As a 19-year-old student in Greece, Linda P.B. Katehi watched as the military government used tanks to put down a student uprising at the National Technical University of Athens.
Now 57 and the leader of the University of California Davis, the third-largest of the system’s 10 schools, Katehi faces accusations of using heavy-handed tactics after a campus police officer pepper-sprayed a group of sitting protesters who appeared be offering no resistance.
A video clip of the Nov. 18 incident about 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Sacramento had attracted 1.5 million views on YouTube by yesterday. The spraying stirred outrage at the 32,300-student school, with calls for a class boycott Nov. 28 and for Katehi to resign.
“I am here to apologize,” the chancellor said to hundreds gathered on the campus quad yesterday. “I really feel horrible for what happened on Friday. If you think you don’t want to be students at the university we had on Friday, I’m just telling you that I don’t want to be chancellor of the university that we had on Friday.”
She recalled the events of Nov. 17, 1973, when the Greek junta sent a tank through the iron gates of the school to quash a protest against military rule by students who had barricaded themselves inside. At least 24 people were killed in the uprising that day, which is commemorated each year by Greek schools.
“I was there and I don’t want to forget that,” Katehi told the Davis students.