UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi deserved to be fired. I was among the legions who urged that step be taken, right here in this space. She made more mistakes than I could list here. And UC had enough problems in Sacramento without the public relations disaster Katehi created.
But one recent attack on Katehi went too far. News reports criticized her for sending aides out of state, including to Switzerland, to learn more about social media.
That’s wrongheaded. The travel didn’t cost much – less than $20,000. More leaders of California institutions should be learning how things are done other places.
California governance often seems to be without just this crucial context. If we understood how out of step we are from other places in budgeting or ballot initiatives, we wouldn’t do those things the same way.
Switzerland is a country where I’ve learned a ton about California, particularly around direct democracy and local government, at which that country excels. It’s a great point of comparison for California – a place with huge numbers of immigrants and foreign-born citizens, a trade and finance focused economy, and a nation built around ideas, not tribes.
Katehi was interested in a media lab tied to Nestle, and thus improving the media profile of her campus. Sending someone to learn more was probably money well spent.
And there was no shortage of other reasons to criticize, or dismiss her.