Under fire from students, fellow faculty members and state lawmakers, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi took questions from the state Assembly Education and Budget committees about her role serving on the boards of for-profit companies.
"I don't know what else to tell you. You're asking me a question, and I'm just trying to be truthful to you,” said Katehi, capping off an exchange with Assemblymember Kevin McCarty when he asked how her serving on outside boards, making upward of $300,000 collectively, benefited UC Davis students.
"It was very unsatisfactory. I asked over and over the upside to the students at UC Davis, and she could not answer that,” McCarty said.
Katehi served on the boards of Devry, a for-profit college, and Wiley and Sons textbook company --critics saw both as conflicts of interest, asking how she can help maximize profits for a textbook company while UC Davis students benefit from cheaper text books.
"You have a duty to the shareholders, to the entity. You can't behave in a way that doesn't put that entity first,” said Assemblymember Catharine Baker.
But Katehi says as a leader in higher education, it’s her job to find newer, innovative ways to benefit students such as making textbooks available online. She does that, she says, through her involvement with outside entities. Katehi denied that she had any involvement or influence with which textbook companies UC Davis professors chose for class while serving on the Wiley and Sons board.
"I believe, when it's done well, participation in outside activities can be a positive,” Katehi said.
After the hearing a number of Katehi supporters and critics made comments.
"The chancellor has our full support as executives and employers,” said Chris Granger, chief operating officer of the Sacramento Kings.
"A chancellor of a university received hundreds of thousands of dollars and cannot give us any kind of info of how that benefited the university. Nobody finds a problem with that, I find it to be insulting," one UC Davis student said.
Katehi left abruptly and didn't take questions from FOX40 after the hearing. Lawmakers are now considering legislation to change how and if university leaders should accept high-paying board positions.
More than one member of the committees asked if too much is being made of this situation, being that technically Katehi didn’t break any rules.
Assemblymember Rocky Chavez cautioned against overreacting to media coverage of Katehi’s paid board positions and overhauling rules for both the UC and CSU school systems as a result.