UC Davis chancellor Katehi issues statement on police pepper-spraying of student protesters

After police cracked down with shocking force on UC Davis student demonstrators, and those students in turn confronted the university's Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi in an unusual and dramatic way, the Chancellor announced that two police officers would be put on administrative leave pending an investigation, and then issued this statement today.

November 20, 2011

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Friday was not a day that would make anyone on our campus proud; indeed the events of the day need to guide us forward as we try to make our campus a better place of inquiry, debate, and even dissent. This past week our campus was a site of week-long peaceful demonstrations during which students were able to express their concerns about many issues facing higher education, the University of California, our campus, our nation, and the world as a whole. Those events involved multiple rallies in the Quad and an occupation of Mrak Hall which ended peacefully a day later.

However, the events on Friday were a major deviation from that trend. In the aftermath of the troubling events we experienced, I will attempt to provide a summary of the incident with the information now available to me and the steps we will follow going forward. After a week of peaceful exchange and debate, on Thursday a group of protestors including UC Davis students and other non-UC Davis affiliated individuals established an encampment of about 25 tents on the Quad. The group was reminded that while the university provides an environment for students to participate in rallies and express their concerns and frustrations through different forums, university policy does not allow such encampments on university grounds.

On Thursday, the group stayed overnight despite repeated reminders by university staff that their encampment violated university policies and they were requested to disperse. On Friday morning, the protestors were provided with a letter explaining university policies and reminding them of the opportunities the university provides for expression. Driven by our concern for the safety and health of the students involved in the protest, as well as other students on our campus, I made the decision not to allow encampments on the Quad during the weekend, when the general campus facilities are locked and the university staff is not widely available to provide support.

During the early afternoon hours and because of the request to take down the tents, many students decided to dismantle their tents, a decision for which we are very thankful. However, a group of students and non-campus affiliates decided to stay. The university police then came to dismantle the encampment. The events of this intervention have been videotaped and widely distributed. As indicated in various videos, the police used pepper spray against the students who were blocking the way. The use of pepper spray as shown on the video is chilling to us all and raises many questions about how best to handle situations like this.

To this effect, I am forming a task force comprised of faculty, students and staff to review the events and provide to me a thorough report within 30 days. The task force will be chosen this week and convene immediately to begin their work. As part of this, a process will be designed that allows members of the community to express their views on this matter. In addition, I will hold a series of meetings and forums with students, faculty and staff to listen to their concerns and hear their ideas for restoring civil discourse to the campus. In the interim, two UC Davis police officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave following their use of pepper spray.

Related to current policies, I am asking the office of Administrative and Resource Management and the office of Student Affairs to review our policies in relation to encampments of this nature and consider whether our existing policies reflect the needs of the students at this point in time. If our policies do not allow our students enough flexibility to express themselves, then we need to find a way to improve these policies and make them more effective and appropriate.

Our campus is committed to providing a safe environment for all to learn freely and practice their civil rights of freedom of speech and expression. At the same time, our campus has the responsibility to ensure the safety of all others who use the same spaces and rely on the same facilities, tools, environments and processes to practice their freedoms to work and study.

I spoke with students this weekend and I feel their outrage. I am deeply saddened that this happened on our campus, and as chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident. I pledge to take the actions needed to ensure this does not happen again. I feel sorry for the harm our students were subjected to and I vow to work tirelessly to make the campus a more welcoming and safe place.


Linda P.B. Katehi


(Thanks, Arthur Gies and Patrick Williams; image by Paul Meyers)


  1. I take full responsibility for the incident. I pledge to take the actions needed to ensure this does not happen again.

    Pretty subtle way to resign.

  2. For those interested, she also did an interview with AggieTV to discuss her interpretation of Friday’s events, clarify her position on the use of force, and address how school administration intends to deal with the ongoing presence of protestors on campus. Also, she still won’t resign…


  3. “Driven by our concern for the safety and health of the students involved in the protest, as well as other students on our campus, I made the decision [to have the protestors forcibly removed by cops using pepper spray.] ”

    Lulz.  Way to protect your students, Chancellor.

  4. Great way to brush all this off, chancellor. “You guys figure this out and come back in 30 days.” Shameful. I hope there is a video when she is run out of her office for good.

