Thursday, November 24, 2011

Chancellor Katehi, Athens Polytechnic, and ... Janet Jackson?

In a post of Tuesday titled Athens Polytechnic comes to UC Davis, John Quiggin cites a report published in February of this year that became the basis to abolish a law establishing "university asylum" in Greece. Until it was abolished, university asylum restricted the ability of police to enter university campuses in that nation.

No matter what an American thinks of such a law, or its abolition -- whether or not said American knows much about the social and political context in which a "university asylum" law was established in Greece (I don't) -- it's got to catch your eye that one of the authors of this report from the International Advisory Committee on Greek Higher Education was Linda Katehi, currently the Chancellor at UC Davis.

Yes, that UC Davis, the campus on which police doused sitting, unarmed, non-violent students with pepper spray late last week.

This came to my attention Tuesday via Facebook posts from people with whom I am or have been associated at UC Berkeley, as colleagues and/or as fellow-activists. I've seen it a few places since, but not in mainstream media. Co-authorship of the report is not listed on Chancellor Katehi's on-line CV, but that document appears to predate publication of the report. Blackout? Could people who care about news possibly think this is unimportant? Is the story a hoax? I'm guessing no, yes, & no, respectively, but YMMV.

Katehi's co-authorship of the report on Greek universities takes on startling significance when considered beside her tearful apology on Monday for UC Davis police officers' shocking misuse of this "defensive weapon" (a description of pepper spray given by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, according to yesterday's SF Chronicle).

Look at what the report to which Chancellor Katehi contributed, says:

The politicizing of universities -- and in particular, of students -- represents participation in the political process that exceeds the bounds of logic. This contributes to the rapid deterioration of tertiary education.

I don't read Greek, so I didn't even open the MS-Word document copy of the original report linked from Quiggin's blog. The translated excerpt given above was provided by "a Greek friend" of Mr. Quiggin.

Another translation, also linked by Quiggin, was posted in April to Blogspot. The presentation in that post is poor, with some of the letters blacked-out by what looks like a wonky Blogspot theme, but the same sentence translated by Quiggin's friend can be recovered. I recovered it (just a bit of copy paste, nothing sneaky). The two data points, combined, give me some confidence that the translation is accurate. On, the sentence is translated as follows:

The politicization of the campuses -- and specifically the politicization of students -- represents a beyond-reasonable involvement in the political process. This is contributing to an accelerated degradation of higher education.



Politicization of students, citizens of their own nation, degrades higher education?

Really? In Greece? The cradle of democracy?

In Athens? Where Socrates held forth to his students, one of whom was Plato?

Should the students known as "The Greensboro Four" from the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina have stayed in their dorms studying in 1964 rather than sit at a Woolworth's lunch counter where they were 'forbidden' to sit so that their courage could give a critical boost to the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement? Would the authors of this report have had students sit out protest against the Vietnam War? Would they have had the South African high-school students who rebelled against that nation's apartheid regime in 1976 remain at their desks? Would they have had Chinese students who turned out by the tens of thousands in Tienanmen Square in 1989 remain docile in their classrooms?

The politicizing of universities -- and in particular, of students -- represents participation in the political process that exceeds the bounds of logic. This contributes to the rapid deterioration of tertiary education.

And this from a Chancellor whose tearful apology of Monday referred to the Athens Polytechnic uprising of 17 Nov 1973 -- with apparent respect, as a bid for cred to her university's students, it seemed? A university-based uprising that resulted in a military junta piloting tanks -- tanks! -- onto campus to enforce the junta's rule ... when Katehi was a student at that university???

Okay, I've never even visited the country as a tourist, but I'm willing to allow for the possibility that my media-filtered perception could be true. Maybe it is the case that Greek politics get really volatile really quickly ... but still. Was Chancellor Katehi leaking crocodile tears on Monday? Or was she realizing how far she'd fallen from where she'd once been?

This is a campus leader whose co-authorship of the report of the International Advisory Committee on Greek Higher Education suggests pretty clearly that she doesn't believe students on a university campus have any business mixing education and engaged citizenship (a.k.a., political involvement). Not any longer she doesn't, whatever her position might have been in 1973.

How far is it from Katehi's current political position to setting campus policy that directs campus police to meet campus protest with disproportionate force?

It's almost enough to lead a person to theorize conspiracies.

Is she the Chancellor her tearful speech suggests? Or is she a reincarnation of Janet Jackson? Not the Janet Jackson who was the victim of wardrobe malfunction. I'm talking about the Janet Jackson of 1986. The Janet Jackson who sang I wanna be the one in control...

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
When authorities equate disobedience with violence
The Occupy Movement and UC Berkeley's Free Speech Monument
Bioneers and Occupy Wall Street

No comments:

Post a Comment