Friday, July 29, 2016

Coming August 1

Thelma and Louise or Janet and Linda?

The Slow-Motion Downfall of Linda Katehi

Chronicle of Higher Education, Jack Stripling and Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz, 7-29-16

Picture two locomotives barreling down a single track, heading for a collision as predictable as it is unstoppable. Such is the path of Janet A. Napolitano and Linda P.B. Katehi, the president of the University of California and the chancellor of its Davis campus, respectively.
By August 1 the university is expected to receive the findings of a months-long investigation into whether Ms. Katehi violated system policies related to her family members’ employment at the university, her service on corporate boards, and the hiring of companies to suppress embarrassing internet mentions of the chancellor and the campus.
Ms. Napolitano’s decision to broadcast a litany of specific charges against the chancellor, wounding her publicly from the start, is in keeping with what those who have worked with the president describe as her take-no-prisoners approach. The chancellor’s response, which has included fiery press releases from a hired crisis manager and the filing of a formal grievance, surprises few of her colleagues, who describe her as resentful of criticism.
The face-off between Ms. Napolitano, a former Arizona governor and U.S. Homeland Security secretary, and Ms. Katehi, who has been placed on administrative leave, poses a profound leadership test for a politician-turned-president who is still relatively unschooled in the culture of academe. And, at its heart, the crisis portends an ugly denouement for Ms. Katehi, a chancellor who seems forever scarred by a years-old scandal that destabilized her administration and hardened her instincts toward self-preservation.
The Chronicle interviewed more than 20 administrators, professors, regents, and lawmakers for this article. Several former Davis administrators, who have worked directly with Ms. Katehi, would speak only on condition of anonymity, citing concerns about divulging information from private meetings or professional retribution for speaking critically of their former boss.
Both Ms. Katehi and Ms. Napolitano declined interview requests.
Walk of Shame
For all of its twists and turns, what may be most remarkable about the unfolding crisis is how substantially it differs from the traditional ousting of an academic leader. Ms. Napolitano asked the chancellor to resign during a meeting in April, and in most situations that would have been the end of it.
But it wasn’t.
Instead, Ms. Katehi left the meeting and crafted an email to her lieutenants saying she wasn’t going anywhere.
Soon thereafter, the president’s office released to the news media a letter from Ms. Napolitano to the chancellor, announcing the president’s decision to commission an independent investigation of Ms. Katehi’s conduct. The letter suggested that the president, who not long before had publicly supported Ms. Katehi, felt personally misled by the chancellor.
"I am deeply disappointed to have to take this action," Ms. Napolitano wrote.
In the staid culture of elite research institutions, what is happening in California qualifies as a blood sport. But Ms. Katehi, a Greek immigrant who broke into the boys’ club of engineering in the 1970s, is seldom squeamish. Many chancellors in her position would have resigned nearly five years ago, when Ms. Katehi found herself at the center of a public-relations disaster. In November 2011, a Davis police officer broke up a student protest by dousing demonstrators’ faces with pepper spray. International outrage, much of it aimed at Ms. Katehi, ensued.
"A lot of people would have bailed under those circumstances; she didn’t," says Joseph Kiskis, a professor emeritus of physics and longtime member of the Academic Senate at Davis. "That shows a lot of determination."
“A lot of people would have bailed under those circumstances; she didn't. That shows a lot of determination.” An image from that period is so indelible that it has its own name: the Walk of Shame. Under pressure to resign, Ms. Katehi held a news conference in an academic building that was effectively under siege by protesters. Captured on video, the walk begins as Ms. Katehi emerges from the building in a beige trench coat and a dark scarf, her hands clasped in front of her. Traversing a throng of silent, seated students, she appears exhausted and full of dread, her face pale under the glare of TV spotlights, a scene punctuated only by the sound of her clacking shoes.
It is impossible to overstate how that moment, and the pepper-spray incident itself, helped to usher in the crisis now engulfing the chancellor, former advisers say. "The Walk of Shame" was an example of terrible optics for a woman who, by multiple accounts, became preoccupied with optics.
"It just changed everything," a former Davis administrator says. "It became about protecting reputation."
A Tightening Circle
