An Open Letter to My Students and Colleagues at UC Davis

This is the piece I’ll try to share on Monday at the UC Davis Rally in the Quad, if there’s an open mic and I get a chance.  If not, then it will just be shared here.  But somebody has to say it.


An Open Letter to My Students and Colleagues at UC Davis:

A lot has been said so far about who is responsible for the horrific violence on campus last week.  A lot of blame is being passed around, and it’s all pretty accurate.  But I’d like to take a different approach, if I may, and offer our students, my students—and yes, you are all my students whether I’ve had you in class or not—an apology on behalf of the faculty.

That’s right.  An apology.  Not just because there weren’t as many of us with you on Friday, getting arrested and pepper spray down our throats, as there were at Berkeley.  But because of something bigger.

Because we left the wrong people in charge.

You see, with few exceptions, the people running this campus up in Mrak Hall think of themselves as administrators, not as educators.  Because, with few exceptions, these are people who haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in years, if not decades, if ever.   These are people who don’t have you guys.  They don’t have students to remind them every single day on this campus why they are here, simply by stopping by their offices with a friendly, “Hey, Professor, I just had a question about something…”  These are people who don’t have you all to keep them humble by (to use a personal example) reminding them that they almost forgot to collect the paper that’s due in class today, or pointing out the typos on their final exams.

No, instead, what we have are people who end up thinking of you as data points and dollar signs, rather than as whole human beings, whose hearts and minds we as a faculty have the honor and privilege of shaping into the future of our state, our nation, and our world.  (And I assert that no one who thought of you as whole human beings could possibly have called in armed riot police to deal with a peaceful protest, tents or no tents.)

So how did it get this way?  Of course it’s complicated, but one answer is that, as faculty, we’re busy.  I know, you hear that a lot, right?  “We’re busy.”  But it’s true.  We expend a lot of energy on our research.  And the vast majority of us put a lot of time and effort into our teaching too.  Because we care about you.  We do.  But there’s a whole host of other things, administrative things, that go into running a university, that we as a faculty have had less and less to do with over the years.  Things like budgets.  And efficiency reports. And “Resource Management.”  And the truth is that most of us hate those things, and we’re perfectly happy to let someone else deal with all of it.

As it turns out, though, there’s a kind of power in those things.  Big power, actually.  Money power.  And in many cases that power wasn’t just taken from us, we gave it away, all too gladly.

You know, it wasn’t malicious.  We thought it would be fine, better even.  We’d handle the teaching and the research, and we’d have administrators in charge of administrative things.  But it’s not fine.  It’s so completely not fine.  There’s a sickening sort of clarity that comes from seeing, on the chemically burned faces of our students, how obviously it’s not fine.

So, to all of you, my students, I’m so sorry.  I’m sorry we didn’t protect you.  And I’m sorry we left the wrong people in charge.

And to my colleagues, I ask you, no, I implore you, to join with me in rolling up our sleeves, gritting our teeth, and getting back to the business of running this place the way it ought to be run.  Because while our students have been bravely chanting for a while now that it’s their university (and they’re right), it’s also ours.  It’s our university.   And as such, let’s make sure that the inhuman brutality that occurred on this campus last Friday can never happen again.  Not to our studentsAnd not at our university.

Cynthia Carter Ching

Associate Professor of Learning and Mind Sciences

Director of Undergraduate Programs, School of Education

University of California, Davis

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103 Responses to An Open Letter to My Students and Colleagues at UC Davis

  1. Edinei Dal Bem says:

    Well said! I hope you have a chance to say to everyone on Monday. Time to clean house.

  2. dhawhee says:

    Thanks for this, Cynthia. The need for more faculty governance has come to the fore with the horrible things that have happened at Penn State too.

  3. Dustianne says:

    thank you so much, Professor. you have no idea what salve this is for my soul. it has been so confusing, trying to understand where are our faculty allies in all of this. it was amazing professors that taught me about social movements, history, philosophy, etc. that made me know i should stand up at times like these. so how disheartening it has been, then, to feel unsupported by faculty in this movement. it isn’t that we blame the faculty, but what we were seeing was getting harder and harder to explain. until now– i can’t tell you what a relief this is. your apology and honesty in this regard means so much, and is FULLY accepted:-) . and thank you for also laying out clearly how things came to be as they are, and what faculty can do to step back into the process and help us take back the university. i and many others will happily assist you in bringing this about. one suggestion: many of us feel that there needs to be more student and worker power in the governance system. our student governments, at this point, are tightly controlled by administrators and can do little to affect policy. NO budget committees include students or workers, and on the rare occasion that students or workers are invited to give input, they have no actual vote. i agree that faculty governance is better than administrator governance. even better would be more authentic shared governance among all who use the university. perhaps a more democratized governance– with students and workers included, would help not only to restore what we once had, but also to safeguard against something like the current situation happening again. as you note, faculty are busy and prefer teaching and research over administrative tasks. this will probably always be true, which leaves too many vacuums for privatizers and bean-counters to fill. perhaps if students had had a real voice in the process before now, we would have been able to prevent what has happened. there is a strong push among protesters to democratize the UC, from the bottom up and all the way to the Regents (who are the 1% by the way). thanks for listening, and thanks again for writing this beautiful piece.

  4. stargazer says:

    I just want to say that I am a prospective student that just got an email inviting me to think of UC Davis for study, and I’ve been hyperfocusing on these events to see if the campus is the right fit for me. This response has really impressed me and I’m totally going to put in an application.

  5. Kilei Balaz-Oblero says:

    Thank you Professor Ching! Well said! If more and more teachers, professors, faculty, and administration would do this….we as a whole country would be in better shape!

  6. PTOA says:

    As the parent of a student that has been very active in the student protest these last few years, I applaud your posting and pray other faculty members will join you and the students in their plight and their fight. We have nothing if we can’t educate our young people.

    Thank you

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  8. Chris Schons says:

    Great insights and response.

    Thank you!

