Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Reynoso Report: A Portrait of Administrative Malice, Stupidity, Incompetence, and Immaturity

Today the Reynoso Report was released. The distribution of this report, initially due within two months of the pepper-spray incident of November 18, has been much delayed. But the timing of its release is opportune, because this is precisely the moment for a serious, honest assessment of the conduct of the UC Davis administration with regard to campus protests against rising tuition and in defense of public education. This is the moment for such an assessment because twelve students and faculty, among them some of those pepper-sprayed on November 18, are currently facing serious criminal charges at the behest of the administration for their political activities on campus—charges which carry a possible jail term of eleven years. If an assessment of the administration’s approach to political activism at this crucial moment is to be both serious and honest, it will necessarily be blunt and uncompromising: in a word, excoriating. That is the tenor of the following letter, addressed to students, faculty, and staff at UC Davis and throughout the UC system.

The Reynoso Report is based on the fact-finding of Kroll Securities, and the manifest conflicts of interest inherent in the appointment of Kroll have been well documented. Thus we might reasonably expect Kroll’s report to offer something like a best-case assessment of the administration’s involvement in the pepper-spray affair. And indeed, the fact-finding upon which the report is based is often middling and ineffectual. On the key issue of the Chancellor’s actual orders on and prior to November 18, it has very little to say. Rather, it relies primarily upon an interview with the Chancellor conducted after the fact, on December 20, to gauge her position. Given the international condemnation the Chancellor was facing at that time, no one should be surprised to find her remarks composed of efforts at self-serving revisionism. The report states openly that Kroll “relied upon UC Davis in the area of document production; it was deemed infeasible for budgetary, timing, and other reasons for Kroll to conduct an independent, systemic forensic review and analysis of UC Davis servers, hard drives, and electronic devices.” In other words, only those documents (such as administrative emails) that UC Davis itself offered for inspection were reviewed. In short, on the key matters of concern we might expect the report to address, Kroll’s fact finding leaves serious omissions.

Nevertheless, the information we are offered in the report amounts to a damning portrait of administrative malice, stupidity, incompetence, and immaturity.

1) The report makes clear that Chancellor Katehi and other senior administrators propped
up their decision to evict the Occupy UC Davis encampment with fear-mongering based on the fallacious claim that numerous “non-affiliates” of the university were involved in the camp, ignoring and rejecting clear statements to the contrary by their own staff.

2) The report makes clear that Chancellor Katehi insisted on the removal of tents from the quad by police with no legal basis for such a police action, and that there were thus no legitimate grounds for ordering a police operation at all.

3) The report makes clear that Katehi ignored the concerns of her own staff and of the police that attempting to evict the encampment at 3:00pm on Friday afternoon would lead to a confrontation.

4) The report makes clear that, despite the Chancellor’s belated claim of November 21 that she ordered the police not to use force, the Chancellor made no concrete effort whatsoever to avoid the use of police force against demonstrators on November 18.

In short, the report makes clear that the so-called “Leadership Team,” and particularly the Chancellor, acted in a flagrantly totalitarian fashion. The Chancellor promulgated falsehoods concerning the basis for police action; she ignored the lack of legal grounds for such an action; she overruled objections to the timing of the eviction; and she made no reasonable effort to avoid police violence against students.

Since the Chancellor has been calling upon us to wait for the findings of the report before passing judgment concerning the events of November 18, let’s assess its conclusions and pass judgment accordingly. Its “key finding” is unequivocal:
While the deployment of the pepper spray on the Quad at UC Davis on November 18, 2011 was flawed, it was the systemic and repeated failures in the civilian, UC Davis Administration decision-making process that put the officers in the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves shortly after 3 p.m. that day.
This means that it is the “Leadership Team” of the UC Davis Administration, not the police, which bears primary responsibility for what happened on November 18. With the faintest glimmer of urbane wit, the report finds that “the actions of the Leadership Team provide a case study in how not to make important institutional decisions.”

For the sake of clarity, let’s summarize the report’s findings apropos of the points listed above.

1) On the matter of the supposed threat posed by “non-affiliates”:
When explaining their decisions on Nov. 17 and 18, UC Davis administrators repeatedly referenced this concern about individuals not affiliated with the university at Occupy movement protests and encampments on campus, and the security risks created by their presence. Indeed, in Chancellor Katehi’s letter distributed to campus protesters on Nov. 18, the day of the pepper spray incident, the Chancellor wrote “We are aware that many of those involved in the recent demonstrations on campus are not members of the UC Davis community. This requires us to be even more vigilant about the safety of our students, faculty and staff.” As our report will indicate these concerns were not supported by any evidence obtained by Kroll.
Leading up to the eviction, Chancellor Katehi and Vice Chancellor Meyer were not swayed by the reports from Student Affairs staff that the Occupy activists were overwhelmingly comprised of students.

