UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi resigned on Aug. 9 as the campus’s leader, though she remains a tenured member of the university’s faculty. An investigation by an outside law firm cleared Katehi of the most serious charges leveled against her, including nepotism and retaliating against employees who worked with UCOP, however it did find she misled the press and UC President Janet Napolitano on multiple occasions and violated some UC policies regarding outside service and minor rules governing reimbursement.
Napolitano released the following statement to the UC Davis campus:
On April 25, 2016, I met privately with Linda Katehi to discuss a series of misjudgments and policy violations of such a serious nature that she should resign her position as chancellor of UC Davis. Regrettably, Chancellor Katehi refused to resign and made public statements to campus leadership and others that she intended to remain as chancellor. I then placed Chancellor Katehi on immediate administrative leave and authorized the hiring of an outside firm to investigate a number of concerns.
The investigation is now concluded, and it found numerous instances where Chancellor Katehi was not candid, either with me, the press or the public, that she exercised poor judgment and violated multiple university policies. In these circumstances, Chancellor Katehi has now offered to resign, and I have accepted that resignation. These past three months and the events leading up to them have been an unhappy chapter in the life of UC Davis. I believe it is in the best interest of the campus, the Davis community and the University of California that we move forward.
Chancellor Katehi will transition to becoming a full-time faculty member in accordance with the terms of her pre-existing contract. We will immediately form a search committee and conduct a national search for a new chancellor to lead this extraordinary campus. Ralph Hexter will continue in his role leading the campus during the pendency of the search. The Office of the President will support and work with Davis’ faculty, students, staff and community to ensure the campus continues its impressive upward trajectory.
In her resignation letter, which can be read here, Katehi cites the UC investigation to insist she broke no university rules. Her statement begins:
Seven years ago, on April 27, 2009, former UC President Mark Yudof invited me to come to UC Davis to serve as Chancellor. I came with great excitement to serve as the campus’ first woman Chancellor and to work with members of the faculty, staff and student community. Approximately 100 days ago, the University of California placed me on leave and commenced an investigation into three allegations. The investigation regarding these allegations has been completed and the investigators have confirmed that as to material allegations concerning my service to this institution, I did not violate UC policies or laws.
The UC investigation into Katehi can be read here. However, significant chunks of text have been redacted. Key findings include:
- The report clears Katehi of exercising nepotism toward her son and daughter-in-law
- Katehi made statements that were “misleading, at best, or untruthful, at worst” to UCOP and the media about her role in contracting with Nevins & Associates and other communications firm to rehabilitate the university’s online reputation in light of the 2011 pepper spray fiasco
- Katehi did not intentionally misuse student activity funds for physical education in the budgeting process
- Katehi generally made sure she was only reimbursed for professional travel expenses, not those of a mostly personal nature. Some instances of policy non-compliance did not result in personal profit for Katehi or a loss for UC
- Katehi gave inaccurate information about when she began service on the board of DeVry, therefore violating UC policies governing the reporting of outside service
- There is no evidence that Katehi threatened retaliation against employees who cooperated with UCOP
Andre Knoesen, chair of the university’s Academic Senate, released a statement praising Katehi for contributions to the campus. In the statement, Knoesen seems critical of Napolitano:
Chancellor Katehi’s decision to resign as Chancellor today is understandable, given the recent interactions between the Chancellor and President Napolitano, including the investigation initiated by the President. These circumstances have had a negative effect on the Davis campus and make it impossible for Linda Katehi to be effective as a Chancellor.
Katehi’s attorney Melinda Guzman released a statement saying Katehi “won” in the face of “baseless accusations.”
“Other issues concerned her DeVry board service, an issue resolved in the past, and alleged misrepresentations to President Napolitano and the media regarding social media contracts. The report found these were never intended to benefit Linda Katehi and were not designed to “scrub the Internet” as inaccurately portrayed by the media. The report does not reach a conclusion that Katehi was untruthful, citing only that she may have minimized her knowledge or role in the contracts. In my opinion, there were many contracts, many goals and many people involved, leading to likely misunderstanding or miscommunication on these contracts,” Guzman said.
“Linda Katehi and her family have been exonerated from baseless accusations of nepotism, conflicts of interest, financial management and personal gain, just as we predicted and as the UC Davis Academic Senate found within days of this leave,” stated Guzman.
The Sacramento Bee has a deep dive into Katehi’s obsession with her reputation, as discovered in the UC investigation:
“The evidence indicates that Chancellor Katehi was acutely concerned with damage to her personal reputation following the 2011 pepper spray incident, and that she was interested in the consultants working to improve her own online reputation as well as the reputation of UC Davis,” the report concluded, noting that Katehi was involved in and approved hiring three firms for $407,000 to repair her online image, as well as that of UC Davis.
Katehi and her staff sought out firms on the East Coast and in Sacramento, meeting with them and discussing how to create a LindaKatehi.com webpage, edit Wikipedia posts and submit op-eds under her name to publications that might crowd out negative press from others.
The report noted that improving Katehi’s reputation also would improve that of the university’s. But documents show that she constantly sought help in what one aide recalled as her desire that they “get me off the Google.”
“Linda wants to understand generally how we plan to address the lingering negative pepper spray-related online search content associated with her name,” reads a September 2012 email from Barry Shiller, who was brought in after the pepper-spray incident to handle her communications strategy.
At one point in 2014, Katehi emailed staff member Luanne Lawrence, saying she wanted to speak to her about “Google in general.”
“I did a search recently and it seems to be the worse (sic) I have seen in a long time,” Katehi wrote. “I am afraid we have regressed and would like to discuss with you a change in strategy.”