Davis Faculty Association

Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Nathan Brown is a board member of the Davis Faculty Association. He has been distributing the following letter, which the DFA board has agreed to reprint below:


18 November 2011

Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Linda P.B. Katehi,

I am a junior faculty member at UC Davis. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and I teach in the Program in Critical Theory and in Science & Technology Studies. I have a strong record of research, teaching, and service. I am currently a Board Member of the Davis Faculty Association. I have also taken an active role in supporting the student movement to defend public education on our campus and throughout the UC system. In a word: I am the sort of young faculty member, like many of my colleagues, this campus needs. I am an asset to the University of California at Davis.

You are not.

I write to you and to my colleagues for three reasons:

1) to express my outrage at the police brutality which occurred against students engaged in peaceful protest on the UC Davis campus today

2) to hold you accountable for this police brutality

3) to demand your immediate resignation

Today you ordered police onto our campus to clear student protesters from the quad. These were protesters who participated in a rally speaking out against tuition increases and police brutality on UC campuses on Tuesday—a rally that I organized, and which was endorsed by the Davis Faculty Association. These students attended that rally in response to a call for solidarity from students and faculty who were bludgeoned with batons, hospitalized, and arrested at UC Berkeley last week. In the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, those protesters had linked arms and held their ground in defense of tents they set up beside Sproul Hall. In a gesture of solidarity with those students and faculty, and in solidarity with the national Occupy movement, students at UC Davis set up tents on the main quad. When you ordered police outfitted with riot helmets, brandishing batons and teargas guns to remove their tents today, those students sat down on the ground in a circle and linked arms to protect them.

What happened next?

Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police sprayed students with pepper-spray. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.

What happened next?

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

This is what happened. You are responsible for it.

You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt. Faculty get hurt. One of the most inspiring things (inspiring for those of us who care about students who assert their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly) about the demonstration in Berkeley on November 9 is that UC Berkeley faculty stood together with students, their arms linked together. Associate Professor of English Celeste Langan was grabbed by her hair, thrown on the ground, and arrested. Associate Professor Geoffrey O’Brien was injured by baton blows. Professor Robert Hass, former Poet Laureate of the United States, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, was also struck with a baton. These faculty stood together with students in solidarity, and they too were beaten and arrested by the police. In writing this letter, I stand together with those faculty and with the students they supported.

One week after this happened at UC Berkeley, you ordered police to clear tents from the quad at UC Davis. When students responded in the same way—linking arms and holding their ground—police also responded in the same way: with violent force. The fact is: the administration of UC campuses systematically uses police brutality to terrorize students and faculty, to crush political dissent on our campuses, and to suppress free speech and peaceful assembly. Many people know this. Many more people are learning it very quickly.

You are responsible for the police violence directed against students on the UC Davis quad on November 18, 2011. As I said, I am writing to hold you responsible and to demand your immediate resignation on these grounds.

On Wednesday November 16, you issued a letter by email to the campus community. In this letter, you discussed a hate crime which occurred at UC Davis on Sunday November 13. In this letter, you express concern about the safety of our students. You write, “it is particularly disturbing that such an act of intolerance should occur at a time when the campus community is working to create a safe and inviting space for all our students.” You write, “while these are turbulent economic times, as a campus community, we must all be committed to a safe, welcoming environment that advances our efforts to diversity and excellence at UC Davis.”

I will leave it to my colleagues and every reader of this letter to decide what poses a greater threat to “a safe and inviting space for all our students” or “a safe, welcoming environment” at UC Davis: 1) Setting up tents on the quad in solidarity with faculty and students brutalized by police at UC Berkeley? or 2) Sending in riot police to disperse students with batons, pepper-spray, and tear-gas guns, while those students sit peacefully on the ground with their arms linked? Is this what you have in mind when you refer to creating “a safe and inviting space?” Is this what you have in mind when you express commitment to “a safe, welcoming environment?”

I am writing to tell you in no uncertain terms that there must be space for protest on our campus. There must be space for political dissent on our campus. There must be space for civil disobedience on our campus. There must be space for students to assert their right to decide on the form of their protest, their dissent, and their civil disobedience—including the simple act of setting up tents in solidarity with other students who have done so. There must be space for protest and dissent, especially, when the object of protest and dissent is police brutality itself. You may not order police to forcefully disperse student protesters peacefully protesting police brutality. You may not do so. It is not an option available to you as the Chancellor of a UC campus. That is why I am calling for your immediate resignation.

Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students. 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. And I want you to know that this is clear. It is clear to anyone who reads your campus emails concerning our “Principles of Community” and who also takes the time to inform themselves about your actions. You should bear in mind that when you send emails to the UC Davis community, you address a body of faculty and students who are well trained to see through rhetoric that evinces care for students while implicitly threatening them. I see through your rhetoric very clearly. You also write to a campus community that knows how to speak truth to power. That is what I am doing.

I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.


Nathan Brown
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Program in Critical Theory
University of California at Davis

This entry was posted on Friday, November 18th, 2011 at 11:57 pm and is filed under Calls to Action. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

28 Comments to “Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi”

  1. November 19th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Richard Denholm says:

    As a University of California at Santa Barbara graduate and alumni, I stand behind this call for resignation. Behavior like this is unacceptable from a chancellor in the UC system. Step down Now to preserve peace and safety on campus.

  2. November 19th, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Matt Christie says:

    Excellent, brave letter.

  3. November 19th, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Anthony Foley says:

    This is speaking truth to power and I commend you for this brave letter and hope it leads to the resignation so clearly merited and a safer climate for you, your fellow faculty members and the students.

  4. November 19th, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Noelle L'Etoile says:

    I stand by you. How can more of our faculty participate?

    Associate Prof UC Davis

  5. November 19th, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Eric Ryan says:

    Dear Nathan Brown,

    As a proud graduate of the University of California, Berkeley–1994, and a child survivor of teargas near that very campus during the People’s Movement, I thank you for what you are doing.

    And to Linda P.B. Katehi and the rest of the UC administration making brutal decisions against FREEDOM, I would like to remind you that you are the 99.

    Eric Ryan

  6. November 19th, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Eric Ryan says:

    ps. Linda, I think you just kicked the ants nest.

  7. November 20th, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Barry Douglas says:

    Nathan Brown – my thanks and respect!

    I attended the University of Natal (Durban) in the late 1980’s. During that time I participated in anti-apartheid protests on campus. Members of faculty acted to ensure our safety and that our rights were upheld. I am still deeply grateful of their actions.

    I left that institution with a degree in engineering but more importantly with a profound sense of the need for an equitable organisation of society. I learned that there is an obligation and a right to protest iniquity but to do so non-violently.

    Forgive my intrusion here as an interloper but I have lived in a society both with and without the right to free speech. I have found your letter and the broader actions of DFA commendable and important.

  8. November 20th, 2011 at 8:56 am

    ptgarvey says:

    It is time for change: katehi, UCD police chief, Lt. habanero, and any other officers that assaulted any non-violent protesters. Thanks to DFA and students for exercising the rights and liberties of all.

  9. November 20th, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Virginia Meyer says:

    As a recent graduate, I am appalled and outraged. The protest was completely peaceful, and such response was completely uncalled for. The jobs of campus police and university administration is to serve the students, and to protect the students, NOT to hurt them!!

  10. November 20th, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Keith Porter says:

    As a UCD grad and member of CAAA, I agree with Prof Brown.

    In comments on the incident, Chancellor Katehi writes, “We were aware that some of those involved in the recent demonstrations on campus were not members of the UC Davis community and this required us to be even more vigilant about the safety of our students, faculty and staff.” (http://chancellor.ucdavis.edu/messages/2011/protest_action_111811.html).

    I cannot see how deliberately hospitalizing students and faculty protects their safety, nor how the supposed presence of outside agitators justifies that action.

  11. November 20th, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Liz McLellan says:

    As another UC alum appalled by the reactionary behavior of both Mayors and UC Presidents – I also call for the resignation of ALL of the people responsible for this attack on dissent. It is at base vile and deeply UNAMERICAN. It goes against all we stand for and it spits on our history as a people unbowed by idiocy in high places.

  12. November 20th, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Brent Deter says:

    She should be embarrassed and resign. Who appointed her?

  13. November 20th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Rita Lynn Lyman says:

    I deeply respect and support this letter, the call for the chancellor’s resignation as well as immediate and legal action against the police who are brutalizing the stidents and faculty. UC Berkeley and Davis have the natiional and international reputations as havens for progressive forward thinking and are sea
    ts for the cutting edge of our country’s thinkers. Today, you are not just UC, not just california, you are all of us, all of US. We stand with you Davis, Berkeley. You are the voice of the nation now more than ever. Thank you for your peaceful response to the violence. Prayers for peace, , and a complete recovery to the injured.