After the pepper-spray episode, Ms. Katehi lost the confidence of some of her closest advisers, fired people or stood by as, demoralized, they resigned, and tightened her circle of confidants.
Every problem facing the campus, the former administrator says, was now seen through a pepper-spray-stained lens. The mission was to make sure nothing like it ever happened again to Davis or, just as important, to Linda Katehi.
When substantive problems cropped up, including several research-misconduct cases, Ms. Katehi seemed more concerned with how the news media were covering the issue than with fixing the problem itself, the administrator continues. She lashed out.
"She would just get very animated, talking about people by name — often they are not in the room when they are getting criticized," the former administrator says.
“This is typical Katehi. Klassy with a K, as we liked to say. It's not taking personal responsibility for one's conduct.” Advisers who might have challenged the chancellor before grew ever more cautious for fear of retribution, another former administrator says, and Ms. Katehi turned further inward for advice. Her husband, who is a lecturer in engineering at Davis, would show up at administrative meetings, the former adviser says. "It raised questions in people’s minds as to whose counsel she was taking."
Spyros Tseregounis, the chancellor’s husband, said in an email that he holds the title of associate of the chancellor, which is partly a fund-raising role, and he is "an advisor to the chancellor (albeit a nonpaid one)."
"As you can imagine," he wrote, "the chancellor values my input as a nonbiased one towards the best interests of the university. Anything I was involved with was within my professional purview related to me being the associate of the chancellor and a Faculty Senate member."
No matter whose advice Ms. Katehi may have sought, she often failed to stand behind her toughest decisions, the former administrator says. When she fired people, including the administrator, she sometimes had someone else do it.
"This is typical Katehi," says the administrator, who reported to the chancellor. "Klassy with a K, as we liked to say. It’s not taking personal responsibility for one’s conduct."
A Clean Sweep
The message became clear: Toe the line or else. A former dean, who was forced out, says the chancellor got rid of people who questioned her priorities. The dean, for example, had objected to spending $400 million on a chemistry complex, a signature project for the chancellor, arguing that the money would be better spent on deferred maintenance of classrooms, residence halls, and labs.
"I had challenged her too many times, and she was ready to move on," the dean says.
Kevin R. Johnson, dean of Davis’s law school, says he can understand why some of his colleagues felt reluctant to challenge Ms. Katehi. Her approach to meetings, he says, departed substantially from that of her predecessor, Larry N. Vanderhoef, who encouraged "free flowing" discussions and wanted to hear deans play "devil’s advocate." Ms. Katehi, by contrast, conducted "focused sessions" and expected "forceful, powerful, rational arguments" from her lieutenants, Mr. Johnson says.
"I can see why some people felt it was hard to chime in," he says. "You had to be able to defend your views."
Davis’s communications office has been on the defensive perhaps more than any other unit of the campus. During Ms. Katehi’s seven-year tenure, six different people have led the operation. Changing personnel has done little to clarify what the chancellor wants from the office, a former staff member says.
"She’s not good at communications, and she doesn’t know she’s not good at communications," the former employee says.
“This story is everywhere. Worse than pepper spray. It will fade away, but not for a while. And based on our track record, it's a sure thing we will do more stupid stuff as we try to put it behind us.” The lingering public memory of Ms. Katehi’s worst moments ate at the chancellor, and Ms. Katehi was perhaps even more sensitive than most leaders would be to the charge that she had dispatched a jackbooted militia to crack down on protesters. Before immigrating to the United States, the chancellor was a student at the Polytechnic School of Athens, in Greece, where in 1973 demonstrators opposing a military dictatorship were mowed down by soldiers in tanks. To see herself labeled "Chemical Katehi" was a particularly jarring insult.
Ms. Katehi’s current troubles stem in part from Davis’s efforts to improve her image. Public records obtained by The Sacramento Bee show that Davis hired consultants on internet-reputation management, one of whom promised to "expedite the eradication" of online references to the pepper-spray incident and to "clean up the negative attention" the chancellor and Davis had received.
In April, Ms. Katehi told The Chronicle she was "not involved" with those contracts, an assertion that Ms. Napolitano has described as dubious. In her letter to the chancellor, the president went so far as to suggest that Ms. Katehi may have made "material misstatements" to reporters "as well as to me" in violation of the university’s standards of ethical conduct.