    1. … isn’t the point of a leader to lead?

      The point of an administrator, however, is to avoid liability.

  5. “I take full responsibility for the incident.”

    I don’t think you know what that word means.  Giving yourself a 30 day window to get meetings and wait for the furor to die down isn’t exactly reacting quickly.

    You made the decision in a heartbeat to drive these students (and lets not forget how many times you point at the “outsiders” so you can shift the blame to them) off of the property for not respecting your authority. 

    Your going to be sued and burned in the media.  While you expect the board will somehow defend you, look to your left and right.  There is no one there, your the scapegoat for this.  Stop struggling and accept it, or find a spine and throw all of the back room discussions you had prior to your stupid order and expose how deep the corruption runs.  These students have given you a prime example of standing up for what is right, and an amazing display of restraint while you fled the scene after trying to claim they held you hostage.  Learn from them.

  6. She dances around the issues, using the typical bullcrap we’ve come to expect of politicians. She has yet to admit how badly she screwed up. She has yet to admit that there is action being taken against those campus police who assaulted the peaceful protesters. Overall, she has said a whole lot of nothing. She is just part of the problem.

  7. Let me LSS this for you:

    Hai guyz, you were sprayed not for breaking laws but for breaking campus rules.

    Try that again; not for breaking laws but for breaking campus rules.

    You were sprayed at point blank range and in some cases directly into your mouths and eyes to support our concern for health and safety.  We love ya!

    My pov; if anyone can’t see this letter is nothing more than a towering pile of bullshit they might want to rethink the whole education thing anyway.

    1. You phrased that wonderfully. “You were sprayed at point blank range and in some cases directly into your mouths and eyes to support our concern for health and safety.  We love ya!”

  8. Wait, didn’t she give them permission to camp, in the beginning? 

    Yesterdays’s article mentioned that. 

    The “letter” they received “explaining university policies and reminding them of the opportunities the university provides for expression” was really a sheet of paper saying:
    “We are demanding you remove these tents by 3pm,” it read, “You need to move to another area on the campus so we can remove these tents, and if you do not comply you will be arrested.”

    Someone’s not telling the truth.
    I’m betting it’s her.

  9. I am going to give you the short version. “Hi , We luckily didn’t make anyone go blind or die but we appreciate your parents paying your tuition. Please don’t sue us. The forceful rent a cops will be back in two days. Back to class everyone happy days!”

    Students never forget…they are nOt lapdogs.

  10. In terms of resigning, I can see her point to be honest; if she said “go and clear the quad” it’s not the same thing as saying “go and spray them directly in the face and down the throat with pepper spray to clear the quad”. It looks like the police somewhat overstepped their mark in a way that the university authorities didn’t bargain or plan for. I would think that if she did step down right away, she’d be admitting personal liability and would be sued to hell. She probably has to go in due course but I’d be surprised if she had actually intended what happened on Friday to take place, even though she is responsible for it organisationally.

    1. You’re not wrong necessarily, however, after what happened at UC Berkley only several days prior, Chancellor Katehi should have second guessed her decision to call police to remove protesters. It was a forewarning that she neglected to notice. Shame on her.

      NOTE: In addition, along with leadership comes responsibility, just because she did not order police to spray her students with pepper spray, does not mean she shouldn’t be held accountable. Where was she protecting her students when the police arrived? She failed to do her job and should resign out of respect to her students.

  11. No one was endangered in this scenario. Well at least until students were pepper sprayed. This assault on a peaceful protest needs to go down as an example for other officers. All of the officers who were involved with the assault should be dipped into a bath of boiling capsaicin oil. Significant permanent damage should be done by this, hopefully teaching all police officers a valuable lesson. These officers do not represent the force as a whole, but rather the growing problem of corrupt people who enter law enforcement as a means to flex their endless search for power. For me, the major issue is that these officer’s aren’t going to be punished in any way. As for the Chancellor, she made a mistake, but I don’t think she ordered the pepper spray. So if it had not been for these filthy police officers, this wouldn’t have happened.