2) On the absence of legal justification for police action:
It is clear that the UCDPD leadership was concerned about its legal authority to remove the tents, at least during the daytime. It is equally clear that the UC Davis Administration was adamant that it did not want tents on campus and that the tents were considered a threat to health and safety. Just as the Leadership Team ultimately failed to arrive at a policy that appropriately constrained the conduct of campus police, so too did it fail to press for a definitive legal assessment of the scope of its authority to order the removal of the tents. In the course of its investigation, Kroll has been unable to identify the legal basis for the decision of the Leadership Team to act against the protesters and for the operation mounted by the UCDPD. It appears that the UCDPD mounted its operation absent the clarity of legal authority under pressure from the Administration to do something to get rid of the tents.
3) On the administration’s failure to heed warnings about the probability of a police confrontation with students if the eviction was carried out at 3:00pm on Friday afternoon:
In the 24 hours before the police operation commenced, both Student Affairs staffers and campus police provided warnings to members of the Leadership Team that a confrontation might occur between activists and police on the Quad. These warnings do not appear to have impacted the decision-making of the Leadership Team, however....While the Chancellor viewed herself as chairing a consensus-driven discussion, her subordinates instead heard her issue an executive order. By insisting that the tents not be allowed to stay up on Friday night, Chancellor Katehi did in fact make a tactical decision: that the tents would be removed during the day....Based on the accounts of several officers, including Lieutenant Pike, Chief Spicuzza informed her officers that key and controversial decisions, including the 3 p.m. time for the operation, had been made by Chancellor Katehi herself.
4) On the Chancellor’s failure to pursue any real measures that might prevent the use of force against students:
Chancellor Katehi failed to express in any meaningful way her expectation that the police operation was to be sharply limited so that no use of force would be employed by police officers other than their demand that the tents be taken down....Vice Chancellor Meyer explained that “he did not understand that Chancellor Katehi believed that no force at all would be employed in taking down the tents until her comments following the November 18 police action.”...No members of the Leadership Team took responsibility for ensuring that all the members of the Team including the Police Chief had a common understanding of the scope and conduct of the police operation to be executed on Nov. 18.
These are devastating conclusions. Not only do they indicate unacceptable failures of leadership on the part of the Chancellor and other senior administrators, they indicate a willful disdain for the facts of the situation and a complete lack of effort to avoid the sort of outcome we witnessed on November 18. The report finds that “there was no immediate need to order the police to take down the tents on Friday, Nov. 18.” But despite the fact that “possible alternatives for protecting students in the encampment seem almost self-evident,” “the administration decided to deploy police to remove the tents on Nov. 18 before considering possible alternatives.” The Reynoso Report makes it clear that the UC Davis Administration acts in an extra-legal fashion, deploying the police force at their disposal without justification while criminalizing those who act against their policies.

Given the gravity of these charges, what do we find in the report which might account for the decisions of the Chancellor and her “Leadership Team”? Here we turn from tragedy to comedy, encountering statements from senior administrators of such frivolous stupidity and lugubrious immaturity that it is difficult to believe they could be made by people attempting to defend the validity of their leadership at a major research university.

On the inconvenient dearth of so-called “non-affiliates” at the encampment, Vice Chancellor Wood states: “students for us range all the way from eighteen…through the graduate postdoc, they could be 30 and be a student….I want to be fair that someone might see a pretty scruffy older person [and] presume them not a student.” I’m afraid this is indeed the caliber of seriousness and rigor—scruffy or not scruffy?—upon which the most important administrative judgments are based at UC Davis.

But let’s turn to Chancellor Katehi’s gravely earnest explanation of why tents just could not be allowed to remain on the quad for even one more night. Perhaps we might encounter a finer degree of reasoning from someone of so high a station:
We were worried at the time about that because the issues from Oakland were in the news and the use of drugs and sex and other things, and you know here we have very young students…we worried especially about having very young girls and other students with older people who come from the outside without any knowledge of their record.
The best rationale our Chancellor can come up with (after a month’s reflection) for a major police operation against non-violent student protesters is “the use of drugs and sex and other things” in the midst of “very young girls.” This is the sort of thing, or so she has heard, that goes on in “Oakland.”

