Open Letter To President Mark G. Yudof, University of California (Updated)

Dear President Yudof,

I am writing to you as a female academic concerned about the double standard & sexism currently on display within the University of California system.

As you well know, two separate incidents of alleged police brutality, one at UC Berkeley and one at UC Davis, have caused quite a problem for the UCal system. In the case of the Berkeley incident, police used batons to violently beat back a crowd of admittedly unruly students. In the case of UC Davis, police are accused of pepper-spraying sitting students who impeded a sidewalk.

I am a supporter of free speech and the right to assemble, but I am concerned about the unequal treatment that Chancellors Katehi and Birgeneau have received, and may continue to receive.

Junior Professor Nathan Brown has spearheaded the movement to oust Chancellor Katehi, creating the most arrogant call for resignation that I have ever read with his “Open letter.” His rhetoric is well beyond the pale, and he is increasing his hostility by trying to frame her as “Chemical Linda Katehi” in his latest blog post. This is incredibly dishonest and hyperbolic, and an insult to what students at Greek & American universities are trying to accomplish today. It is also an insult to the very real violence, and deaths, happening in places like Egypt, Syria, Yemen, etc as the so-called “Arab Spring” unfolds. He is obviously hostile to women in positions of authority and something should be done to reign in his sexism. He and his cohorts in his own department, and the faculty of the Physics department who are helping him, should be reminded of the damage such hyperbole and abusive rhetoric causes.

(Update: Since this letter was first published, Professor Brown has denied authorship of the post containing the offensive “Chemical Linda Katehi” rhetoric. To my knowledge, the blog on which it appears was the first to publish his “Open Letter” outside of UC Davis. It was, in fact, posted to Bicycle Barricades within 5 hours of it being posted near midnight to the UC Davis Faculty Association website, thus the confusion. It has since come to light that the Bicycle Barricades is run by a close associate of Brown’s.)

But he and his cohorts are not my only concern. I am also concerned that Chancellor Katehi may have to pay a higher price than Chancellor Birgeneau, on whose campus actual violence happened. It is fair to ask why the students and faculty of UCal are NOT organizing a similar campaign against him. This smacks of sexism at its worst, and it has no place on university campuses. If Chancellor Katehi is forced to resign or is fired, but Chancellor Birgeneau is not, the women of America and women in academics will have no choice but to conclude that the UCal system is hostile to women.

The details of the unequal treatment and about the Chancellor’s involvement in these events have been spelled out in an article I wrote for The New Agenda, an organization that fights against sexism in all areas of American culture. I invite you to read the article, as it presents the case for how these two Chancellors are being treated and reminds the public of the imbalance of genders represented at the top levels of academics today. It also asks fair questions, such as:

Is being pepper-sprayed worse than being physically beaten? Worse than the scenes of professors and student being dragged off by their hair, as happened at UC Berkeley? Why is Chancellor Katehi being singled out amidst of sea of male figures of authority who have called for police assistance in dealing with the protests, including a male Chancellor and several male mayors? So far the biggest targets for Occupiers’ complaints about official reaction to their protests have been Chancellor Katehi and Mayor Jean Quan, of Oakland. Why?

I am writing to you in hopes that you will clearly think through your next actions, and provide Chancellor Katehi with support, as well as speak out against the sexism masquerading as reasonable protest on the UC Davis campus. Students and faculty can protest the police actions without trying to tear down one of the few women in leadership in academics. They should do so because there is no proof whatsoever that either Chancellor knew beforehand what police action would be taken, or coordinated the actions that did happen with them. In fact, it has been reported in a local paper that Chancellor Katehi specifically told UC Davis police NOT to use violence against the students. There have been no such reports from Chancellor Birgeneau, to my knowledge.

So why is she being singled out? And what will you do about this situation? The women of America, especially women in academics are watching.


If you would like to express your support for Chancellor Katehi, here is the list of e-mail addresses I sent my letter to. Feel free to copy and paste. Continue reading

In Support of Chancellor Katehi

Conflict with police has become a staple at Occupy Wall Street protests across the land. So why is one woman being singled out to take the blame, being asked to resign, and targeted for ouster?

For those not in the know, Linda Katehi is the Chancellor of UC Davis, where a viral video of police pepper-spraying sitting protesters was filmed on Friday, November 19th. Here’s the film, for those who haven’t’ seen it.

This incident started when alleged police brutality erupted on the UC Berkeley campus, where another viral video was filmed, when students attempted to occupy the campus with tents in protest of tuition and fee increases. This film showed police officers using batons to beat back a crowd. UC Davis students then decided to protest in solidarity with students at UC Berkeley. Like Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau of UC Berkeley, Chancellor Katehi asked for police help in dispersing the students and preventing them from erecting tents on campus property. There is no evidence that either Chancellor coordinated with police about how to police the situations. Here’s the video from UC Berkeley:

The reactions of both Chancellors have been somewhat similar. Both initially expressed support for the police. Both later apologized to the students and faculty. And both eventually called for an internal investigation. However, Chancellor Katehi has gone even further, meeting with students and faculty, and suspending the UC Davis Chief of Police. The only person currently facing suspension at UC Berkeley is a student protester.