  9. Allow me to begin by saying I am neither a law enforcement officer nor a student at U.C. Davis. Now that that’s done and over with, let us examine what happened. On the infamous video at U.C. Davis, Lt. John Pike raised his hands holding the pepper spray. Pike then went from one end to the other spraying the mace into the faces of students sitting down. From a layperson’s perspective, it looks horrific. From a legal perspective, it was perfectly legal. How so? Pike was trained in a POST (Peace Officer’s Standards and Training) certified police academy. And everything Pike did was approved from the management, to POST ( and arguably, the USDOJ. In other words, there is no way legally, a prosecutor would file charges against Pike or even the UCPD. Unless, they are shamed.

    The same thing happened with the LAPD with Rodney King. The four officers did what they were trained to do. Not getting into detail, any deviation from the academy training can result in a verbal warning to imprisonment. So in plain view, Pike did what he did, as did the other officers from the UCPD. Does this seem unfair? Does this seem violent? Yes it does. But, with videos and camera phones rolling, Pike did what he was taught to do and that was spray, make the students vulnerable and finally arrest them.

    But, because of political pressure, because of YouTube, the video went viral and can be seen all over the world and not just in Davis Ca. In the court of public opinion, Pike is guilty. And with pressure coming down on Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, she may or may not blame Pike of using excessive force and fire Pike. Or they may just transfer him to another University. I think it may be the latter. Again, no law or policy was broken.

    But for argument sake and to politically save Katehi’s career, she may fire Pike. Question: if they do, then why only Pike? Pike’s bosses allowed this to happen. Pike’s bosses approved the techniques used on the video. And if Pike is going to be fired, then the whole command staff from U.C. Davis must be fired too. The problem? Pike can sue to get his job back, because, his union will do their best to protect him.

    Like Rodney King, the four LAPD officers were fired. The command staff who approved the baton strikes on King were or are still employed by the LAPD. If anything, Katehi must either keep Pike on staff or if fired, fire the command staff in U.C. Davis and demand that every officer employed by UCPD update their training.

    So now Katehi is going to regret Monday at the general assembly and she will have to decide the fate of not only Pike’s career but her own. I am so glad I am not in her shoes.

    LONG LIVE THE 99%!

    • Gurujiwan S Khalsa says:

      Having been trained in some of the same techniques you mentioned, let me if I may clarify a couple of very important details. Pepper spray, is used as an alternative to lethal force as are night sticks, tazir guns, fire hoses, rubber bullets and such. All of these can be lethal if not used properly. We were trained to take the spray directly in the face, but we were taught to never spray directly in the face but in the chest so that any kind of detrimental effect could be avoided. The spray is sufficient to gain the desired result without spraying into the face, eyes, mouth and throat. Just because of this I would classify the officers use as excessive. Vulnerable. The students were in a sitting position, vulnerable to any one standing, not to mention they were already armed and they outnumbered the students. This in itself further makes the action excessive. This leaves me to believe that the actions were driven by the motivation of future intimidation and signals a clear escalation of law enforcement tactics. Long Live the 99%

    • Ellen says:

      Tim from Los Angeles, just to clear something up, there is a law. It’s the constitution and our current common law interpretation of it. Excessive force is prohibited under the 4th amendment. This is what would be contested at a civil trial. In 9th circuit (our circuit) case law, pepper spray cannot be used on people who are “under control” and offering no threat, including seated protesters, chained to trees, which is arguably less “under control” than seated students who are merely linking arms. Again, though, the courts have final say in the interpretation. See LaLonde v. County of Riverside 2000: “In the context of police canines, this court has explained that “no particularized case law is necessary for a deputy to know that excessive force has been used when a deputy sics a canine on a handcuffed arrestee who has fully surrendered and is completely under control.”  Mendoza v. Block, 27 F.3d 1357, 1362 (9th Cir.1994);  Watkins v. City of Oakland, 145 F.3d 1087, 1093 (9th Cir.1998).   The same principle is applicable to the use of pepper spray as a weapon:  the use of such weapons (e.g., pepper sprays;  police dogs) may be reasonable as a general policy to bring an arrestee under control, but in a situation in which an arrestee surrenders and is rendered helpless, any reasonable officer would know that a continued use of the weapon or a refusal without cause to alleviate its harmful effects constitutes excessive force.”

      And Headwaters Forest Defense v. County of Humbolt, 2002, “Defendants asserted at trial that the protestors’ use of “black bears” constituted “`active’ resistance to arrest,'” meriting the use of force. The Eureka Police Department defines “active resistance” as occurring when the “subject is attempting to interfere with the officer’s actions by inflicting pain or physical injury to the officer without the use of a weapon or object.” 240 F.3d at 1202-3. Characterizing the protestors’ activities as “active resistance” is contrary to the facts of the case, viewing them, as we must, in the light most favorable to the protestors: the protestors were sitting peacefully, were easily moved by the police, and did not threaten or harm the officers. In sum, it would be clear to a reasonable officer that it was excessive to use pepper spray against the non-violent protestors under these circumstances.”

    • Nicholas F. says:

      To say that someone is within the bounds of the law is one thing – but it’s another thing to say that he or she made an ethical decision. This man used pepper spray on students who were peacefully protesting. It was unnecessary and it was inhumane. Whether it was legal or not is irrelevant.

      • Hary Gensley says:

        Nicholas F. Is absolutely correct.The uploaded video on Utube is your mightiest tool/weapon.Something sorely missing during the Vietnam era protests.Goldwater promised to nuke Hanoi, Johnson promised peace. We worked for and elected Johnson.He escalated the War, filled the docks and airports with bodybags full of brothers, friends and kids[too damn young to vote]. Feeling truly betrayed, we resisted and protested the war in many ways. One photo on the front page of the Palo Alto Times showing a disabled Vietnam War vet protesting at Stanford in his wheelchair getting beaten bloody and unconscious by police batons did more to change hearts and minds against the war than thousands of us screaming and waving signs.THE ULTIMATE LESSON of the V. N. War Protests is THE WAR DID NOT END UNTIL THE CHILDREN OF THE BOARD MEMBERS OF DOW CHEMICAL STARTED CALLING THEIR PARENTS ASSHOLES OVER THE DINNER TABLE. Hary G.

