UC-Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi Denies Resignation, Says the 'University Needs Me'

UC-Davis Chancellor won't resign in wake of campus pepper- spray incident.

ByABC News
November 21, 2011, 7:50 AM

Nov. 21, 2011 -- University of California-Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi says she won't resign despite outrage over her handling of campus officers' blasting pepper spray into the faces of students protesting Friday in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

"I really feel confident at this point the university needs me," Katehi said today on "Good Morning America." "There are so many critical issues to be addressed and we really need to start the healing process and move forward."

Calls for Katehi's resignation have come fast and furious from both students and faculty since the incident, video of which shows as many as 20 students, all seated throughout the protest, were hit at close range by pepper spray. Two of the protesters were taken to the hospital. Ten people were arrested, nine of them students.

The chancellor's office confirmed to ABC News that UC officials will announce later today they have placed campus police chief Annette Spicuzza on administrative leave. Chief Spicuzza was on the scene when the pepper spray incident occurred.

Campus police, who wore riot gear during the standoff, were ordered to dismantle the UC-Davis Occupy encampment because camping on college grounds is officially forbidden.

"The situation that was building up was becoming a concern for us, the members of the community," Katehi said on "GMA." "The decision was not to disperse the students but to dismantle the equipment for the encampment, and there was an effort for many, many days."

The UC-Davis faculty association called for Katehi's resignation Saturday, writing in a letter there had been a "gross failure of leadership."

Admitting that the university she leads is at a "critical position," Katehi said she is willing to work with all sides.

"I'm working with the greater faculty body," she said. "I really want to work with members of our community, the staff and the faculty to take our institution out of this crisis."

Katehi has said she next plans to meet with demonstrators today at their general assembly.

Questioned on "GMA" that the situation in which pepper spray was used did not appear to be violent, Katehi responded, "Exactly."

She said, however, that her priority, and that of the university's, is to protect the students.

"It was a difficult situation for the campus to really strive to make sure the students are safe," she said. "The biggest, most critical issue is the safety of the students who are using the campus, the facilities, who really want to learn in this environment."

Katehi's statements follow a weekend of damage-control for both her and the university as the incident reverberated across the nation.

The school placed two of the campus police officers identified on video using the pepper spray on administrative leave.

Katehi held a teleconference Saturday and released a statement in which she said she takes "full responsibility for the incident."

She also announced she would form a task force to probe events surrounding the arrests, and then accelerated its timetable, setting a deadline from 90 days to 30 days for the task force to issue its report.

Katehi said the task force will be chosen this week, and will include faculty, students and staff.

"This video is horrible," Katehi told "GMA." "It really shows a face for the university that we don't have. It's really critical for us to understand what happened and to try to make the appropriate corrections so this doesn't happen again."

After the UC-Davis Occupy was disassembled Friday, students resumed their protest Saturday with an evening rally on the roughly 31,000-student campus.

Local media reported that Katehi remained in a media room for more than two hours after her news conference Saturday as protesters waited outside. She reportedly took a back exit to her waiting SUV, walking past a three-block-long group of students who, in a coordinated effort, remained silent.

ABC News' Alyssa Newcomb, Katti Gray and Dean Schabner contributed to this report.