Calif. University Backs Chancellor's Leadership

Published February 18, 2012 4:36AM (EST)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Faculty members at a California university where campus police pepper-sprayed a group of peaceful Occupy protesters have voted against a motion that would have expressed a lack of confidence in the ability of the school's chancellor to lead the campus, university officials said Friday.

Members of the University of California, Davis Academic Senate had two weeks to vote on a motion that would have expressed "no-confidence" in Chancellor Linda Katehi's leadership after the widely condemned pepper-spray incident.

The final tally showed faculty members voted 697-312 against the motion, officials said.

In a companion motion, faculty voted 586-408 in favor of expressing confidence in Katehi's leadership but condemning the use of pepper spray during the Nov. 18 incident.

The motions are nonbinding but could influence UC leaders as they consider the future of the 57-year-old Katehi, who became chancellor of the 32,000-student campus in 2009.

The faculty vote came three months after a campus police officer doused pepper-spray on sitting students who had set up an Occupy Wall Street encampment on campus. Widely circulated videos of the incident sparked national outrage and a debate over the use of police force in responding to Occupy protests.

After the incident, Katehi apologized to the campus community for the "appalling use of pepper spray." The Greek-born chancellor said she had ordered police to remove the tents but avoid arrests and violence.

The vote prompted a contentious debate among faculty members, but UC spokesman Steve Montiel released a statement late Friday describing President Mark Yudof as "gratified" by the results and expressing his support of Katehi.

During the voting period, philosophy professor David Copp urged his colleagues to approve the no-confidence measure. "A wise leader would not have ordered the police to act against non-violent demonstrators," he wrote in a statement supporting the motion.

But Tilahun Yilma, a professor of veterinary medicine, had called the motion "unwise and destructive." In a statement, he wrote: "We are very fortunate to have a person of her caliber in a leadership position to help make our university one of the leading universities nationally and internationally."

By Salon Staff

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