For those who know me or know about me, I assume you know I am not exactly shy about expressing my opinions on topics like behavior of academics or academic institutions. For example, just after joining UC Davis I wrote a post that was shared widely, condemning a UC Davis Vice Provost over her misuse of her position in support of Closed Access publishing: Vice Provost of U. C. Davis on the wrong side of Open Access.
I give out all sorts of snarky awards on my blog to friends, colleagues, and other folds in the world for doing things I think are inappropriate (e.g., see this STAT story). Sometimes I go overboard in this, but certainly I am not hesitant at expressing thoughts when I think there has been something untoward going on. I try as much as possible to turn my microscope on myself and UC Davis too. For example, see this post from a few weeks ago: UC Davis Storer Lecture series - since 1963 87% of speakers are male.
Again, I know I overdo this sometimes but I am certainly not hesitant to make my feelings know.Painful: #UCDavis Storer Lecture series - since 1963 87% of speakers are male https://t.co/uaBbnxPv5T pic.twitter.com/9GuFORRiqu— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) April 21, 2016
But the case of Chancellor Katehi leaves me on the fence and with my fingers unclear what to type somewhat. And so I thought I would try to write up what my thoughts are here, even if they are muddled. I wonder what other people think of the situation and would love feedback (as always) on this post.
So - what is so complex here? What am I trying to wrap my brain around? I think my challenge here comes down to the following: I don't know whether some of the responses (including mine) to Chancellor Katehi's actions are tinged with bias, especially sexism. Or, in other words, are the actions and inactions of Chancellor Katehi "firing offenses" or have they been overblown by biased and sexist points of view.
And honestly, I do not know exactly how to figure this out. On the one hand, I accept that there are massive amounts of sexism in society and certainly in regard to how we judge women in power. On the other hand, I think the actions and inactions of Chancellor Katehi and her administration have been serious (in a bad way). I note - one thing I have done to try and better understand my own feelings and actions in this saga is to compile all my posts and communications as best I can and go through them.
This has helped me sort out my thoughts and also helped show me at least that I was certainly not going easy on the UC Davis administration over these cases. I also re-examined my posts about the Pepper Spray incident and aftermath from 2011 which has many parallels to the current situation and also involved Chancellor Katehi. See here for those: posts about the UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident and Aftermath.
Below is a discussion based in part on going through the news stories and posts of others and posts of mine.
Maybe it is best to start with this. A few weeks ago I was pondering the fate of Chancellor Katehi and I wrote a detailed post about this The #UCDavis Chancellor's Board Positions and the Need for a More Public, Open and Early Disclosure System.
I also included in that discussion some possible conflicts of interest of my own that might be clouding my judgment. Those are relevant to this post too and I encourage people to read them. Anyway, this post was written at the beginning of the latest controversy when all that had been disclosed was her acceptance of a set of outside Board positions that were controversial. I had written many mini posts and Tweets about the situation such as those below:
This is why I no longer use textbooks for courses. UC Davis chancellor received $420,000 on book publisher’s board https://t.co/q1evG9aTcG— Bruce Rannala (@BruceRannala) March 5, 2016
And I also had started to see some calls for her to be fired and such and made a point to say I did not feel things were that far along and I also linked to some of those posts.
Am very disappointed in board membership choices by #UCDavis Chancellor Katehi but calls for resignation seem woefully reactionary (1/n)— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) March 5, 2016
Not trying to defend choices - I think she needs to disclose more details and actions (e.g., on Wiley) & how there was no COI (2/n)— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) March 5, 2016
But at this time, as far as I can tell no laws or policies were violated (actually it seems UC pushes / encourages board membership) 3/n— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) March 5, 2016
So rather than hanging Katehi out to dry as Janet Napolitano has done, better if UC took some responsibility 4/n pic.twitter.com/ovR7SY4Xet— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) March 5, 2016
What we need to do is systematically reverse the corporatization of UC from the top to the bottom and not just pick at one scab 5/n— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) March 5, 2016
#UCDavis Profs Niemeier & Beamish on UC Admins sitting on boards: Let’s focus on the process, not the person https://t.co/PWRY0ilXQd— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) March 10, 2016