But if this is utterly laughable nonsense in the context of university life, where football games and fraternity parties give rise to all kinds of “drugs and sex and other things” among “affiliates” and “non-affiliates” who “come from the outside,” perhaps Vice Chancellor Meyer has something more intelligent to say?
Our context at the time was seeing what’s happening in the City of Oakland, seeing what’s happening in other municipalities across the country, and not being able to see a scenario where [a UC Davis Occupation] ends well . . . Do we lose control and have non-affiliates become part of an encampment? So my fear is a long term occupation with a number of tents where we have an undergraduate student and a non-affiliate and there’s an incident. And then I’m reporting to a parent that a non-affiliate has done this unthinkable act with your daughter, and how could we let that happen?”
Ah, once again, “the City of Oakland,” so close to the City of Davis, and yet so far. What sort of people might one find there? But is it not the case that what was actually happening in the City of Oakland and other municipalities was egregious police violence against peaceful demonstrators—including the near-killing of protester Scott Olsen in Oakland on October 25? And what is it, exactly, that our tepid Vice Chancellor has in mind when he refers to “this unthinkable act” that might transpire between an undergraduate and a "non-affiliate"? Does he mean rape? It seems this is either a concept he does not understand (“with your daughter,” he says) or a word he is unable to use in a sentence. But perhaps he just means “sex and other things”? Perhaps the very notion that an undergraduate—and a “daughter” no less—might have sex with a “non-affiliate” is an unthinkable act in the view of our painstakingly upright administrators. Confronted with the cultivated ambiguity of the Vice Chancellor's formulation, I suppose we can conclude that when you don't know what you're talking about, it's best to equivocate. 

In brief, all that the pathetic and infantile discourse of the “Leadership Team” has to offer in its defense is the danger of sex and drugs, of “older people,” and the terribly frightening specter of “Oakland.” One needn’t look far to find an identical sexist, paternalist, pseudo-moralistic discourse deployed in the most unbearably racist, xenophobic contexts. It is always the same thing with authoritarian bureaucrats who send in police to guard the young and innocent against those who “come from the outside”: they are more than willing to sanction brutal violence to buttress whatever obscene fantasy of purity serves as their faulty moral compass.

Let’s be honest then: whatever the “Leadership Team” of the UC Davis Administration says to legitimize its actions only certifies its illegitimacy by pointing up its remarkable stupidity, its dangerous incompetence, its apparent inability to say anything even remotely credible. These are people who have nothing to do with what a university is supposed to stand for—except to the extent that they directly oppose and obstruct it.

At the moment, the Chancellor and her totalitarian administration have only one claim upon legitimacy: the failure of an Academic Senate ballot measure expressing no-confidence in her leadership, and the success of a ballot measure accepting her “good faith apology.” Over 110,000 people signed a petition calling for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation. But 697 faculty, after all, voted against the no-confidence measure. 442 faculty voted to accept the Chancellor’s apology. Surely, then, this is all the information we need to affirm the Chancellor’s right to remain at her post? But let’s look at the results of another ballot measure, which:
1) condemns both the dispatch of police and use of excessive force in response to non-violent protests on November 18, 2011
2) opposes violent police response to non-violent protests on campus
3) demands that police deployment against protestors be considered only after all reasonable efforts have been exhausted and with direct consultation with Academic Senate leadership.
It turns out that 343 faculty voted against this ballot measure, a shameful fact for those of us who call these people our colleagues. This result makes it very likely that over 300 of those who accepted the Chancellor’s apology or who expressed confidence in her leadership also voted against condemnation of and opposition to the excessive use of force by police, or the consideration of alternatives to the use of police force. With friends like these, the Chancellor finds herself among the only company suitable to uphold the authoritarianism of her administration: the sort of people who are happy to support police violence against students.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor’s “good faith apology” to students pepper-sprayed in the fall now takes the form of an effort to have those same students prosecuted for their blockade of the US Bank branch on campus: another principled and courageous stand against the privatization of the university. Subject to international humiliation for her malfeasance in November, the Chancellor has reached out to student protesters in March by trying to destroy their lives through criminal charges. This is what the “good faith” of the administration amounts to.

