UC Davis Physicists Speak Out For Students, Against Chancellor Katehi

Rally at UC Davis (photo by Cindy Lewis)

As further evidence that the deteriorating conditions at UC campuses affect all members of the faculty, the UC Davis Department of Physics released a statement on November 22nd, issuing an apology to students on behalf of the faculty, and calling for Chancellor Katehi to step down.  You can view the press release, apology and call for resignation on the department webpage; the text for the apology and resignation are reproduced below.

November 21, 2011
An Open Letter to UC Davis Students from the Faculty of Physics

The members of the Physics Faculty were deeply disturbed by the images and videos showing peaceful and non-threatening protesters being pepper-sprayed by police on our campus. The Faculty of a university must take responsibility for making sure that the campus environment ensures student safety, encourages their intellectual growth, and promotes the active, peaceful expression of opinions on the key issues of our day. This viewpoint is expressed in our “Principles of Community”:

We affirm the right of freedom of expression within our community and affirm our commitment to the highest standards of civility and decency towards all.

The Department Faculty regrets the incidents of last week. We believe the actions of the police were not consistent with these principles, and that final responsibility for this incident rests with the Chancellor. The restraint shown by the students in their response, on the other hand, is in keeping with the highest standards of conduct and you should feel justifiably proud. Please accept our sincere apology for this incident. We will do all we can to assure that our Principles of  Community are fully adhered to in the future by everyone on our campus.

November 22, 2011
Chancellor Linda Katehi, UC Davis

Dear Chancellor Katehi:
With a heavy heart and substantial deliberation, we the undersigned faculty of the UC Davis physics department send you this letter expressing our lack of confidence in your leadership and calling for your prompt resignation in the wake of the outrageous, unnecessary, and brutal pepper spraying episode on campus Friday, Nov. 18.

The reasons for this are as follows.

  • The demonstrations were nonviolent, and the student encampments posed no threat to the university community. The outcomes of sending in police in Oakland, Berkeley, New York City, Portland, and Seattle should have led you to exhaust all other options before resorting to police action.
  • Authorizing force after a single day of encampments constitutes a gross violation of the UC Davis principles of community, especially the commitment to civility: “We affirm the right of freedom of expression within our community and affirm our commitment to the highest standards of civility and decency towards all.”
  • Your response in the aftermath of these incidents has failed to restore trust in your leadership in the university community.

We have appreciated your leadership during these difficult times on working to maintain and enhance excellence at UC Davis. However, this incident and the inadequacy of your response to it has already irreparably damaged the image of UC Davis and caused the faculty, students, parents, and alumni of UC Davis to lose confidence in your leadership. At this point we feel that the best thing that you can do for this university is to take full responsibility and resign immediately. Our campus community deserves a fresh start.


Andreas Albrecht (chair)
Marusa Bradac
Steve Carlip
Hsin-Chia Cheng
Maxwell Chertok
John Conway
Daniel Cox
James P. Crutchfield
Glen Erickson
Chris Fassnacht
Daniel Ferenc
Ching Fong
Giulia Galli
Nemanja Kaloper
Joe Kiskis
Lloyd Knox
Dick Lander
Lori Lubin
Markus Luty
Michael Mulhearn
David Pellett
Wendell Potter
Sergey Savrasov
Richard Scalettar
Robert Svoboda
John TerningMani Tripathi
David Webb
David Wittman
Dong Yu
Gergely Zimanyi

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