You've heard of a "tough crowd?" How 'bout an impossible crowd?
Crowd: "Whose university? Our university!"
The UC Davis quad, bulging with humanity and buzzing with noise, went quiet when Chancellor Linda Katehi stepped before a microphone. She had spent much of the last hour listening to students, faculty and union leaders describe last Friday's events, criticize her personally and call for her resignation. David Buscho was one of the speakers. He was among the students pepper-sprayed Friday afternoon by campus police in riot gear.
Buscho: "It felt hot glass was
entering my eyes. I couldn't see anything. I wanted to
open my eyes, but every time I did, the pain got worse. I
wanted to breathe, but I couldn't because my face was covered in
pepper spray, and every time I breathed, I was nauseous."
Then, there was English professor Nathan Brown. He started an online petition calling for the chancellor's resignation that now has tens of thousands of signatures. Brown called attention to Katehi standing to the side of the stage, and urged her to step down.
Crowd: "There is no place..."
Brown: "...on our campus..."
Crowd: "...on our campus..."
Brown: "...for administrators who order the use of force against peaceful protesters!"
Brown worked the crowd into a frenzy, as did other faculty and union speakers. A chant sprang up:
Crowd: "Resign! Resign! Resign!"
… and then another:
Crowd: "Let her speak! Let her speak!"
A couple of organizers stepped to the mic.
Organizer #1: "Are you all talking
about Chancellor Katehi?"
Organizer #1: "She's on the stack. She'll be speaking soon."
Organizer #2: "She's not special - she can wait like everyone else!"
After several more speakers, the chancellor got her turn.
Katehi: "I am here to apologize. I really feel horrible for what happened on Friday."
Katehi then hinted at her own experience in Greece in the 1970's. Students in Athens went on strike and barricaded themselves inside a university to protest the Greek military regime. The government sent a tank crashing through the university gates. Hundreds of people were injured - some of them students, some civilians. Dozens died. Katehi pointed to one side of the UC Davis quad.
Katehi: "There is a plaque out there that speaks about 17th of November on 1973. And I was there. And I don't forget that."
Katehi called on the UC Davis community to come together to make the university "better than it is." She did not resign. And for the crowd, that wasn't enough. As she walked away, they chanted…
Crowd: "Shame on you! Shame on you!"
Senior Ahmed Rahim doesn't think Katehi could have done anything to placate the crowd. He thinks students' minds were already made up. But when it comes to whether the chancellor should resign, Rahim isn't sure.
Rahim: "She did mention that she wouldn't want to be the chancellor of a university that displayed such behavior. And I believe that. I think it was her mistake maybe to call in the riot police in the first place, but she cannot be blamed for something she didn't do, which is actually harm the students."Katehi now plans to meet with students, faculty and staff. She's created a task force to review the pepper-spraying, and she's giving it 30 days to issue recommendations. The Yolo County sheriff and district attorney will do an independent investigation. Meanwhile, University of California President Mark Yudof is working on a system-wide response to incidents on several UC campuses. But he says the chancellors - including Katehi - have his "full trust and confidence."