As someone who took active part in two building takeovers at Brandeis University to defend affirmative action, I salute the student-led occupation inside the University of California Davis’ Mrak Hall. The students are justly demanding that Linda Katehi, the UCD Chancellor, resign immediately and are calling for educational reforms.
Chancellor Katehi has held executive positions on the boards of DeVry, Wiley & Sons, and King Abdul-Aziz University which are clear conflicts of interest with serving a public university. These actions demonstrate a thirst for personal gain and a disinterest in the betterment of the overall education experience at UC Davis for both students and faculty.
The conduct of the Chancellor is just the latest example of a trend towards the privatization and commodification of higher education. Education should be a right accessible to all members of society, not a privilege to be granted only to a select few with enough money to purchase it.
Greedy administrators have transformed universities throughout the UC system from centers of critical thought and action into business opportunities that can further their own personal interests. This is a direct result of capitalist neoliberalism and the drive to privatize and militarize campuses throughout the country at the expense of the collective student body.
There is a direct correlation between the decline in the quality of education in the form of larger class sizes, higher fees and overburdened professors, and the rise of the prison industrial complex that specifically targets Black, Brown and working class people. This divestment from public education has come alongside increased investment into repressive institutions of law enforcement and mass incarceration in the state of California since the start of the 1980s.
The current attempts by the UC Davis administration and police to stifle students’ first amendment rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly take place amid a national climate of fascist mobilization and outspoken racism. The ongoing occupation at UC Davis is a legitimate form of protest against what has been clearly demonstrated as misconduct on behalf of a corrupt Chancellor.
Given the systematic nature of the problem, the resignation of Chancellor Katehi is the first step towards recreating a UC system that has become dominated by private interests.