Now-public emails show that the chancellor’s staff provided her with talking points that sought to distance her from the reputation-management project. But inside the chancellor’s administration, there was a growing sense that the story had already gotten away from them.
"It makes me physically ill," Gary A. Delsohn, director of executive communications, wrote in an email at4:54 a.m. on April 16. "This story is everywhere. Worse than pepper spray. It will fade away, but not for a while. And based on our track record, it’s a sure thing we will do more stupid stuff as we try to put it behind us. We have too many soft-headed people making decisions …"
‘Top Cop’
In the drama unfurling at Davis, Janet Napolitano quickly transformed from an ally of the chancellor into her most visible adversary. When Ms. Katehi took fire for joining the board of the DeVry Education Group, a for-profit company accused of deceptive recruiting practices, the president called her a "very good chancellor" who had made a "mistake."
Ms. Katehi resigned from the DeVry board, and she tried to make amends for serving on the board of John Wiley & Sons, a textbook publisher, by pledging to donate $200,000 in stock to student scholarships.
But those actions failed to mollify Davis students, who staged a five-week sit-in outside the chancellor’s office and demanded that she resign.
After the sit-in disbanded, on April 15, all seemed to be well between the president and the chancellor. But 10 days later, something had changed. Ms. Napolitano, having already consulted with university regents, met with Ms. Katehi and told her it was time to resign.
The parties differ in their versions of what happened at this pivotal meeting. Ms. Katehi, through a spokesman, says that Ms. Napolitano wanted her to resign both as chancellor and as a tenured faculty member — a demand that, if made, would be widely viewed as exceeding the president’s authority. In a chilling coda, as described by the chancellor’s spokesman, the president pledged to "investigate her family," some of whose members are employed at Davis, if she failed to acquiesce.
"She acted like the nation’s top cop," says Larry Kamer, Ms. Katehi’s spokesman. "You’re not with me, you’re against me — you’re out."
Dianne E. Klein, Ms. Napolitano’s spokeswoman, says that the president did not ask for the chancellor’s resignation from the faculty. "It is also completely untrue that the president issued any threats to the chancellor whatsoever," Ms. Klein wrote in an email. "She most certainly did not say anything that could be interpreted as a promise, threat, or vow to ‘go after your family.’"
Ms. Napolitano has questioned the propriety of the Katehi family’s compensation and reporting relationships at Davis. Emily Prieto-Tseregounis, Ms. Katehi’s daughter-in-law, is chief of staff to Adela de la Torre, the vice chancellor of student affairs, who reports to the chancellor. Ms. Katehi’s son, Erik Tseregounis, is a graduate-student research assistant. Her husband, the lecturer in engineering, was recruited through a spousal-hiring program at Davis that is similar to many across higher education.
The president’s approach, which has involved the airing of unsubstantiated allegations, has been a disappointment to many faculty members, who value discretion and greater deference to the system’s campus leaders. But that is not the person the University of California hired.
The former Arizona governor and Homeland Security chief, schooled in hardball politics and a foot soldier in the "war on terror," is known for a clear-cut leadership style that rejects shades of gray. Richard H. Bloom, a California assemblyman and member of the State Assembly’s higher-education committee, says that Ms. Napolitano’s approach to management can be a liability as well as an asset.
"It’s that singular focus that she has that can lead to some level of friction," says Mr. Bloom, a Democrat from Santa Monica.
‘Butt Out’
It is not uncommon in public universities for tensions to exist between campus leaders and system chiefs, but Ms. Napolitano may invite particularly intense turf wars. Faced with granular questions about campus-level contracts and her family’s salaries, the chancellor may well have thought, "Hey, this is my institution — butt out," says Dean R. Florez, a former majority leader in the California State Senate.
But the chancellor, Mr. Florez continues, learned "who Janet Napolitano is" and got the message: "No, I’m in charge of the overall brand that is UC."
The president’s desire to elevate the university’s brand was at times a source of tension with the chancellor, who has worked to differentiate Davis from California’s powerhouse campuses, particularly Berkeley. Ms. Katehi was dismayed, former administrators say, when the president unveiled the UC Global Food Initiative, a program that sounded an awful lot like Davis’s World Food Center.