    • Steve says:

      Would you know if POST trains for using pepper spray agianst passive ressitors or just active resisters to arrest? If just the latter then Lt Pike can be charged with using excessive force.

    • Geoff says:

      If the protestors had given any indication that they would resist arrest then the police would’ve had legal justification to use “whatever force is necessary to overcome protestors physical resistance.” The ninth circuit interprets resistance to mean physical retaliation in this context. As an alum of UCD who knows several of the burn victims and many more who witnessed the incident, I know that all protestors sitting down were prepared to be individually arrested by police. They were prepared to be pulled from the chain, handcuffed, and led to detainment. When Pike attempts to pull the first protestor our of the chain, she goes limp. At this point an officer decided that the force of pepperspray was necessary to make the job of the police easier. But pepperspray is not a tool to make arrests EASIER or QUICKER, it exists to make arrests LESS DANGEROUS for police. It’s not the job of a protestor being arrested to unlink them self and slap their own handcuffs on. UCDPD’s actions are not legally defensible in CA.

  10. John Coyote says:

    A poignant and profoundly honest letter ….and she is right of course ! We all need to accept more responsibility !!!

    • Peter Bergel says:

      Yes. I think this is the core of Prof. Ching’s letter: “And in many cases that power wasn’t just taken from us, we gave it away, all too gladly.” That surely applies to the faculty of the University, but it also applies to practically everyone in this society. We have given over our power to the political, economic and legal systems because we believed that they would serve our best interests, and do so faithfully as they are sworn to do. What we have found is that they have not. This realization requires us to withdraw our power from these systems until we are convinced that they have been broadly reformed. This is the central point of the Occupy movement, in my opinion. Prof. Ching has proclaimed her responsibility to do this. The rest of us must do the same. Saluting the 99% is fine, but the current situation calls for action. Join an Occupy in your neighborhood. If there is none, start one. Use it to tackle any tentacle of the broken systems and you are striking at the whole thing. Power to the people!

  11. effinbans says:

    Right on, Professor Carter Ching. I’m the mother of a college student, and I can only imagine how the parents of the students who were sprayed and arrested felt when they learned what their children had been subjected to. I only know how sickened and upset I was Friday when I first saw the video.

    I was happy to rant directly to Chancellor Katehi via her UC message center (which couldn’t be accessed by late Fri. nite), cheer and re-tweet Professor Brown’s letter to her, sign lots of petitions demanding her resignation, Lt.John Pike’s firing, etc.

    I’m sure your letter will provide comfort to all concerned. Between you and Nathan Brown – and other faculty you’ve surely fired up, UC Davis – all of the UCs, hopefully – will stop, reflect, and recall why you do what you do. Teaching students, and their safety, are first and foremost. The rest will just have to work out itself out. Easier said than done, I know. I wish you the best – good luck!

  12. Jim Virgin says:

    Finally! Someone in charge that gets it. The only thing left to do is fire Lt. John Pike.

    • D says:

      As the writer indicated, faculty are in charge of very little in the grand scheme of how universities operate. In many states, they can’t unionize (“right to work”) and, even if you dot all the “i”s and cross all the “t”s, our careers are often subject to whims of those above us. Most universities are more business than institutions of higher learning anymore. Professor “quality” is more about popularity than actual learning gains. And, with so much demand on our time, we become apathetic about anything else besides checking off to-do lists. From Penn State to UC Davis, etc, these issues have been getting worse for a long time and the result is faculty with little real power and administrators who only care about image and “growth”. It’s sad.

  13. Tim says:

    I want to thank those kids for their sacrifice for their country. Sadly it had to be by getting peppered sprayed, but it’s news now and the cause is being heard. Hopefully America is waking up.

  14. Mike says:

    It’s sad to say that the “Pepper Sprayed Students” are now securing several lawyers from the world’s most vicious law firms.They are planning to demand in excess of 200 million dollars in total compensation. Since the University ordered the attack, the awards will be substantial and crippling if not fatal to the entire system.

    How much do you think a jury of their peers will award after seeing the videos? Could the University system withstand a quarter of a Billion Dollar judgement in this economy?

  15. Rick says:

    Professor Ching is scapegoating the situation and blaming it on “administrators” that lead to the poor decisions of the police. If this is a true admission of apology, then it really is the failure of the faculty, and it is faculty members like her who had failed the students who should resign. I don’t disagree that bad decisions were made, those individuals should be held accountable.

    “Administration” and university staff support the academic mission of the university. They do all the things that faculty members don’t want to do, things that faculty members should not do. Not one single faculty member is taught how to teach. How is it justified that they should teach? Not one faculty member has a degree in education administration, thus why should you administrate? What makes you think that you can run a university? You are qualified because you have an expertise in Learning and Mind Sciences?

    • ccc215Alice215 says:

      UCD faculty, I can’t speak to, but in North Carolina, faculty are afraid to speak up, they will lose their job. Universities as well as government have been taken over by corporate interests. Look who is funding the science dept, business programs, sports etc. This has slowly been happening over the past 15-20 yrs.

    • Nicholas F. says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I’m an administrator at a college and I think of myself first and foremost as an educator. I agree with the sentiment that the campus community failed these students, but I vigorously oppose the underlying theme that administrators do more to harm education than to provide it.

  16. letapjar says:

    Well Said Cynthia. As an alum of the graduate program, this whole series of events sickens me. Chancellor Katehi’s responses have been completely inadequate and devoid of compassion. I sincerely hope there will be a change at the top. Until there is I will withhold my financial support for the university.