  12. Interesting how her detailed account of the incident says “The university police then came to dismantle the encampment” and not “The university police then came in full riot gear and body armor to dismantle the encampment.” It makes me wonder if she communicated some sense of urgency to the campus police, or if she simply has no authority where they are concerned. They showed up dressed like cowboys so by god they were gonna have a rodeo.

    1. “The university police then came to dismantle the encampment.” I don’t think you go far enough. The most offensive thing about this statement isn’t that it doesn’t mention the riot gear and body armour, it’s the utter lack of the first-person pronoun. 

      “I then called in police in riot gear to forcibly disband the encampment by whatever means they saw fit.” There. I fixed it.

      1. As a general rule, y’know something’s up as soon as you see ’em using the weasel passive. I’m truly baffled why more PR people don’t know this by now.

        1. Weasel words maybe, but not a passive.  “The university police then came to dismantle the encampment” is active.  They came to dismantle it.

          Passive would be “Then the encampment was dismantled” with optional “by the university police” to indicate who did it.

          Placing or evading responsibility isn’t to do with grammar, but content and emphasis.

          1. My point was more general than the particular proclamation being discussed. Indeed Katehi uses ‘the perpendicular pronoun’ rather more often than usual. There’s much evidence that – unlike the spin doctors I’m on about – she does appreciate the use of both first person pronoun and active voice. To her credit, there’s very little passive in what she writes. On the whole I think it a quite clear writing style.

            But it’s at least arguable that where she does use it (e.g. The group was remindedthe protestors were provided with a letter, The task force will be chosen this week, I feel sorry for the harm our students were subjected to) – and there are others – she’s doing a little more than using variety of expression to keep it from being a tedious read. It looks a bit like like distancing to me.

  13. If I were an alumni of UCD I would pull every cent of funding from that school and organize a massive campaign to gather other alumni to do the same.  Then I would write a letter to every single member of the Board of Trustees demanding accountability for this, saying that me and my fellow alumni will withhold contributions indefinitely until this is resolved to our satisfaction.

    The UC administration can only understand one thing: money.  Hit them in the wallet until they understand that they CANNOT abuse their own students.

  14. That image of the Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band might be one of the most heartening things about this.  I’ve now seen several images of that pepperspray-wielding-cop photoshopped into several amusing situations, and I can now see that this has the makings of a meme.  And if one thing can spread something across the internet and not let it die, it would be a meme.

    1. It may be necessary – not just yet, it’s probably too soon – to erect a statue to Lt John Pike, in the iconic pose, to commemorate the fall and later re-establishment of the moral authority of UC Davis’ Chancellery.

  15. I like the dissonance between what she said:

    a site of week-long peaceful demonstrations during which students were able to express their concerns

    and the reality:

    a site of week-long peaceful demonstrations during which students expressed their concerns

    They don’t need permission to express their concerns, luv. Bless your cotton socks.

    And this:

    university policy does not allow such encampments on university grounds

    Aww, diddums. Did the meanie stoodiwoodies spoil your lickle policy then?

    I do understand that an administration gets to have policies which they’re entitled to enforce (with admin staff, not police – they’re not laws dammit) in day-to-day operational circumstances. Nobody’s going to seriously challenge that.

    But Good grief, there’s a worldwide ruckus going on here. Don’t you get it?

  16. Isn’t ‘administrative leave’ short for ‘we’re still paying them but they’re out of sight’?

  17. With the well documented history of civil disobedience, it’s a wonder to me when the authorities don’t get it. Civil disobedience is a game of peace chicken in which the first side to get violent loses.  The goal is to put the power imbalance–in this case between the University and the students–on public display.

    With all their reports, training, organizational charts, how do they not know this? How did it not run through that Pike guy’s head? Or does knowing not even matter because the power in the moment is that intoxicating or corrupting? 

    1. Might I remind you that the first rule about Protest Club is…  Damn you internet-Grrrl for putting it so succinctly and eloquently that they might just catch on!?  Oh no, by replying, I’m doing exactly the same thing!

  18. Fact is that if she really was on the students’ side in this matter, she wouldn’t hesitate to put blame where it belonged: with campus police. Now her letter makes me wonder why she didn’t. Did she say something that led to the police’s unnecessary brutal response?