  14. November 20th, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Walter G. Green III, Ph.D. says:

    As a former faculty member of another university and as an emergency management professional I have sent the following e-mail to your Chacellor:

    Dear Chancellor Katehi,

    I was greatly disturbed to see coverage of the actions of your police department in assaulting unresisting students with chemical weapons at your university. I served as a department chairman in emergency management at another university for 13 years, and have over 30 years experience in the emergency services. I also was a student during the years of protests against the Vietnam War (a war I supported and eventually served in as a military officer). I have both seen protests up close and studied their management as a practitioner and as an academic.

    The available footage shows a police department whose officers casually employed chemical agents on nonresisting individuals, with no indication that those officers feared for their safety, feared hostile action by the students, or were under any attack. Instead, one officer calmly walks down a line of students in close proximity to them spraying back and forth.

    Although television footage often does not show a whole picture, it is very difficult to come to any conclusion other than that this was a deliberate, calculated attack intended to cause pain and influence public policy through suppression of protest. If this is the case, I urge you to take immediate action to have these individuals prosecuted for assault and for terrorism under the color of official action. If a terrorist had done this, we would be classing this as terrorist action under the definitions commonly used for terrorism, and we would be talking about weapons of mass destruction – if a police officer does it, is it any less terrorism, and should not the same statutes apply?

    I served my country for 24 years as a federal and for 5 years as a state military officer. I thought I was protecting freedom in my country. How sad it is to see that a once respected university has demonstrated how deluded I was in that belief.


    Walter G. Green III, Ph.D.
    retired Associate Professor of Emergency Management

  15. November 20th, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Sheila T. Riggs says:

    As a graduate of UCB, I have been following the unrest (and Occupy Movement). I am outraged that tuition has been increased three-fold in the past 9 years. I am outraged that the 1% (CEO’s) don’t understand the problem.

    The University of California was established to educate Californians who could not attend the “elite” colleges. Thus, I, from a middle class family was able to attend. Now, however, only the out-of-state and foreign wealthy can attend…….or, the middle class who become indebted for a good portion of their adult life.

    I whole heatedly support the peaceful student rebellion. The chancellors of UCD and UCB need to start looking for employment elsewhere.

  16. November 20th, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Jonathan Bridges says:

    I do not attend college in California, but I am from there. I worry about my friends attending UC schools now. This has to stop, and has to stop now. I support your letter.

  17. November 20th, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Will says:

    “When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats.”

    Is there any video footage of this? It is a very serious allegation which, if true, would definitely warrant those involved being arrested for felony assault.


  18. November 20th, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Willem Ridder says:

    I am the author of Countdown to Freedom,
    Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly and Right to Petition.
    “You only know what “Freedom” is after you’ve lost it!”
    Nazi Occupied Holland May 10, 1940 – May 5, 1945.
    I sympathize with the students and support their peaceful protest. The tactics used to suppress Free Speech and Assembly by force on the UC Davis Campus remind me of the suppression by the Nazis of these same freedoms that were lost when the Nazis invaded Holland. We should never let that happen ever again. I fully support Nathan Brown in his open letter to Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi and her immediate resignation. I am outraged by the actions of the police directed by the Chancellor. Her letter could have been written by the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

  19. November 20th, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Soura Dasgupta says:

    My letter I sent to Dr. Katehi.

    Dear Dr. Katehi,
    I am a Professor of ECE at the University of Iowa. I am sending this using a private email though, as a private citizen and an educator, to record my outrage at what transpired in Davis these last few days and to echo the calls for your resignation. I have watched the tapes on Huffington Post again and again. The word appalled is too mild to capture my reactions.
    It is evident from these tapes, that these students showed amazing maturity. Their maturity would have made seasoned exponents of nonviolent civil disobedience, including Gandhi and MLK proud. When some started chanting “from Davis to Greece, fuck the police”, even though it is not by any means a call to violence, the leadership, amorphous as it was, quickly asked for the chant to be stopped to avoid inflaming violence. And the chanting was immediately replaced by “you have weapons we have our voice”; profoundly seditious and threatening no doubt! Compare this to your response about which I will have more to say below.

    The police then almost casually, after seemingly discussing the matter with superiors on a phone, proceeded to spray a group of passive young people, including those who had successfully exhorted against the use of even remotely inflammatory language, with pepper spray as if they were disinfecting a bug infested room! This was as cold blooded an act of wanton violence as one would expect from a tin pot dictatorial regime. At no time did the CAMPUS police, clearly in your employ, and acting with your approbation, display even a hint of perceived danger to their safety. In fact they kept turning their backs repeatedly to the students, not something you would do if you feared for your safety.

    I have carefully read both your letters exhorting the students to evacuate and subsequent defense of the thuggish behavior that you evidently sanctioned. I conclude that you approved as you have since defended the behavior. I have also read the campus police chief’s defense of these actions.