  17. I am pretty horrified by these remarks. Perhaps what you say is a partial diagnosis — that top heavy administration is part of the problem — but it does not explain why more faculty have become complacent and self-censoring about everything from brutality and tuition to running departments honestly. I don’t you should propose or promise reorganizing the administration unless she has the clout or political support to change things. It is not possible in the near term, and such a promissory note is not being made in good faith. It is like political speech, with the candidate saying she will push corporate lobbyists out of the politics. It is a soothing statement that could fool students into thinking the faculty will change things.

  18. That was inspiring to say the least….you left me with tears in my eyes. Thank you for being there now for your students and, also, thank you for supporting the broader movement from your position of influence.

  19. Dr. Ching says “somebody has to say it.” Yeah, somebody. But it’s a little late, and she is alone. A lot alone.

    Perhaps she offers a partial diagnosis — that top heavy administration is part of the problem — but it does not explain why more faculty have become complacent and self-censoring about everything from brutality and tuition to running departments honestly. I don’t think this professor should propose or promise reorganizing the administration unless she has the clout or political support to change things. It is not possible in the near term, and such a promissory note is not being made in good faith. It is like political speech, with the candidate saying she will push corporate lobbyists out of the politics. It is a soothing statement that could fool students into thinking the faculty will change things.

    What she does not say is that UC Davis not only pepper sprayed the students, it also lied about the reasons. The police chief said: “Officers were forced to use pepper spray when students surrounded them”, adding, “There was no way out of the circle”. If it was not for the videos, the administration and faculty would have gone their merry way. Brutality. Lies. Done.

    They lied. And we need to ask what the point of the academy is, if not holding up the truth as something important.

    No, Dr. Ching has her heart in the right place. She wants to assure people she cares about them. But that is only 1% of the solution, and by soothing with an unrealistic promise, she joins the administration in its quest to make nice and move on.

  20. Prof. Jos van den Broek, Leiden University, The Netherlands says:

    As a teacher-from-the-bottom-of-my-heart I deeply respect your words, dear Cynthia. Your students are also my students, our students.

  21. Lisa says:

    Beautiful! Bravo!

  22. I found a link to your letter on Twitter this morning. Thank you. It brought tears to my eyes, and renewed strength to my commitment. I am not a student, nor a university employee, but just a person who sees many things that need to be revisited and realigned on our society. Our society -our institutions, our schools, our very social structure needs to be realigned to serve the good of all of the people, not just the powerful. Thank you.

  23. Elliott Colla says:

    well said. thank you!

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  25. Dell Ryland says:

    Amen to that, sister. Well said, well written and timely. It rings true.

  26. Betty FRanklin says:

    Brilliant. proud of your department. And my life long career in teaching and really knowing undergraduates.

  27. Todd says:

    After a 15-year hiatus, I enrolled at Penn State in 1998 to finish my degree. I was quite surprised to learn that the highest ranking officials at Penn State satellite campuses were not given the title of “president.” They were titled “CEO.” That implied shift in culture and business models has no doubt proven profitable, but at what cost?

  28. Fred says:

    The whole of the university administrative staff should resign in shame.
    I hope that your school does not intend to ever teach constitutional law.

  29. Michael Gamer says:

    Brava! Stephanie

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  31. Chris says:

    This is indeed a beautiful and powerful letter. I applaud you. Unfortunately, there is one negative I wish to point out, though I suspect it’s one with which you will heartily agree. When you say, referencing the faculty, that the university is ours, what you neglect is that that remark speaks to and for a scant 30% of the faculty, give or take. The other 70% who are contingent faculty of one kind or another cannot lay claim to the notion of “our” university. In fact, the one overriding feature of our employment is that we have no say whatsoever.

    I think the blame for this should be shared. Just as the tenured faculty abdicated their responsibility for running the institution, they also allowed the process of adjunctiication to unfold unchecked.

  32. Leo says:

    This is a very hypocritical letter. Modern research universities are run much the same way as a large corporation. You know it very well.

    It’s always easier said than done. I’m eager to see what you plan to do to change the current status (not just empty slogans like “it’s our university”). I’m more eager to see what you will have done to change it 5 or 10 years from now. In fact I’m going to keep a log of this blog post and put a 5 year reminder on my calendar to check with you.

    • Justin says:

      Change of this magnitude is indeed always easier said than done. Yes, universities are run like corporations these days, but writing a letter encouraging people to stand together for a change to that does not seem hypocritical at all. It seems like the right people are noticing how the universities are mis-run and deciding to do something about it.

      If you are so eager to see the change that will come from this, then perhaps you should join the people who wish to do something about it. It is completely useless to criticize a letter calling for change and sit back saying “you’re hypocritical. I’m going to mark it on my calender so that I can check up on you and see if you’ve done anything about it.”

      All of you angry, critical, pessimists sit around with an attitude like ‘nothing’s gonna change just cause a few people protest it.’ Well, guess what? You are absolutely right. We need the majority of the people who want these great changes to stand up and say so. If only a few people have the courage to stand up for their freedoms, and the rest sit at home too scared to join them and stand up for themselves, then the change will be slow and tedious.

      Stop complaining about ‘empty slogans’ like “it’s our university.” That is a statement reminding those who would oppress us who they work for. And the more people who remind them of this, the more powerful the statement becomes. Do not sit on the sidelines and wait for the changes to happen or not. If you are afraid that ‘empty slogans’ won’t change anything, then add your voice and add your power.

  33. stephen alesch says:

    the cinabon ad took a little away from this, awesome and all but should come from the Admin, its normal from a Professor, Admin is the problem, frozen hearted, dulled emotions, objectifying students. bored out of their mind counting things, Admin needs to be relugated to the basement and Thinkers, Doers, skilled folks need to remain in charge.

  34. Martin O. Heisler says:

    Professor Cynthia Carter Ching:
    Thank you for expressing what overwhelming portions of faculties in universities everywhere think and feel but too rarely express. Over the course of more than 40 years teaching in public universities –mostly at one in the US, but in a few in Europe as well — I watched the progressive muting of faculty voice and sidetracking of values at the core of teaching and the rise of administrators in terms of numbers, staff, and resources. It is not — should not be — necessary to submerge the abiding values and responsibilities at the core of teaching and learning in the name of the real needs for efficiency and financial responsibility in higher education,
    Martin Heisler, Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics, University of Maryland

  35. Sam says:

    Thank you so much for this. I’m over at Washington University in St. Louis and have been keeping tabs on this absurdity for quite some time. Know that we all stand with you in breaking out of the current system and creating something better.