Enough is enough. It is obvious that the Chancellor will cling to her station by any means necessary, but the case against her is now so overwhelmingly clear it brooks no argument. Since the Chancellor has called for “healing,” let me offer a prescription: those of us among faculty, students, and staff who care about the university and about the demonstrators who stand up for it should immediately organize an ongoing picket and blockade of Mrak Hall, until the Chancellor is forced off the UC Davis campus—just as Chancellor Birgeneau tendered his resignation when faced with a picket of California Hall over retroactive charges against those beaten by police at Berkeley.

Surely this is the only genuine way the Chancellor’s disingenuous calls for “healing” can be answered.

Of course the Chancellor will find this proposal, and this letter, “uncivil.” But now that we finally have documentation of the hollowness of her words and the culpable folly of her actions, we can cut once again through the drivel with which she insistently responds to the most serious allegations.

Katehi: get out.

Nathan Brown
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Program in Critical Theory
University of California at Davis


  1. In brighter news, the dirty encampment in the middle of our beautiful campus has been erradicated. Glory to the administration!

  2. Also: disband the UCPD.

  3. Katehi Go To Prison, Solitary, Super Max, no books... no paper... just the hum of florescent lights 24 hours a day.

  4. Obviously Katehi deserves to be fired, impeached, or whatever it is people do to remove a Chancellor. (and perhaps more punitive measures, for sure) But I think you let the pigs off too lightly in this letter by consistently bringing the blame back to the "Leadership Team".

    It seems that then the pigs can fall back on the "I was just following orders" line; a line drawn by the Nuremberg Trials that can not be bent to accommodate someone like Lt. Pike, who I would say (and it turns out, many mainstream Americans)deserves to spend time in a cage away from peaceful society, fitting the brutal sociopath that he is.

  5. Brilliant piece,'ve absolutely nailed it. One of the people arrested for the bank sit-in was also one of the pepper spray victims. He's a fine, exemplary UCD student/activist who should be lauded and emulated, not viciously punished by the Nazi-esque administration.

    Katehi, Yudof and the other venal, arrogant, uncaring administrators need to be expunged, and UC regents need to be elected, not appointed. Can we start petitions with those aims?

  6. Well written. Has there been any renewed push for the Faculty Senate to take a new vote of confidence? After reading the report, I'd like to change my vote to no confidence.

  7. Thank you Professor Brown. Katehi and the current Administration of UC Davis fall so below the bar and have heaped so much damage upon our University that it is unthinkable that she remain in her position. If anyone, in any place, failed so thoroughly as a leader as Katehi has, there is no possibility that they would remain in their position. I would rather see our "young students" experimenting with drugs and having sex than have to watch the sheer horror of them being brutally attacked and assaulted with military grade pepper spray by the very people who are being paid to look out for their welfare. Katehi is 100% responsible for what happened to our students. We are way past any kind of training session or review of what to do in the future. The ONLY appropriate remedy is the IMMEDIATE removal of Katehi by the UC Regents, and the honoring of the request of over 100,000 people from across the planet who want her gone.

  8. On the other hand a very large segment of the public has no issue with what the UC police did. They see you as the lunatic fringe, ingrates who should be ejected from an university paid for by taxpayers.

    A close reading of the report reveals the administration legal misstep in removing the tents was one of timing because camping on campus is illegal if it is done overnight. So the police were sent in too soon. The report clearly states Lt. Pike expressed concern about the timing and his feeling officers were being sent into a no win situation. The chief failed to lead and her officers had to assume that role-they literally overruled her decisions.

    The use of pepper spray was questionable because of the use of a dispensar officers had not been trained on yet. Comments I've seen from law enforcement officers around the state generally defend the use and condemn Reynoso and his committee as asses. Several point out Reynoso was recalled as a Supreme Court justice because of his failure to apply legal precedent. They regard anything he says as next to worthless. They question the lack of a law enforcement rep on the group and believe any opinion is tainted with leftist bias.

    1. Chris, an employee at UC DavisApril 14, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      So LEOs defend the use of a product that wasn't authorized for use by the UCDPD and I'm supposed to trust their word on Judge Reynoso? By the way, the Judge was not re-elected during a normal general election period, a quarter-century ago. Two other justices also failed to be re-elected during that same cycle. There was no "recall." So the "several" LEOs who "point out" that Judge Reynoso was "recalled" are wrong.

      That's what happens, incidentally, when you deify police officers and treat their opinions as fact while dismissing anyone you disagree with as a "leftist."

    2. And who are these crybaby LEOs who "question the lack of a law enforcement rep [in] the group"? They would be better served by serving the public, as is their job, especially since the Reynoso Report was delayed for MONTHS while the police union fought against the release of officers' names. Reynoso then delayed the release FURTHER after the lawsuit was settled.

