Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi


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 pepper-sprayed students. 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

(via BicycleBarricade)


18 Responses to “Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi”

  1. “It’s not safe for multiple reasons” « zunguzungu Says:

    […] Nathan Brown’s open letter to the UC Davis Chancellor for more details: Today you ordered police onto our campus to clear […]

  2. Violently Attacking Disobedience as Such « Gerry Canavan Says:

    […] Johnson, Aaron Bady, and Nathan Brown all write on the police violence yesterday at UC Davis. Share […]

  3. Dee Pisciella Says:

    Same thing happened in 1932 in Washington DC when WWI Army Veterans were encamped near the Capitol, trying to get their bonus certificates cashed because they were broke and unemployed. Herbert Hoover sent in the police to clear them. The Police shot and killed two veterans and ran in shame and fear. Then Hoover ordered the US Army General MacArthur to send Patton and armored tanks, infantry squads, machine gun squads to march down Pennsylvania to the occupation encampment. En route, veterans cheered them thinking they were marching in support, since they were the Army too Along the way, they tear gassed vacant buildings where some veterans were staying and burned the buildings to the ground. Then they went to the encampment with over 40,000 WWI Army veterans and families lived in make shift housing made from materials they found in the local dump. Patton tear gassed them, killing a little boy and sent the artillery tanks to knock down the encampment. Ten died. Over 50 were injuured and over 100 arrests were made. Hoover lost re election because of this. FDR found them a place to “occupy” and camp and served them three hot meals a day. Army killing it’s own. UC Davis Police hurting their own students. When will we ever learn???? Resignation time is only the beginning of what should happen next.

    • Dee Pisciella Says:

      I forgot to add that Congress failed them as the House passed a bill to let them cash in their bonus checks, but the Senate did not pass it because they may have to raise taxes to pay their own Army veterans. After FDR got into office, Congress did pass the act to pay them, FDR vetoed it, then his veto was overturned. In the end,t hey got paid. Doesn’t some of this sound familiar? It’s 2011, almost 80 years later and we still don’t tolerate nonviolent grievances being demonstrated by our own citizens. Seems unreal to me. I’m 65 and still wondering what is wrong with out democracy that will not allow peaceful assembly and protest. Occupations have been going on for decades, were rebuffed by people, like Herbert Hoover. Good news is the people prevailed and they will this time too.

  4. Steven Clark Says:

    The Chancellor has demonstrated that it is time for her to go to jail for her complicity in a criminal assault on protestors.

  5. Your Intrepid Blogger Says:

    The police who did things like pepper-spray students who were sitting still in a huddle must be arrested and brought to justice. We are –or used to be– a nation of rule of law. When police take the law into their own hands and carry out punishment on people not fairly tried in court, we are well on our way to becoming a mockery of a first-world nation.

  6. Jane Gray Says:

    As UC Davis alumni I find the actions by the police yesterday, ordered by the UC Chancellors, appalling. I watched video footage of the pepper spraying incident with tears in my eyes and a deep pain in my chest. Our educational institutions have been increasingly corporatized, staff has been bought. The response of fellow UC Davis students in surrounding cops and condemning their actions was brave for Davis is usually a peaceful place, a place where violation of one’s body and property aren’t anticipated. And I saw how firmly these students faced their first such confrontation with no precedent to act upon. I wish I could give each one of them a hug.

  7. Karen Says:

    We here at UC Berkeley are completely in solidarity with you, UC Davis!!!

  8. Occupy Oakland Violence « OCCUPY Says:

    […] Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi […]

  9. Mindless Roaming Says:

    I can’t believe this is happening to you guys! Im Egyptian and was lucky to survive the brutal attacks that happened on us while we were protesting peacefully like you guys. One day they raided Tahrir square with camels and horses thinking they’ll scare us away like a herd of cattle.

    Let me tell you something, the more brutal they get the more stronger you’ll become. This brutality only reflects their fear from you guys. Hang in there, you’re writing history

  10. Sierra Gemma Says:

    We here at the University of British Columbia are in solidarity with you, UC Davis.

  11. Dimitri R. Says:

    My name is Dimitri, I am a 16 year old boy from Merced, Ca. I’ve heard alot about “occupy” but never fully new the story. Now that I do know, I am deeply humiliated by the way this had turned out. You would think that the US would not be involved in such violence, much less California Universities. I may not be as qualified to state my opinion on this matter but there’s no hiding in that this is wrong. I’m just disppointed that this has gone far enough where the morality of students in California and the US are threatened by the brutality of this situation.

    In support, Dimitri R.

  12. bob Says:

    A list of alumni should be gathered and emails sent to them asking them to withhold donations until at a minimum, everyone involved in this decision is gone. My wife is an alumni of UCDavis and a doctor and we’re never going to donate again.

  13. Shirley Domer Says:

    Nathan Brown is a courageous man. I applaud him and urge the chancellor to resign before she makes another tragic mistake.

  14. Réaltán Ní Leannáin Says:

    From Queen’s University Belfast, Ireland, thank you for documenting this,

  15. SantaCruzMom Says:

    I am an alumni of UCLA and have a child currently enrolled at UC Santa Cruz. I am very proud of the students who stood up for what they believe in and I’m outraged that in the United States of America college students are not being allowed to protest peacefully and are being attacked and assaulted by police. I plan to make phone calls, write letters, and do whatever I can to give my support to all people who engage in peaceful protest as this is our right as Americans and we cannot ever give up this right.

  16. Adonay Says:

    I am willing to help

  17. Susan Carter Says:

    As a mother of a student at UC Davis I want to thank you for posting your support. It is commendable that you’re engaged in an issue that will affect your future. Stay aware and informed. The future belongs to you.

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