Friday, July 29, 2016

The Slow-Motion Downfall of Linda Katehi

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Jack Stripling and Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz
July 29, 2016

Picture two locomotives barreling down a single track, heading for a collision as predictable as it is unstoppable. Such is the path of Janet A. Napolitano and Linda P.B. Katehi, the president of the University of California and the chancellor of its Davis campus, respectively.
By August 1 the university is expected to receive the findings of a months-long investigation into whether Ms. Katehi violated system policies related to her family members’ employment at the university, her service on corporate boards, and the hiring of companies to suppress embarrassing internet mentions of the chancellor and the campus.

Ms. Napolitano’s decision to broadcast a litany of specific charges against the chancellor, wounding her publicly from the start, is in keeping with what those who have worked with the president describe as her take-no-prisoners approach. The chancellor’s response, which has included fiery press releases from a hired crisis manager and the filing of a formal grievance, surprises few of her colleagues, who describe her as resentful of criticism.

The face-off between Ms. Napolitano, a former Arizona governor and U.S. Homeland Security secretary, and Ms. Katehi, who has been placed on administrative leave, poses a profound leadership test for a politician-turned-president who is still relatively unschooled in the culture of academe. And, at its heart, the crisis portends an ugly denouement for Ms. Katehi, a chancellor who seems forever scarred by a years-old scandal that destabilized her administration and hardened her instincts toward self-preservation.

The Chronicle interviewed more than 20 administrators, professors, regents, and lawmakers for this article. Several former Davis administrators, who have worked directly with Ms. Katehi, would speak only on condition of anonymity, citing concerns about divulging information from private meetings or professional retribution for speaking critically of their former boss.

Both Ms. Katehi and Ms. Napolitano declined interview requests.


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