Monday, November 28, 2011

Musings on a certain popular chancellor

Stole this from here:
Don't know where this one came from but it ain't mine - so kudos to whoever took it!
Ok people.

I've kept my mouth shut recently.

But you know how good I am at keeping my mouth shut (how DID all those doughnuts get in there?!)

I feel compelled to write a little something (a diddy if you will) on what is going on at UC Davis - as it is my alma mater and my current place of work.

I have always loved this campus.  I fell so deeply in love when I stepped foot onto the tree lined avenues.  I swooned over the millions of bikes (even the terrifying experience of relearning to ride said bike amongst thousands of others).  I felt my heart skip a beat as I watched the double decker vintage buses drive through the fall colors.  I knew this campus was full of people like me and made for me.  Not to say that as a student and as an employee I have not faced my share of personal and educational and administrative (and and and) struggles - but I love it none the less.  Nothing is perfect. 

One thing I loved oh so muchly about this place was its humanity.  While it may not be metropolitan it was always teeming with loving life.  It was full of people from all walks of life and many different ideas.  It cradled me as I struggled (as all 18 year olds do) to figure out who I was and what I believed.

I'm not going to talk about the administration.  I'm not going to talk about the insane tuition hikes (a symptom of a much larger societal problem if you REALLY want my 2 cents).  I'm going to talk about how I always felt like a person on this campus.  Even in my freshman courses of 500 students.  Even in the swarming sea of other people.  Even when I was asked for my ID number instead of my name.  I truly in my heart of hearts felt like I was known, like I was somebody.

And I think this is something that we as a collective campus have both remembered and forgotten in the past few days.  That we are all just people.  We are all just trying.  The students are ultimately garnering power from this personal revelation - regaining their footing as the people they always knew they were, they are reclaiming their space and their ownership of this place that was built and made for them.  They are forcing administrators to see them as people.  Who are trying. 

On the other hand…

Nobody makes the right decision 100% of the time.  We are all just people.  Trying.

I agree that pepper spraying peaceful students is unacceptable and outrageous and calls for abrupt and swift change.

I'm also saying that Chancellor Katehi is also a person.  And I would like to believe that if she did order those students to be pepper sprayed (which I do not know with certainty that she did) that she did not do it with a malicious intent.  I would like to believe that she has made the best decisions that she could all along.  I feel for her.  I really do.  And maybe that makes me naive or too sensitive.  Because I feel for those students as well, I really do.  I feel for all the students who are struggling to make ends meet and get an education and do something they are passionate about.  And I am proud of those students.  And I am glad they are standing up for what they feel is right and just and true and equitable - It is amazing to watch their movement.  I will always love the students, they are the only reason I have stayed (the ONLY reason).  And I have always (cheesy or not) believed that this generation was one of change.  I always knew that the friends and colleagues I knew and loved could (and would) be the agent of change.  That we had the potential and power to create the better world that we dreamed of, that in our deepest dreams, we knew could exist.

But I feel for the person that is Chancellor Katehi as well.  I feel for the frightened woman.  The person who is surrounded by the crowd that is shouting that she should end her career.  That she should be filled with shame and guilt.

I'm not sure I'd wish these situations on anybody.

Should she feel bad for the mistake that she made?  Yes of course she should. 

But shouldn't we (all of us, students, administrators, community members) be better than the injustice we are fighting?  Should we not show compassion for the mistake maker?

And so I'm going to make this very bold statement.  I think Chancellor Katehi is probably a good person.

Should she resign?  I don't know.  I don't think it is my decision to make (thank goodness) Should she be paralyzed in this mistake she has made?  I don't think so.  And I don't think we as a collective group should be causing the paralysis. 

So here is my (puny) recommendation.

Let's hold our leadership accountable.  Let's require that they fix this insanely broken educational system.  If they fail in that arena appropriate consequences should be expected, as they are in any professional setting.  Let's write and lobby and work to ensure that the "theys" in higher education and political arenas are doing THEIR JOBS.  That they are providing appropriate educational opportunities for the gifted and passionate students who clamor for them.  Let's finally ask our administrators to remember why they got into this educational business.  And if it is for the wrong reasons let's ask them to leave. 

But let's leave the personal judgment aside.  Let's not confuse being a decent human being with doing a good job.  And yes I understand there are always times where these two become entangled.  But as my parents taught me long ago - we give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise. 

And even then we forgive.

Broken things must be fixed.  And there is plenty that is broken.  PLENTY.  And now is the time to fix - and this is where I see the students' passion coming from.  A desire and a fear to fix this monumentally broken educational system (and societal systems).  So let us stop breaking down others.  And start building back what has been broken for much too long.

Isn't it such an exciting time to be alive, friends?

And if you have some time for a good email from the President of the Community College League of California:

Subject: Why UC Davis matters

November 22, 2011
By now, you have certainly seen the images from UC Davis, whether it was the pepper spray incident on Friday or the image of Chancellor Katehi walking down a line of more than 300 students expressing their displeasure in simple silence.
Campus safety is important, and there will be a review of the force used last Friday, and the campus policies about peaceful protest are being reevaluated.
To me though, I wanted to know more about the roots of the student protests.
Since I was off yesterday, I walked over to the follow-up rally on campus. I have seen Occupy movements in several cities I have visited lately--Dallas, Detroit, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco. The ongoing Occupy Davis encampment is a block from my house.
I went to UC Davis today to see whether this was some amorphous movement as "Occupy" has frequently (and appropriately) been labeled, or one with a message. What I saw yesterday gave me excitement, even while feeling quite sad over what Chancellor Katehi is going through.
I spent five years on the UC Davis campus--two as an undergraduate transfer and three at the law school. I have never seen student action at this sleepy campus like I saw yesterday, and the focus was on tuition, student debt and genuine economic concerns of students. Police brutality, the stated subject of the rally took a backseat to these issues that are equally to us as community college leaders. The protesters hit with pepper spray were mostly students, including at least one community college transfer student, contrary to some media accounts about outside agitators.
The students I saw yesterday were more scared than angry. They are scared that the door to the California dream that was open for their parents is being slammed shut. And, we have to frankly acknowledge that we have in many ways failed them. Yes, California's higher education system still holds on to the slipping claims on affordability and quality, but these institutions are far different from what generations have experienced.
Undergraduate fees at UC have doubled in six years. Professional school fees have quadrupled or quintupled. In the last ten years, the proportion of students from middle-income families has declined by 9%. The universities are planning to accept more out-of-state and international students and plan to continue to raise fees by as much as 100%, while the Legislative Analyst forecasts no additional state funds for UC and CSU over the next five years.
This is a crisis situation, students have taken note, and they need our help.
Let's recognize this energy among students and their supporters and channel it appropriately into a campaign for reinvestment in our tripartite system of public higher education. We can, and must, reverse the damage of the last ten years.

Scott Lay
President and Chief Executive Officer, The League
Orange Coast College '94

1 comment:

  1. Sarah, you took the words that I didn't know how to articulate right out of me and put them into writing. Agree 100% with you and this! Let's keep humanity in our forethought as we work through what is a regrettable incident. I can only imagine what the environment is like on campus right now.