    I’m also a bit confused as to why she feels this is an university matter, not a police matter. The police broke the law. That calls for formal complaints, not a committee.

  19. She admits in the Aggie interview that Davis is unsafe for “some” students.

    She says one cannot be sure how any demonstration will play out, if it will be peaceful, or if students will get hurt, to paraphrase.

    IOW, as chancellor of a UC campus –UC!!– she just acknowledged who will be getting hurt, and presumably, who won’t.

  20. “take full responsibility” – does that mean she will assume any medical expenses for the students injured by having pepper spray sprayed directly in their faces, in their eyes and deliberately down their throats?  including psychological counseling for any who were (let’s not mince words) ‘assaulted’ by police during a peaceful protest?
    does that mean she will call for the firing of the police officers who did it (who are now on PAID administrative leave = in other words, rewarded with a vacation)?
    “taking full responsibility” = aren’t public and one-on-one apologies due to the UC Davis community and all those injured?

    Unfortunately her statement reads like a lot of political double-talk and more like “let’s try and make this all go away so I can keep my job.”  How is she supposed to ‘lead’ a university when she has forfeited student and faculty respect?

  21. So the thugs you sent to do your dirty work didn´t do your dirty work without getting dirty? Oh noes!

  22. Just on the side.
    I really enjoy the fact that for the first time in a very, very long time something positive originated from the US of A and reaches the world. 
    Ya know, out here, it hasn’t always been easy to be an avowed americaphile. 
    That beacon of freedom, liberty, justice and democracy has dimmed far too much  over time. 
    Is it on? 

    My 19 year old inner self wants to see those stormtrooper goon squads firebombed. 
    My slightly wiser current self has the utmost admiration for the restraint shown by American OWS protesters in the face of oppressing cruelty.  Way to go!

  23. Imagine if she said: ” What happened was wrong. I am sorry. From now on, adult students (adults can be responsible for their own health) can occupy on our campus, because we believe in the right to protest against injustice. In fact we will support and join these occupiers.” What a progressive university that would be!

  24. To the chancellor, your argument of ” safety” for your students, lead to this horrific event, but your reasoning does not work and makes No sense.  To authorize police brutality, sending one student to the hospital with chemical burns, is in no way providing “safety”.  On top of this, your statement released immediately following the event, where you praised the police, is disgraceful and hypocritical.  You may have many accolades and degrees, but you seem to not understand a basic approach to solving situations such as this, it’s called diplomacy.  I believe, as a former educator myself, you have demonstrated the essence of poor teaching and leadership.  UC Davis needs to accept your resignation immediately as an administrator.

  25. “Friday was not a day that would make anyone on our campus proud”

    I disagree.  I think that there is reason to be very proud of the way that the students comported themselves, despite everything else.

  26. I don’t get the whole “concern for the health and safety” of the students angle… do they generally not allow any students on campus at all over the weekend?  She makes it sound like once close-of-business on Friday rolls around, the campus is a dangerous and lawless wasteland until Monday morning.

  27. Either she will go, or the fact that she remains in place will increasingly become a demonstration of the abuse of power we’ve seen.

    The thing to remember here, we’ve seen excessive use of force, and abuse of power that is just as egregious, if not quite as blatant in the weeks running up the UC event.

    – We had officer Bologna in NYC pepper spray non-violent protesters with no provocation.

    – We had an Oakland officer shoot a protester in the head landing them in the hospital
    – We had an Oakland officer throw a tear gas canister into the midst of people who went to aid the above injured protestor.

    – We had an Oakland officer shoot a photographer with no provocation.

    and scores of more incidents that I’m not even aware of.

    The Chancellor at UC must go, and when she does the focus then needs to turn to the leaders in these other locals who are just as guilty and just as culpable. Mayor of Oakland – needs to resign. Mayor Bloomberg – needs to resign.

    Or all of the above need to reverse their course, protect and serve the movement, aid the protest in demanding Wall Street submit to reforms.

  28. Someone getting murdered or raped in the absence of security is a tragedy; but if it were known that there was no security force to call upon, it would be at least a predictable tragedy. I personally don’t demand that I be protected from every possible disaster that can occur. (It’s a bit interesting how readily you imagine rapes and murders happening any time there aren’t officers immediately available to call upon; I won’t say that it indicates anything in particular, but let’s just say that I wouldn’t jump to that idea as quickly as you have.)