“That is the irony dripping from this whole issue. It's more about attention for her than for the good of the commons.” The chancellor’s private grumbling about the program, which aims to improve food security and sustainability, suggests that the president had failed to make Ms. Katehi feel like a true partner in the effort. To the contrary, she felt sidelined by it, former advisers say. But her reaction feeds the narrative that Ms. Katehi cannot swallow her pride for the greater good.
"That is the irony dripping from this whole issue," a former administrator says. "It’s more about attention for her than for the good of the commons. Is it better that the entire infrastructure of the best public-university system in the world is focused on hunger? Of course."
Still, the president has consistently made moves that signal the system’s authority, Mr. Florez says, and she is laying down a marker with her handling of Ms. Katehi.
"This is a leader that’s saying our UC system isn’t going to stand for this, and publicly calling a chancellor out," Mr. Florez says. "She was trying to send a message that her role isn’t just the head of a federation. She’s going to be a steward for the entire system, setting kind of an ethical tone."
‘It’s Just Messy’
But at what cost? The president’s letter to the chancellor reads like a prosecutorial indictment, and its public release lends an official veneer to a vaguely described whistle-blower complaint and charges of conflicts of interest that Davis’s Academic Senate has dismissed as erroneous.
"In my 40 years at the University of California, I’ve never seen anything like this, and I can tell you all of my colleagues say they’ve never seen anything like this," says Suad Joseph, a Davis professor of anthropology and gender, sexuality, and women’s studies. "Why was this tried in the court of public opinion?"
Ms. Katehi enjoys substantial support from faculty members, more than 300 of whom signed a letter condemning any "pre-emptory action" to remove the chancellor. A number of professors, including Ms. Joseph, have argued that the chancellor has been unfairly singled out because she is a woman, noting that male chancellors did not receive similar scrutiny for service on corporate boards. Ms. Katehi’s lawyer, setting the stage for a lawsuit, has made similar charges of discriminatory treatment.
Ms. Napolitano’s approach breaks with established norms in academe, validating some professors’ historical misgivings about hiring a politician to lead the system. The university, beleaguered by budget cuts, wanted a dealmaker who could manage a huge bureaucracy. But those qualities, which Ms. Napolitano had in large supply, came at the expense of traditional higher-education experience.
“People would have preferred if the president had said, You serve at my pleasure, you're too hot, let's negotiate an exit.” Ms. Napolitano’s father was dean of the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine, and she told members of the presidential-search committee that she had always wanted to follow in his footsteps. But the president is conscious of her outsider status in academe, and she has publicly lamented the speed of change at the university.
It is no surprise that the president’s pace of doing business feels foreign to her new colleagues, says Monica C. Lozano, chairwoman of the Board of Regents. "It’s a way of leading that is very direct; it lets people know exactly what her expectations are," Ms. Lozano says. "And it has forced the system to move perhaps faster than it’s used to."
It is all the more unexpected, therefore, that the president would be criticized for moving too slowly with the chancellor. Professors at Davis are mystified that Ms. Napolitano would drag out the process, not simply fire Ms. Katehi as chancellor.
"It’s just messy," says Linda F. Bisson, a past chairwoman of Davis’s Academic Senate and professor of viticulture and oenology. "People would have preferred if the president had said, You serve at my pleasure, you’re too hot, let’s negotiate an exit."
Angry Mob
There was a moment, two days after Ms. Katehi’s Walk of Shame, when the chancellor agreed to speak to a rally of student protesters on Davis’s quad.
"I know you may not believe anything that I am telling you today, and you don’t have to," the chancellor said. "It is my responsibility to earn your trust."
It was a potent and humble message that nearly brought Ms. Katehi to tears, the sort of humanizing moment that communications officials can’t script. But when the chancellor exited the stage, she was devoured in a scrum of cameras and microphones.
An angry chant ensued: "Don’t come back! Don’t come back!"
It was a classic public-relations trap, placing the target of so much ire directly in the sight lines of demonstrators. But, then as now, Ms. Katehi was intent on entering the fray.

Source: as reproduced in UCOP Daily News Clips

Waiting for the report is a real cliffhanger:

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