  36. Rebecca Solnit says:

    Thank you for speaking up so eloquently and passionately.

    Rebecca Solnit
    UC alum, San Francisco

  37. Mary says:

    Thank you for this! I admire you for writing this and posting it. I will join in the efforts to work to change our universities to become the student-centered places they should be.

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  39. I think this is a lovely sentiment and I’m thrilled to see the outpouring of support by faculty (AND administrators). I see what you’re saying, Professor Carter Ching, and I think we agree about the crux of the issue (we’ve allowed the organization to be motivated by forces unrelated to our core values).

    However, I think you’ve cast the blanket title of “administrator” far too widely over thousands of your fellow community members who, while not “faculty,” do interact with and care for students every single day. I’m left with the question, where do “staff” fall in all of this? Generally, staff aren’t granted the respect of a “faculty” title, nor that of an “administrator” title.

    I fear that a statement like, “It’s our university,” could be the beginning of the undoing of the UC if staff and other constituents are left out of the picture. The university does not just belong to faculty and students. It belongs to grandparents, staff, high school students, kindergarten students, parents, volunteers, and numerous other constituencies… yes, even those administrators and regents.

    Leadership of the university should take into account the perspectives of the UC’s (the State of California’s) constituents. The solution is not simply to say, “out with administration,” but to ensure that the UC has a system of governance that can sanction or remove any officers who do not act in accord with the shared values of the organization. Faculty are at risk of becoming out of touch with our shared values when they move into administrator roles, just like administrators who are otherwise-prepared professionals.

    Thank you for reaching out to our community and our students. I know you intended it in a very constructive way and I can see what a difference your message has already made to students. I do sincerely appreciate your advocacy on behalf of students and I’m thrilled to be a part of this community with you.

    *I don’t speak on behalf of the university or my roles here as a student, graduate student, and staff member. I speak here simply as a nine-year (and counting) community member of the University of California.

    • Dustianne says:

      hi there- i think there are important points being made here, and some context may be helpful: since its inception, the public education movement within the UC and across other sectors has been conducted in coalition among students, workers, and faculty (when faculty will participate). Both individual workers and worker unions in the UC have been critical members of these coalitions, and also are suffering alongside students. I can’t speak for the professor, but I think that when protesters complain about out of touch administrators, they’re talking about the executive ruling class of the University. Staff members are valued and needed members of this community.

      I also don’t think anyone is saying that we should have no higher-level administrators, or that all administrators are evil. It would be wonderful to see them get involved in this movement, but that is really up to them. That is why we have asked administrators to sign our pledge to support the refunding of education by making the wealthiest 1% in California pay their fair share.

  40. Thank you for your humane and honest response to the sickening symptoms of a system gone very very wrong. We stand in solidarity on campuses across the nation and will not forget your important work to create change.

    Candice Goucher
    Professor of History, Washington State University

  41. Joe says:

    Great piece. Speaking as an administrator, I think you’re a little hard on us as a class – which is not the same as thinking that you’re wrong. In particular, you are dead right about the need for “administrators” to have regular, meaningful, and collaborative educational experiences with students.

    I do hope, when some well-meaning colleague or administrator says “Prof. Ching is right, we should have another governance committee” you’ll speak up and say “I didn’t say governance, I said _do the work_.”

    • Dustianne says:

      i don’t think the point is whether administrators as people are “ok” or not “ok”. one issue, as pointed out, is that the more people we have running the campus who are not in everyday contact with students, faculty, and workers, the less they act from the best interest of those they are there to serve. and while it is true that some administrators are or were educators, this is becoming less and less the case. These factors DO raise questions about whether this should be the group of people who to make decisions that affect the public and those who use the University, whatever we think of them “as a class”.

      But equally or more important are structural questions: expenditures on management / administrators have increased over 200% in the last few years, while deep cuts are made elsewhere. both the number of executive staff, and their relative wages and benefits, have skyrocketed Wall Street-fashion while the rest of us members of the UC community suffer. Chancellor Kaheti makes over $400,000 per year, and the CEOs of UC medical centers make millions, while ZERO medical center profits come back to instruction. the point is not whether these are “good people” or “bad people”. but is rather a structural issue. Essentially, we have Regents and a president who are the 1% and represent Wall Street,and they are increasingly structuring the University to favor privatization– they wanted this long before the current budget crisis ever came about. Such a model favors the ruling elite, and also several regents have been found to be operating as Regents despite clear conflicts of interest involving their own financial gains; some have had investigations threatened or perhaps underway. Part of this “new way of doing business” in our now private-ish University systems is the promotion of a growing class of management and administrators with high salaries, simultaneous to deep and hurtful cuts to the supports for students, faculty, and hands-on workers. This is a market-driven model of education instead of the public service, and a system that is out of touch with the needs of its members. It tends to favor construction over instruction, PR over real discourse, and it becomes increasingly hostile to those who use it, whether administrators realize this or not. btw- i realize that not all administrators are highly paid, so know that it is those with top paying and powerful positions who are targets of our grievances as a movement.

      Finally, to any who want to claim that the UC has no choice but to privatize, because the problem is in Sacramento… Sacramento is a target of this movement as well, but let’s remember that Regents are huge campaign contributers– Sacramento answers to them, more than the other way around. And Bob Samuels (UC-AFT) and Bob Meister (UCSC) have provided AMPLE evidence that privatization, austerity measures, and executive expansion are far from necessary or beneficial, so i refer people to their great work, rather than to try and make arguments here.

