Chancellor May’s Statement on 10-Year Anniversary of Campus Pepper Spray Incident
On Nov. 18, 2011, I had just finished dinner with my family in Atlanta when I learned that protesting students at UC Davis had been pepper sprayed by campus police. I was simply stunned. I could not imagine how something like that could have happened.
The students were protesting as part of the nationwide Occupy movement that brought attention to social and economic inequities in our country. Today, we acknowledge that this regrettable and unnecessary incident is part of our history, no matter how painful. It served as the catalyst to improve the environment for our students, faculty and staff with a focus on safety, well-being and belonging.
While it occurred well before my tenure as chancellor began, the actions of that day have framed how we make decisions on a variety of campus activities and needs.
On the surface, the events of 2011 were only about campus safety. The measures we’ve implemented since then have fostered progressive and engaged leadership at all levels of campus policing. But we didn’t stop there. We’ve put measurable and sustainable actions behind our words in a variety of key areas. We’ve reinforced students’ rights to freedom of expression, addressed basic needs, and invested in diversity, equity and inclusion.
Our campus was tested 10 years ago. Like any test, it revealed our collective character—one that ultimately exhibited a capacity to unite to figure out how to be and do better. The improvements we’ve made did not happen overnight, nor were they easy or without disagreement, but we persevered. Our perseverance has paid dividends, as our practices have become a national model for reform and response.
As we acknowledge our past, we commit to further engagement with all those who comprise and care about UC Davis. Our Principles of Community ground us and remind us of our relationship with one another: “We recognize that each of us has an obligation to the UC Davis community of which we have chosen to be a part. We will strive to build and maintain a culture and climate based on mutual respect and caring.”