    3. In looking at Justice Reynoso's biographic sketch on Wiki I confirmed it used the word "recalled" to describe his removal from the bench by voters in 1986. A statewide campaign was mounted to remove him from the high court. It succeeded.

      The LEOs I've talked with believe people who refuse to disperse when ordered are violating the law. The officers' oath requires them to "enforce all laws without fear or favor." The administration's failure to support them only serves to anger them and encourages them to tear up the chain of command. UCPD officers have made it clear that they will enforce the criminal statutes regardless of what administration wants. Hence the charges in Berkeley.

      I support freedom of speech lawfully done. This is a concept alien to you folks. So I have no issue with "repression" in your case. Behave like civilized people, protest lawfully, and I'll support you. Otherwise.....

    4. .... except for the fact that THERE WAS NO LEGAL BASIS FOR THE POLICE ACTION. read the fucking report. nobody cares what your pig friends say.

    5. You might want to re-read the report. The protesters' legal rights were violated because the Administration was completely unaware of what those rights were. The Students who were protesting, on the other hand, had actually done the homework and WERE aware of what their legal rights were. And when you use the word "fringe," it refers to a small margin of outsiders. Since over 100,000 people signed a petition calling for Katehi's resignation, this is not an outside, marginalized group, it is a significant percentage of taxpayers.

  9. On the other hand a very large segment of the public has no issue with what the UC police did.


    Comments I've seen from law enforcement officers around the state generally defend the use and condemn Reynoso and his committee as asses.


  10. My absolute favorite LEO comment is in the Kroll data, which formed the basis for the Reynoso report.

    Officer "L" stated, "They made
    threats to release inmate, or arrestees from custody that had been lawfully and legally arrested. That's lynching."

    While I do hate to stereotype, would anyone here like to wager as to whether Officer "L" is a Caucasian male whose extended family dating back multiple generations has not once ever had to worry about _actual_ lynching.

    Seriously. A threat to release an inmate from custody is "lynching." And that's the sort of thing that is supposed to be accepted as fact coming from our holy law enforcement community.

    1. "Lynching" has a specific meaning in the California Penal Code. On page 127/190 of the Reynoso report, the footnote explained the meaning of Lynching:

      California Penal Code Section 405a, Lynching - the taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer, a felony crime.

  11. I do not see how Katehi, Wood, and Spicuzza (at a minimum) can possibly survive this report. The active gross incompetence it describes would get a camp counselor fired, and when you combine it with the administration's abject attempts to cover its ass and punish its critics in the months since the incident, it would be an act of mercy to let them off without jail time.

    I'll be interested to hear Yudof's case for not firing these people immediately.

    1. Unfortunately, I fear that Yudof doesn't have to present any case to anyone. He'll just drop the subject and wait for everyone to lose interest.

      Next UC Regents meeting is May 15 in Sacramento. Go make some noise.

    2. "Go make some noise"

      Please do. The more you folks show your true colors, the more likely that people will support dealing harshly with you, and the more likely the Chancellor will get to stay. Those are both good outcomes.

    3. Yes, Katehi's incompetence has been shown beyond any doubt. She was not hired at her salary level to make gross errors in judgment. She was hired for leadership, and she has proven that she lacks the very set of skills for which she collects her salary. Moreover, she has by now cost the university millions of dollars. There is no way to justify her continued appointment, we are way past the pretense of re-examining how we do things.

  12. Since you are an "ASSISTANT Prof. of ENGLISH, I can guess several things:

    1. You are probably young and definitely without tenure, explaining perhaps your naive yet arrogant writing. You have probably recently received your doctorate and you are so full of yourself and your liberal leftist indoctrination that you can't see the obvious truths here. Thank God for more experienced administrators, who hopefully won't cower to the mobs (as Californians often do.)

    2. Secondly, your English background explains the fact that you are infinitely better spoken than almost all the Occupy-niks. However, like most English professors, you are enamoured of your own words.

    3.Now for a dose of the truth: The primary function of the Universsity and of the parents, students, and scholarship contributors, is to create a learning environment for the enrolled students. It is NOT the job of the University to coddle demonstrators, many of whom have come from out of town or out of state. Secondly, these clowns knew that they walked onto someone else's property and installed their toilets and tents. The fact that they pay taxes (and many of these professional occupiers live off of our tax contributions) gives them zero right to do what they did, and you know it, no matter how you play with your words.