      Soo…. when i hear administrators say that we shouldn’t be too hard on them, i want to say to them the same thing our movement is saying to the Regents, to Sacramento, and to all educational leaders: are you going to side with the 1%, who want to reward you with unreasonably high salaries to privatize our universities in THEIR interests, or are you with the 99%? Are you willing to recognize a very hard truth: that a significant part of your salary was essentially stolen from other members of the public education system? Are you going to be part of the solution, or will you aid in the continued expansion of management, and continued privatization of our public education system in CA?

      thanks for listening.

  42. Stephanie says:

    I had been waiting, and hoping, for someone “higher up” at UC Davis to say a simple “I’m sorry” to the students. I only regret that the Chancellor has not yet found it within herself to do so. Inquiries and statements and meetings are great and all, but an apology is what is needed to start on the path to reconciliation.

  43. iphobe probe says:

    I am a UC Berkeley student and the mother of a UC Berkeley student. I brought my two young daughters to the rally in the afternoon. I had never witnessed police attack students, but that is what occurred as we were on campus and they witnessed it first hand. I was appalled as a mother, and felt for all the mothers who were not there as their children were attacked.
    Surely, if they were there this story would have been different. I also needed the professors to stand up with the students after the incident. I needed them to act as they taught us to do, to bring their lectures out of the class and into real life. I felt they had become the very thing they despised. I am glad they signed the open letter condemning violence and that this professor came forward and professed.

  44. Nick Millichamp says:

    There is little doubt that the events of last week at UC-Davis were a disgrace for the university police. Both the campus police and the administration should bear comparable responsibility. It seems that when things go badly wrong (rather like in the world of financial services), the responsible university administrators are failing to acknowledge their role. Sure the police involved should be fired but the chancellor should go as well (and I suspect losing a few of the other higher administration might not be a good idea). The suggestion from the chancellor that “the university needs her” could hardly be farther from the truth. Having worked for over 25 years at a state university I can say with certainty that one thing a university does not need are a bunch of overpaid and not infrequently inadequate administrators who do little that has any real benefit for the institution.

  45. Max says:

    Thank you very much for your email. It’s very inspiring. I hope more faculties stand out and support the students.

  46. Mary says:

    I’m a professor from UK. The police brutality is so appalling to me that it’s hard for me to believe US is actually a democratic state, not a police state.

  47. Chris says:

    This is an eloquent & thought provoking post, but I have a question. Why is it that in a taxpayer funded institution, it should be workers/professors & students who govern? A private institution can have whatever governance system it wants, but a taxpayer funded school should be administered by someone selected by taxpayers, if not directly elected, then appointed through a Legislature approved process. One of the reasons that universities have been so slow to change with the times is because of the bureaucratic red tape that results from faculty governance. Getting anything done at the university is an exercise in herding cats. The cost of college education in this country has skyrocketed, placing it beyond the grasp of many segments of the population. Inefficiency is one of the biggest reasons for this. I honestly think we need less faculty governance, not more.

    And, honestly, while I think the police acted excessively, I also think the OWS protesters’ target was misplaced. Why surround the academy? They should have surrounded a bank. That I could understand. Its not as if the University had much to do with the WS Bailouts.

  48. Oh boy, they gonna fire you now. The Chancellor is just a screw in the Machine. Its the board of directors sitting on high that brought down a whirlwind of pepper spray. They are part of the elite 1% who have given up on America and its educational system.

    These kids are graduating into a society that has no jobs. In other words, college is just another ponzi scheme. 30 or 40 thousand dollars of debt for what? There are no jobs because all the jobs are gone. They are not coming back and the Board of Directors know that. They have no interest in rights or basic civility. Its all about the profit margin and pleasing their corporate masters.

    My God, I’ve never even heard of a Corporate Board of Directors but UC Davis has one. One of which is Christopher Chediak Head of Corporate, Securities & Financial Institutions, Weintraub Genshlea Chediak Sproul.

    You folks honestly think Mr. Chediak want students protesting about tuition and economic unfairness?

  49. Cindy Kuhn says:

    It is professors like you who will help restore honor, credibility and respect to an insitution which has been assaulted by the lack of vision and respect for its students and faculty that this administration demonstrated on Friday last. There are some actions and inactions that are so very egregious that allowing the ones responsible to continue in their wake is tacit endorcement of them. Katehi seeks to earn the trust of students she did not trust. In fact, she so distrusted her students that she felt it necessary to call out riot clad stormstroopers to keep them safe. Safe from whom? They/she brought the violence. The riot police would not have been there is she hadn’t given the okay to their presence on campus. She cannot act as if she was completely unaware of the consequences of calling out such a force might entail. katehi might think she is what the university need right now but she is wrong. She views dissidents as enemies requiring a show of force to bring under control. We reap what we sow.

  50. Mel says:

    “Horrific violence.” I’m sorry, horrific violence was Kent State and Tiananmen Square. One does not suffer long or lasting damage from pepper spray.

    • Dustianne says:

      “nah nah, my horrific story was worse than your horrific story”. is this what we are reduced to now? are you aware that students had pepper spray injected directly into their mouths, causing lasting damage? do ppl have to die for it to count?

    • 7deadlycyns says:

      Those events were massacres, and I didn’t use that word. But I think “horrific violence” is appropriate. These students were sprayed at point-blank range, back and forth across the line of seated protesters, some of them with their mouths forced open, repeatedly. If you had listened to the stories told today at the campus rally from students who were sprayed–about vomiting up blood, about lying in emergency rooms with saline IVs attached to their eyelids, about still feeling the burning 12 hours later–you might think differently.

      • Mel says:

        I’m not saying getting pepper-sprayed is fun, and I agree that it shouldn’t have happened. But the thing is, this shows just how good we have it here–people weren’t shot. I doubt that those who participated in the Middle East uprisings this year would consider being pepper-sprayed “horrific violence.”
        Exaggeration reduces credibility.

      • Dustianne says:

        That’s funny, people in Tahrir Square marched in solidarity with Oakland after they were attacked with pepper spray. if the freedom fighters you so romanticize, themselves, recognize that all police violence is wrong, why can’t you? of course it is better to not be shot, but what do we accomplish, exactly, by this comparison? “we have it so good”… so what? this means we should sit down and be quiet?

