protests?

The cause of such excesses, at least at UC: a decision by then UC Senior Vice President Ron Brady to peg the pay of top administrators to private sector standards, instead of to state public servant pay (as bemoaned by Clark Kerr in a 1999 interview).

CalState vs. Harvard

In the meantime, it appears that a middle-class student attending Harvard University will end up with a lower bill than one attending a California State School. Go figure.

Not Surprised

Somehow we are not surprised that the long-awaited report of the Reynoso task force has yet again been delayed. This time because of a temporary restraining order being filed this morning by the police union in Alameda County Superior Court.

Could it be that the police officers involved in the pepper spraying have something that they'd rather not be made public? Don't they know that attempts to prevent the release of information are bound to make you look guilty?

There are several other investigations of the Nov. 18 pepper spraying that are still ongoing, including an internal investigation by UC PD internal affairs, which could possibly result in disciplinary actions against the officers involved (the by now infamous Lt. Pike, Chief Spicuzza, and another yet unnamed officer).

02 March 2012

At long last

From the UC Davis Academic Senate:
The release of the Reynoso Task Force Report on the Pepper Spray Incident is scheduled for March 6. Former California Supreme Court Associate Justice Cruz Reynoso, chair of the task force, announced today that the group will outline its findings and recommendations to the UC Davis community on Tuesday, March 6 [...].  The task force findings, recommendations and background documents will be made available on the UC Davis home page at noon on Tuesday, March 6. A live webcast of the public meeting will also be accessible from the campus home page.

22 February 2012

Their day in court

Nineteen former and current UC Davis students who were pepper-sprayed on Nov. 18 filed suit in US District Court against UC Davis officials. The University officials named as defendant in the suit are 
LINDA KATEHI, Chancellor of the University of California at Davis; RALPH J. HEXTER, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor of the University of California at Davis; FRED WOOD, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the University ofCalifornia at Davis; JOHN MEYER, Vice Chancellor of Administration and Resource Management at the University at California at Davis; ANNETTE SPICUZZA, Chief of the University of California at Davis Police Department; JOHN PIKE, Lt. in the University of California at Davis Police Department; and DOES 1 – 50, officers of the University of California at Davis Police Department.
The plaintiffs seek 
a declaration from the Court that campus policies and practices that led to the abuse of the plaintiffs and others offend both the state and federal constitutional guarantees of the rights to free speech and assembly and that the pepper-spraying and arrests of plaintiffs violated their state and federal constitutional rights; an injunction to prevent repetition of such a response to a non-violent protest; and compensatory and punitive damages against the individual perpetrators of the illegal acts and their  superiors who ordered, directed and/or condoned this outrageous conduct.
As to the question of whether Chancellor Katehi and her co-defendants had any direct responsibility for the events of Nov 18 (a notion that a majority of UC Davis apparently reject, as witnessed by the confidence and no-confidence motions), the suit points out:
Defendants KATEHI, HEXTER, WOOD, MEYER and SPICUZZA had an affirmative duty to properly screen, train and supervise defendants PIKE and DOE Defendants 1 through 50, but failed to do so, resulting in the actions and violations of the rights of Plaintiffs and others described herein.
 The suit alleges violations of the plaintiffs' rights as laid out in the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution (freedom of speech; illegal search and seizure; due process; respectively), as well as several articles of the California Constitution.

The plaintiffs demand a trial by jury.

18 February 2012

Vote of Confidence

As expected, UC Davis faculty have defeated a no-confidence motion questioning Chancellor Katehi's leadership, and they have done so by a large margin (70% of the votes cast). Nothing new, especially faculty in the applied sciences have been supporting the Chancellor for a long time, and she has been particularly good to them, pushing forward with the plan to collect increased funding in grants support and private donations (not to mention student tuition, especially from international and out of state students – although nothing on the scale pursued by Berkeley and UCLA).

What is surprising is that the third motion – which condemned police responses to the November 18 protest – carried by a large but not nearly unanimous margin. The motion
  1.  condemns both the dispatch of police and use of excessive force in response to non-violent protests on November 18, 2011;
  2. opposes violent police response to non-violent protests on campus;
  3. demands that police deployment against protestors be considered only after all reasonable efforts have been exhausted and with direct consultation with Academic Senate leadership. 
These are all pretty straightforward points, which in very similar form have all been endorsed by the Chancellor herself and her supporters. And yet 343 senate faculty decided to register their opposition by voting against the motion. One has to wonder, what were they thinking?