In addition to the issue of police brutality, what matters here is that the treatment these two Chancellors have received in the aftermath of the incidents has been quite different, creating a double-standard, and suggesting that sexism is in play.  While the students and faculty of UC Berkeley have called for an “independent investigation” of the university’s actions, they have not asked for the resignation of Chancellor Birgeneau. However, a movement begun via a letter penned by a white, male faculty member of UC Davis, Nathan Brown, has been calling for the resignation of Chancellor Katehi. This movement has started a petition with almost 80,000 signatures and they are are now working to force her ouster. Here’s the opening of Professor Brown’s letter (full letter at the petition):

Linda P.B. Katehi,

I am a junior faculty member at UC Davis. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and I teach in the Program in Critical Theory and in Science & Technology Studies. I have a strong record of research, teaching, and service. I am currently a Board Member of the Davis Faculty Association. I have also taken an active role in supporting the student movement to defend public education on our campus and throughout the UC system. In a word: I am the sort of young faculty member, like many of my colleagues, this campus needs. I am an asset to the University of California at Davis.

You are not.

There’s so much tell all over this letter, and what it tells of is a blatant disrespect for women in positions of authority, and a lot of privileged arrogance on the part of this professor. From the very beginning, by refusing to use her title he is showing his disrespect.  But let’s just dispense with the most obvious fact first: that universities do not need more white male professors; they need more women of all races, especially in positions of power. The letter and the volumes of internet articles about Katehi have in no way proven that she is directly responsible for the actions of police, or even knew what they would be in advance. Katehi, like Birgeneau, is “guilty” of merely asking for police assistance. One immediately wonders why Professor Brown doesn’t also target Chancellor Birgeneau, on whose campus physical violence in the form of several batons was wielded.

Some facts about women in academics: Women have addressed the old “pipe-line” defense of male domination on college campuses, but that hasn’t solved the problem of barriers to women in leadership positions. There’s still a glass ceiling in academics. As usual, it’s the statistics (PDF) that tell the story:

A recent study by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) piques interest in the current role of women in higher education. The examination of 1,445 colleges and universities reveals that while women earn more than half of all Ph.D. degrees granted to American citizens today, they still comprise only about 45% of tenure-track faculty, 31% of tenured faculty, and just 24% of full professorships in 2005-2006 (West and Curtis 2006). More women than men are in part-time or non-tenure track positions, and the increasing scarcity of women as you look at higher academic ranks is clearly shown. Participation of women is lowest in the doctoral-granting institutions, where women constitute just 34% of full-time faculty, 26% of tenured faculty, and 19% of full professors.

While representation of women at higher professorial ranks is disappointing, women are even more scarce on the administrative career ladder. Relatively few women advance to top academic leadership positions such as dean, provost, president or chancellor. An exception is in traditionally female fields such as nursing and education (Dugger 2001a), yet many social science and professional fields have shown substantial gender desegregation and an increasing supply of women for these positions. Where women are in top positions, it is typically in smaller, less prestigious schools. With women over-represented at instructor/lecturer ranks and less likely (controlling for experience, publications, and educational attainment) and taking longer to reach the associate and full professor ranks (Dugger 2001b) which generally are tapped for leadership positions, the small number of women administrators is yet another piece of the problem.

Some fair questions: Is being pepper-sprayed worse than being physically beaten? Worse than the scenes of professors and student being dragged off by their hair, as happened at UC Berkeley? Why is Chancellor Katehi being singled out amidst of sea of male figures of authority who have called for police assistance in dealing with the protests, including a male Chancellor and several male mayors? So far the biggest targets for Occupiers’ complaints about official reaction to their protests have been Chancellor Katehi and Mayor Jean Quan, of Oakland. Why? And what does  it tell us about the nature of the protests?

There have been lots of reports of Occupy Wall Street’s “woman problem.” The issues range from male domination of General Assemblies, sexist rhetoric and treatment, and the physical safety of women at the camps. Apparently, you can add problems with female authority figures to the list. Let’s hope this obvious witch-hunt is unsuccessful.

This article has been cross-posted from The New Agenda.

Penn State Erupted in Protest Last Night

And not for the reason you might think. For those who are just now tuning in to the events unfolding at Penn State, Joe “Papa Joe” Paterno, the 84-year-old legendary coach of Penn State’s football team and a 61 year veteran of Penn State football, was fired last night, along with University President Graham Spanier. The pair were fired over the child sexual abuse scandal in which long-time assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was alleged to have used his status and a charity he created–as well as Penn State property–to groom and sexually abuse boys as young as 10 years.

The grand jury report is here, but be warned, it’s very difficult to read. According to the timeline, Joe Paterno learned of the allegations from a graduate assistant coach, who had stumbled across Sandusky and a young boy in a locker room at Penn State, in 2002. Paterno contacted Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, and did not call the police. He continued to work with Sandusky at Penn State for several years thereafter.