  51. dshinabarger says:

    Well said! An inspiring message from someone in charge instead of just us students!

  52. Sarah Gouls says:

    Thank you professor for that thoughtful statment. I am a student from Glendale college and needed that, in our hard times

  53. Scott says:

    Of course, at the bottom of all this is that we are not funding the university system well. How the administration responds to protest matters (and I very much appreciate Cynthia’s letter and willingness to step up), but I’d just as soon fund education. Everything else is shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. I’m entirely ok with raising my taxes. I’m telling my legislators. Will you?

  54. Rick says:

    Faculty should teach. Administrators should administrate. Police should protect.

  55. Mike says:

    Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Damage Awards Against the University could follow very soon. The US Supreme Court ruled on Just such a case in California a decade ago.

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  57. As a former instructor at a University I know the hardest thing is going into battle for the students with the administration. It is an endless, and often frustrating and exhausting battle and pro student discussions often fall on deaf ears.

  58. Thanks for the heartfelt response to the situation. As a fellow faculty member, let me add another element to the explanation for faculty quiescence. As administrators multiplied in colleges and universities across the country (see Benjamin Ginsberg, The Fall of the Faculty), they invented new tasks and procedures for faculty to follow. Particularly for those of us at teaching institutions, we simply no longer have the time to challenge the power of administrators at our institutions. I now spend a small fraction of my time teaching and advising students — the activities I thought would define my role as a professor at a college devoted to undergraduate education. And governance, I can put up the good fight but it’s hard to mobilize an adequate number of faculty to make a difference. Finally, the poor students know that something’s wrong, but they can’t identify the cause.

    • Rick says:

      As an administrator, I find students often coming to me indicating that they find their faculty often don’t make time for them, don’t provide career guidence, and personal guidence. They seek other places for that support. I challenge faculty to take on those responsiblities…advising students, supporting them through psycological issues, helping them with financial crisis, responding to campus emergencies, develop a social community outside of the classroom. These end up being the hired “staff” to do and manage because Faculty are not interested nor have the time for. In addition, typically on a college campus Faculty, Students, and Boards of Trustees have the say in governance…and administrators/staff have none.

      Do not finger point at all “administration” for the actions of the Police and/or the Chancellor at UC Davis.

      • Chris says:

        I think Rick needs to consult with his institutions legal representation. I’m sure they will explain to him why in the absence of any professional credentials it would be at best unwise, and at worst actionable for faculty to advise students’ on their emotional, psychological, or financial issues.

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  61. Pawel says:

    I absolutely love your letter!!! I agree faculty should be running the university! Like LBS Prof Gary Hamel says: Fire all the managers! Perhaps it should read fire all the administration! Perhaps university organization should take a note from the CEO of RedHat Jim Whitehurst and try open-innovation model
    Your ideas expressed in this letter actually are on the cutting edge of management science!!!

    Thanks for your insights!

  62. KT says:

    Administrators are often faculty members that have moved up the ranks. Some still teach classes. Many… (gasp!) have children of their own. Can it be? They are…. human??

    • 7deadlycyns says:

      Or, at a few institutions still, faculty don’t “move up the ranks” but rather administrate for a few years and then go back to the classroom. Or even hold faculty and administrative appointments simultaneously (incidentally, like I do). Some administrators still manage to have regular contact with students and remain in touch with their realities and their needs, even if they no longer teach. But not very many, in my experience.

  63. Dustianne says:

    Responding to both Patrick and Rick: I agree that faculty need to become more engaged, and that had they remained engaged all along, some of these new administrative hurdles might have never appeared. But i also don’t think this is about pointing fingers at administrators vs faculty — both have the power to shape the university, so both are complicit in how we got where we are.

    That said, i tend to agree that the corporatization of the UC– which comes from the top down– has served to separate and isolate us all, especially faculty, to the point where campuses are frighteningly demobilized. But the more important point I want to make, to Rick especially, is that the movement among UC students and workers — and hopefully now faculty and maybe administrators– to oppose privatization and austerity measures, is not targeted against administrative staff. you said “Do not finger point at all “administration” for the actions of the Police and/or the Chancellor at UC Davis.” and i agree– all workers on campus are affected by the negative changes that have occurred. when we complain about administration, we mean top level administrators with decision-making power, a privatization orientation, and obscenely high salaries. i have said this elsewhere but to answer you directly: this movement from its start has been a coalition of workers and students. if you are staff and make a reasonable middle class salary, you are part of the 99%, and no one is blaming you for what has happened at the UC. Katehi makes over $400,000 per year. the regents are millionaires and billionaires. THIS is the problem.

    • Chris says:

      As a UC graduate myself I can sympathize with current students’ concerns about tuition hikes–its truly alarming. But this finger pointing at UC administrators is plain wrong. Your ire should be focused on the handful of Republican state representatives who refuse to allow any tax hikes through to fund education–and as vehemently refuse to allow the Gov to put forward a Proposition to raise taxes.

      Frankly, in a state where every single public service has taken a haircut–including vital medical care for children–the protesters come across like entitled brats, whining that they have to endure large tuition hikes. The thing is though that the students can finance the tuition hikes. That kid in South Central LA who’s dependent on a now drastically slashed Medicaid for his bone marrow transplant can’t finance the procedure. All he has left before him is a slow death. So, honestly, the student protesters are no different than the Tea Party people, who’re protesting for their own limited, narrow self interest. Go protest at a bank. Or in Sacramento. Or, better yet, protest the lack of text books in LA schools, and the lack of Medicaid for poor children. But when your state is on the verge of bankruptcy & you’re whining about your tuition hike, you’re acting every bit as entitled as rich Tea Partiers whining about their tax hikes. This isn’t like the Civil Rights Movement where Jewish girls from Brooklyn went South to protest for Black guys from Birmingham. This is about your personal bottom line. You should feel blessed that you even got into college; there are lots of high schools in Cali that don’t produce college-eligible graduates. I’m reserving my sympathy for them.