    Someone getting assualted chemically *by* security when you are acting peacefully may also be predictable, but if it is, then you might want to reflect on whether your rights are secure from interference by your government — or worse, not even from your government; but from any organization that deigns to appoint a security force of its own. A number of us are somewhat concerned.

    If it is *not* predictable that you should get assaulted chemically by security, when you are acting peacefully, then I would think you should be indignant if you see it happening. Whether or not it is to be expected, most of us feel that peaceful people being chemically assaulted is reprehensible either way, and would like to see some accountability on the part of the people who were responsible for it hapenning.

    So Lt. Pike obviously should be fired, and also get a fair trial in court on the charge of assault. (Whether he gets sued civilly for psychological damages is up to the individuals he assaulted, of course; that’s their business.) As for the Chancellor, it’s not obvious that she should be fired, but it would really be nice to see some measurable and positive changes in policy as a result of what’s happened. I for one would not anticipate them, though, because my experience tells me that bureaucracies of all sorts are congenitally out of touch with people.

  29. Hi ‘udcdoc’,
    As a fellow ‘UDC’ alum (class of ’90), I thought I’d take a moment to respond to your defense of the current chancellor.  You’re right: when you’re in a position of authority, you’re often damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  However, to compare an actual excessive use of force with an imagined rape or murder is laughable at best.  Are you saying that if the UCD PD had not used pepper spray on passive, non-violent protesters, someone may have been raped and/or murdered in the long, lonely nights of Davis?  Or do you believe that people in authority should only be congratulated on their successes?  I don’t think Katehi explicitly ordered the UCD PD to do what they did, but she needs to take full responsibility for the outcome.

    Paul Kerchen

  30. “I will attempt to provide a summary of the incident with the information now available to me…”

    Read here: “oh crap everyone saw that video, I am so totally screwed, can I wrench control of the narrative back by retelling a slightly askew version of events?”

  31. “As indicated in various videos, the police used pepper spray against the students who were blocking the way.”

    It’s too hard to step over a line of motionless people sitting on the ground wearing their stormtrooper gear, they HAD to use their chemical weapon.

    In the pictures I’ve seen, there are police on both sides of the sitting protesters. They weren’t doing a very good job of blocking and intimidating the poor, helpless, fearful police officers.

    1. I enjoyed the spokesweasel for the police saying they were encircled by the students and were afraid.
      If you look at the pictures just before they “Piked” the students, there is a police cruiser on the sidewalk and no one behind it.
      They were not trapped, they were not afraid – they were better armed, defended, and trained to deal with crowds. 
      They were told to do a job and given no limitations, they hoped to get a violent response and lacking that they tried to incite it further.
      We hope these are isolated incidents among those paid to protect us from the bad people, but I fear it is becoming clear that we need someone to protect us from the bad guys and the good guys now.

  32. “non-UC Davis affiliated individuals”

    Say it! Please say it! Just say it already….

    “Outside agitators”

  33. How are only 2 campus police officers on leave?  I saw a dozen or so standing around watching while students were attacked.

    If the guy with the pepper spray hadn’t been wearing the same uniform as the rest of the campus police, would ANY of them still be employed by their failure to protect students from assault and battery?

  34. Hi. We were concerned about the protest staying over the weekend without campus staff there to help them… Oh, but we were only concerned about removing the equipment, so that earlier statement about being concerned with students being there has nothing to do with me now saying “we didn’t want to remove the people or disperse the crowd-ONLY the equipment.”

    Equipment sure is dangerous, lady. Send more officers next time.

  35. I love how you can be chancellor and be responsible for everything that happens on your university *except* how the cops implement your “get those bastards off my campus” orders.