    You talk about threats that the occupation posed. You do not specify any. You stress the University’s stretched resources as justification of pepper spraying those engaged in civil NONVIOLENT disobedience. Listen to yourself. You would commit violence against those who peacefully protest matters that you yourself admit are legitimate issues of concern, because of budgetary considerations? That statement alone makes me recoil.

    Now they tell me that the police officer who sprayed the kids, a person who probably earns a tenth of what you earn, has been suspended. And that after you and your police chief have defended the action? Why did you issue your statement of defense without, as through this suspension you are evidently admitting, getting the facts straight? For that matter as a chief executive did you instruct the campus police in detail on how and when they should respond? Why were you not out there yourself supervising such a fateful forced evacuation?

    Lastly what lesson have you taught your students about democracy, civic involvement, responsibility and good executive judgment? The antagonists of the overdue Arab/Iranian spring are rubbing their hands in glee, and holding you up as a shining example to justify their own draconian tactics. After all America is a shining example of democracy and a beacon for permitting and even encouraging legitimate nonviolent dissent! She teaches the world on how to handle political disagreements.

    You have less maturity than these kids in their teens and twenties and just do not deserve the high office you occupy. You bring disrepute to a profession to which some of us have dedicated our lives.


    Soura Dasgupta

  20. November 21st, 2011 at 6:55 am

    S. Muramoto-Steele says:

    Thank you for writing this heartfelt letter!

  21. November 21st, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    clydene says:

    Thank you for your letter and the support you are giving the students and faculty at UC Davis. I wrote to Dr. Yudof.

    About Dr. Katehi, she had plenty of time to hit every major news market this morning, but she didn’t have time to meet with students and faculty until today.

    If you look at her body language on GMA, you will see very clearly that she does not want to deal with the students or faculty. You should get someone in your Cognitive Science Department to look at the videos where she is speaking.

  22. November 21st, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Jen says:

    Professor Brown,
    Please add more tents to your Amazon wish list. Only the $50 models are available, and I’m sure more people would contribute if there were more affordable options available.


    Thank you.

  23. November 21st, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Michelle says:

    Thank you for this letter. I am an alumni from UC Davis and I am in Alaska. We are all angry at the actions by those cowardly police. I remember the same ones chasing us with their bike to try and give us bike tickets while we were going to class to learn. I fought for my country as a US Marine for the freedom of speech. Many of my Marine buddies have died for it. How dare you, you cowardly disgusting police. Sick so sick. and for the highway patrol or other officers who have written my FB wall condoning that officers behavior, how would you like it if you or your kids were brutalized in this way. This is so sick so so sick. The Officers and Leadership of UC Davis need a huge Class lawsuit against them. Please some lawyer please do this right away.

  24. November 22nd, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Christine says:

    I agree with everything Michelle(former U.S Marine said). These police are disgusting. They are power hungary. I never knew this could happen in our country when we are a free nation. I hope the students sue and get lots of money. Of course money can never take away their fear, betrayal, and wounds they have endured. I am so sorry for the students. My prayers will be with them. I hope in this case justice will be served!

  25. November 22nd, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Chris says:

    Having attended UC Davis for both undergraduate and graduate degrees, I am sickened by what I have seen. It is outrageous and disgusting that police brutality against peaceful protesters be allowed. I supposrt Dr. Brown’s call for Dr. Katehi’s resignation and agree that she is unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis.

  26. November 22nd, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Cameron says:

    This is serious stuff. As a recent UCD graduate I can only speak against the unnecessary violence perpetrated by the Davis & campus police. I don’t understand it. The distressing coverage I saw on the news surprised me very much. I respect all UC faculty members: they are truly concerned about the situation and are sincerely trying to mitigate the problems we now face.

  27. November 24th, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    dna says:

    As a California parent of an eventual college age student, you should know that this type of behavior makes me worry about the safety of my child at UC Davis. Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi should resign to ensure that we as parents can support sending our children to this institution without fearing for their safety and well being.

  28. November 28th, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Helen Howard says:

    Professor Brown:
    I am a former U.C. Davis English major, and am so proud of you and the English Department for coming out so unequivocally against this outrage. This, and like incidents on other campuses, are a microcosm of the eroding balance and abuses of power in the United States in general. We will no longer be a country ruled “of the people, for the people, by the people” if we don’t stand up and start to take not only our universities, but our country back. Your pen is mighty, and it will be people with your courage and passion who will lead us into a more civilized future. Thank you!

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