Sandusky is facing 40 charges, and Curley and a Senior Vice President named Gary Schultz have been charged with perjury. Spanier, Paterno, and several other Penn State officials had been making statements to the press, but failed to express sympathy for the victims, at least 8 boys aged 10-14 so far, until Wednesday, November 9th. Instead, their comments focused on protecting their careers or on supporting their colleagues who are facing perjury charges in the cover up. Paterno, caught up in the scandal because of his awareness of the facts of the case and his failure to contact police, hired a lawyer and offered a statement to the press yesterday:

 “I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season,” Paterno said in a statement.

“At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.”

“I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.

“I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today.

“That’s why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.

“This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.

Paterno’s offer to retire at the end of the season was apparently not enough for the Board of Trustees at the Big Ten school. Last night, the Board took action and fired Paterno and Spanier.

So why were Penn State students protesting last night? Why did they gather in the thousands and tip over a media van in the roadway? Was it because the students were outraged at the abuse that had been perpetrated against these boys and the university officials who covered it up so long?

No, no it wasn’t. Penn State students were angry that Papa Joe Paterno was fired at all, and especially because…wait for it…he won’t get his 410th career win. They wanted one more game. Yes, you read that right: thousands of Penn State students care more about Paterno’s and Nittany Lions’ sports record than they do about 10 year old boys who’ve been sodomized. Seriously. Pictures and video reaction after the jump. Continue reading

We Write Letters: George Hartwig Edition

Betty Jean Kling, the mother of George Hartwig's two victims, at the court.

Morning folks. We need more letters written, this time so the courts don’t once again go easy on a serial woman abuser who took the lives of the daughters of a friend of mine. Please take 15 minutes and donate a stamp to make a BIG difference for domestic violence victims. Here are the details:

George Hartwig has pleaded guilty to 10 crimes involving violent attacks on his wife and his sister-in-law, all in an effort to either secure his wife’s pain meds (she had cancer) or kill his mother-in-law Betty Jean Kling. He attacked his wife with a hammer to the head and shot his sister-in-law in the face.

George Hartwig is asking the court for mercy because he “got very intoxicated” and “decided it would be a good idea to confront my mother-in-law. Unfortunately, I brought a weapon with me, and I mistook my sister-in-law for my mother-in-law.”

More details of the case are here, and here.

George Hartwig thinks that because he is a substance abuser and because he killed the wrong woman, the court should show him mercy. It is up to the women and men of America who deplore domestic violence and crimes against women to persuade the judge that no mercy should be shown.

Will you please write a letter asking the judge to do the right thing and make sure you send it by January 8, 2012? His sentencing date is January 27th. The name and address to write to are below.

The Honorable Liliana S. DeAvila-Silebi
Judge of the Justice Court of Bergen County New Jersey
10 Main Street
Hackensack, New Jersey 07601

Here is the text of my own letter, in case you need some inspiration or direction: Continue reading

Fallback Weekend and #FollowFriday!

Well. We made it through another week and we still have food to eat and a roof over our heads. Plus, we didn’t go to war with Iran. Bonus! Too bad so much else sucks on la planeta político. Oh well, at least we get an extra hour of sleep this weekend! So don’t forget, Daylight Savings Time ends at 2:00 in the A.M. on Saturday.

If you’re in the market for some free laughs this weekend, I have set up a new humor page on Facebook, called On the Fly. We’re also on Twitter. Join us! I’m sharing all sorts of stuff I find on the InterTubes as I surf each day, and also some of my own creations (I’m getting pretty good at PowerPoint art). Here’s the one I made today:

Bored, aware, and pissed off. Sounds about right.

Also, I’ve been on Twitter for sometime, so since it’s #FollowFriday, why not find me and follow. I follow back!

#AmbersArmy: We Write Letters

Report: We’ve set up a petition to try to gain support for the issue of changing Google’s reporting protocols as they apply to crimes against children, including distribution of child pornography. Please sign and share the petition of you agree. I am working on getting some executive e-mails so that the petition can be e-mail to them at the appropriate time. In the meantime, various office holders are being made aware of the problem.

Because we cannot reach Google executives directly (let alone Google support), we have decided to launch an old-fashioned letter-writing campaign. We need to let them know in whatever way we can that they are not doing enough to address the problem of child pornography on their websites, and propose positive solutions that they can take. We are recommending that the members of #AmbersArmy (and supporters)  write letters and send them via registered mail to the following executives:

Attn: Larry Page (CEO)
Google, Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

Attn: Sergey Brin (Co-Founder)
Google, Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

Attn: David C. Drummond (Chief Legal Officer)
Google, Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

I am mailing my letters tomorrow. I have uploaded a rich text format version to this blog if you would like to use mine with your name and signature instead. It’s in the blue and white box directly to the right of this post. Just click it, save it, edit it, print it, and mail it! Thank you!

Click here to read the text of the letter/copy & paste from WordPress: Continue reading