      Today’s entitled bankers were yesterday’s entitled college students.

      • 7deadlycyns says:

        When I attended UC Irvine as an undergraduate 20 years ago, tuition was $495.00 a quarter. By next fall, UC tuition will be over $4,000 a quarter. The proposed increase the Regents will vote on next week would raise it to $22,000 per year by 2015. Even adjusting for inflation, there’s no way that it costs over 20 times more to educate someone than it did 20 years ago. Particularly when you consider that, adjusting for inflation and cost of living in California, faculty actually make LESS now than then. When we have administrators in charge, whose job it is to prioritize growth and competition, rather than education and public service, our budgets seem to grow exponentially with the size of our ambitions. Republicans in the State Legislature or Congress (while definitely deserving of ire, I agree) aren’t responsible for that fact.

      • Aaron says:

        No need to choose between targeting administration and the legislature. Legislative change should be one of our end goals, but legislation will never change if we do not put public and material pressure on the powerful and monied Regents, and part of that pressure will come from administrators.

        Also, school administrators are accountable for their repression of political expression on campus. Holding them publicly responsible for their actions is important to prevent further repression.

  64. Will you be among the vocal faculty to demand her resignation? We need your voices. The School of Ed’s response was quite silent about it, unlike the English Department.

    • 7deadlycyns says:

      The School of Education submitted an official letter to the Chancellor’s Office and the Academic Senate, signed by all, that condemned the use of violence, strongly supported the right to peaceful protest as an integral part of the exchange of ideas germane to the university, and encouraged the administration to use this tragic event as an opportunity to engage more fully with students and their concerns and include them as partners in dialogue and decision-making. The letter does not mention the Chancellor specifically one way or the other. I think this was strategic, in that when we focus all our attention on one person, we might end up detracting from the larger issues (some of which I’ve tried to explain in my letter) that got us here in the first place.

      • 7deadlycyns says:

        Personally, I’m in favor of her resignation, partially for reasons of justice and partially because I just don’t see how she can possibly regain enough trust to lead effectively, and I’ve signed the DFA (Davis Faculty Association) statement as such. But everyone comes to their own conclusions. Regardless, I think the letter submitted by the SOE is a good one.

  65. abirdman says:

    Thank you. This is a moving post.

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  67. 7deadlycyns says:

    I never said that an apology was all that was necessary. But at the time I wrote this (very late Saturday night), no one had yet offered one. There was more than enough outrage to go around, so I did something different. All sorts of people have been connecting the protest and the police brutality that ensued to numerous broad social problems–the need to fight encroaching power by the 1%, an increasingly militarized society, even the privatization of higher education. But nobody had yet connected it to administrative creep into what was at one time a faculty-governed institution, which seemed like an obvious connection to me. I agree that justice is necessary. But we are often all too quick to pass judgment on others without asking “how might my own role have contributed to the problem?” So that’s what I did.

    • P. A. Taylor says:

      So, how do we turn this into a call to action? What can we do to join in some way the students? (the morning started out at -8 F and its presently 6F – we are not going to “occupy Prexy’s pasture). Has anyone thought about checking with TIAA-Cref on who they invest with, and whether we could have some impact by moving investments from the likes of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, etc.?

  68. aubreymeyer says:

    Dear Cynthia – Your letter read as an honest and heart-felt apology for the horrible situation that developed in the way you so accurately analysed. Though much damaged by their recent treatment at UC Davis, your students will remember your letter with affection in the years ahead.
    With kind regards
    Aubrey Meyer

  69. Chris says:

    There’s a lot of vehemence about tuition hikes, but fortunately there’s been a lot of research around it as well. After Heath Care, Higher Education is the 2nd fastest inflating sector of the economy. At its roots are 2 factors which are well outside of the control of Adminstrators or Legislators, the Baby Boomlet, and static productivity.

    With regards to the Baby Boomlet there are simply a greater # of students attending college than 20 years ago. 20 years ago, in fact, the Gen X population was historically small. This increase in demand pressures a variety of costs, including expensive facilities.

    With regards to static productivity: Most sectors of the economy avoid inflation by being more productive. Flat screen TVs have fallen in price on average by 15% a year for 10 years now because of better manufacturing processes, better logistics, etc. Most sectors of the economy can’t match that pace of productivity enhancements but even mature industries generate 2-5% a year in productivity enhancements. This restricts inflation to 2-4% on average. That said, there are some sectors, like education, which really can’t ever be more productive. A string quartet, for instance, will always consist of 4 strings players no matter how “productive” they become. Likewise, while you can increase class sizes, no one would suggest that that’s really a more productive education method. As a result tuition nationwide has been hammered by both rapidly increasing demand & zero productivity gains. California schools face the triple whammy: Draconian cuts to education spending (courtesy of a small minority of hold out Republican senators).

    So, we can get mad at Administrator salaries all we want, but completely eliminating her $400K a year salary will do nothing to decrease tuition. And, besides, would you really want the Chancellor who was willing to be an Administrator for half the money that every other Chancellor in the country was willing to accept?

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  71. Fred Nietzsche says:

    Only someone blissfully out of touch with reality, and without any meaningful sense of proportion, would use the phrase “inhuman brutality” to describe what happened on campus. It would be profoundly laughable if it wasn’t for possible consequences of such bombastic and insulting rhetoric — especially to those who have genuinely been exposed to inhuman brutality. Was the use of pepper spray uncalled for here? Probably, even though, now, it is apparent that the protesters were egging on the police, forming a human barricade to block them telling the police that the would “have to go through them” to leave. But what were the other, less painful ways to get them to disperse? They refused to listen to reasonable requests from law enforcement, and it seems that, one way or another, they would have had to be physically made to disperse. Would it have been better if they’d been cuffed and dragged away, no doubt kicking and screaming? Let’s get real, to put it mildly.

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