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