    Joseph Stalin: “Sure, I ordered my people to get rid of millions of Soviet citizens, but I didn’t expect them to be so forceful about it. I’ll put some of my people on leave, while I convene a panel…”

  36. By the way, here’s an excellent essay by Norm Stamper, who was Seattle’s Chief of Police during the 1999 WTO riots, about what’s wrong with the current trend towards militarization of the police: http://www.thenation.com/article/164501/paramilitary-policing-seattle-occupy-wall-street

  37. Criminal matters should be addressed as all criminal matters are: with criminal investigations that lead to arrest and trial in a court of law. That is what needs to happen to police who act criminally against any person.  As to university policy, the fact that any university police officer could even begin to entertain the idea that the university would “back him up” if he pulled such a stunt, means there is serious problems with university policy and management.  Failing receiving UC Davis chancellor Katehi’s immediate resignation, the Board should have immediately acted to fire her. Their failure means there are resignations there that should be called for also.

  38. I have to echo an earlier sentiment by LIBDD

    The Chancellor’s opening statement, “Friday was not a day that would make anyone on our campus proud,” is a sad, sad attempt to just try to pretend the events of Friday never
    happened. The actions of the Chancellor and of the campus police were shameful. We may choose to agree or disagree with the actions of the protesters leading up to the pepper spray incident – personally I support those actions but that is not really the point. What is truly remarkable and is setting a brilliant example to people everywhere is the composure of the protesters and the surrounding students when the police chose to use pepper spray. It was an act of thoughtless and unnecessary violence. It has inspired revulsion around the globe. But the students and participants in the UC Davis protest did not respond to violence with violence. They did not lash out with indignant and violent fury when the protesters were tortured, and let us be honest – it was torture. The protesters were not physically threatening the police. The police chose to inflict severe pain on the protesters for no better reason than it made their jobs easier.

    The students and protesters did not sink to the level of their persecutors. It was a spontaneous and communal response that should remind us of our better selves. They did not react in kind with the sort of thuggish violence modeled by the police. They did not turn their backs and abandon their fellows in the same manner of their Quisling chancellor. They responded passionately and nonviolently. They shamed the police profoundly but did not harm them physically. Their actions and compassion are resonating still. As Gandhi said, “In a gentle way you can shake the world.” He would be proud of those UC Davis students, as should we all.

  39. Congratulations on crossing the line from having people think “they’re just doing their job keeping those hippies in line” to “what a bunch of pathetic thugs”.  When you disgust even disinterested observers then you’ve gotten yourself into a real hole.

  40. We had officer Bologna in NYC pepper spray non-violent protesters with no provocation.

    He and Pike are Lieutenants, senior officers. Pike was just sick of standing around looking at hippies, so he decided to give himself a vacation away from these losers. Now Katehi is standing up for him, it’s as simple as that. Same thing happened with Bologna, “I’m sick of this shit.”

  41. Even if you argue that the first amendment does not protect these camps, camping out unlawfully is a pretty minor offense, usually only a misdemeanor of the sort that gets the offender a ticket, like a traffic ticket. So, equating these camps with offenses that call for these harsh police/para-military actions is over the top.  

  42. “Friday was not a day that would make anyone on our campus proud;”

    Right. Your shameful decisions and the sickening actions of the campus police are a disgrace that embarrasses and disgusts us all.

    That is what you meant, right?

  43. Chancellor: “OK, clear those camps outta there.  But I don’t want to see another Berkeley video with our cops hitting kids with batons, OK?”  Underling: “Yes ma’am. No batons.”

  44. “Civil disobedience is a game of peace chicken in which the first side to get violent loses.”

    That is FANTASTIC. Thank you.

  45. Something we’ve been discussing at UCLA that doesn’t seem to be talked about a lot is the selective application of anti-camping laws by the university. 

    Cops aren’t dispatched to break up groups of students that camp overnight, sometimes for days, to get tickets to big sporting events.  “Tent cities” are a routine feature of many sport loving universities when basketball season starts.  Likewise (and specific to UCLA) when students erect encampments around the Bruin bear to protect if from USC during game weeks, no pepper spray is unleashed.  

    But when students have specific grievances against the university, truncheons and riot gear come out in force.  What’s changed?  They’re still students.  They’re still camping.  Their cheers sound a little different from the typical “Beat ‘SC,” but they’re no more rowdy (sometimes less, actually) and no more a threat to public safety or sanitation.

  46. She used the word “comprised” incorrectly, and deserves to be bludgeoned, then fired, just for that.


    Also – what y’all just said.

Comments are closed.