UC Regents Fund Undocumented Initiative, Hear Katehi Defense

Davis Faculty Protest Chancellor Treatment at Sacramento Meeting


Kelsey Knorp
Contributing Writer

University of California President Janet Napolitano announced a new three-year phase of her Undocumented Students Initiative at the Wednesday session of May’s Board of Regents meeting, preceded by substantial public criticism for her handling of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s ongoing university investigation.

An annual $5 million will go toward the UC DREAM loan program, which offers individual loans of up to $4,000 yearly — and $20,000 total — to undocumented in-state students. The UC will allocate an additional $2.5 million each academic year to undergraduate and graduate fellowships, student services coordinators and resources like textbooks, while the UC’s Undocumented Legal Services Center will receive installments of $900,000 through 2018-2019.

The legal center — part of Napolitano’s Undocumented Students Initiative — opened in November 2014, with the goal of assisting several thousand students across seven UC campuses who lack proper documentation or are otherwise at risk of deportation, according to a report by National Public Radio affiliate KQED. Though based at the UC Davis School of Law, the center’s full-time attorneys also offer legal aid to UCSB students, as well as students at the Santa Cruz, Riverside, San Francisco, Merced and San Diego campuses.

Napolitano’s initiative dates back to fall 2013, shortly after the board elected her to serve as president of the university. It provided an initial $5 million to develop the undocumented services that will be refunded per the president’s Wednesday announcement.

“I think these steps further strengthen the university’s Undocumented Students Initiative, which I launched in my first month as UC president,” Napolitano said in her opening remarks. “Fundamentally, they will help ensure that undocumented students at UC receive the support and resources they need to succeed at the University of California.”

Several UC Davis faculty members turned out at the Sacramento Convention Center on both May 10 and 11 to defend Katehi, who is on paid leave until August 1 while she’s investigated by Napolitano’s office for alleged university violations. The chancellor has come under fire in recent months for UCD’s $175,000 contract, with branding consultants hired to clean up the university’s reputation, in part by burying online content referencing the 2011 pepper-spraying of student protesters by campus police.

Roughly six weeks earlier, Katehi resigned from a highly criticized board appointment with online college DeVry University, one of several for-profit institutions to draw federal scrutiny for the credibility of their degrees. But despite these charges, Katehi’s supporters argued to the Regents that the handling of the chancellor’s case has been unjustly guided by public opinion and overlooks the achievements of her nearly seven-year chancellorship.

UCD Biochemistry Professor Walter Leal submitted a letter to the Regents signed by 55 university faculty members who feel Katehi was “thrown under the bus,” as Leal put it in his remarks at the board’s first public comment period Tuesday.

“We are appalled by this series of events and [that] they culminate with the chancellor being judged based on the public opinion, before the facts coming forward and the full investigation taking place,” Leal told the Regents.

Spanish and Latin American Studies Professor Leo Bernucci asserted that in his 35 years of academic experience, Katehi has proven the most “visionary and effective leader” of the administrators he’s worked with at five different public universities. “I also believe that her record far outweighs the unsubstantiated accusations that she has to endure now,” Bernucci said.

Dr. Emanuel Maverakis, an associate professor in the UCD dermatology department, took a pragmatic approach to his defense of Katehi. He pointed out that the price tag on the university’s rebranding effort makes up just a small fraction of a budget in the billions.

“As everybody knows, there’s been a lot of errors recently at the UC Davis campus, and it’s easy to point all fingers towards our chancellor,” Maverakis said. “But in medicine and other fields, we’ve learned that the best course of action is not to point fingers and not to pick out a scapegoat, but to fix the system so that these types of errors don’t happen again.”