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CHANCELL-ING: A Message From the Chancellor’s Leadership Council

We, Chancellor Gary S. May’s Leadership Council, are taking over his column this month, with his permission and of our own accord.

We are dismayed by misconceptions, rumors, and false narratives swirling around Chancellor May and UC Davis. In particular, we write to correct the record about Chancellor May’s affiliation as a board member of a private company called Leidos.

To be clear, we recognize that students and other members of our community have a Constitutional right to speak freely. We celebrate the role of freedom of expression in animating debate throughout the University of California system. We also appreciate that leaders, including Chancellor May, are not above criticism.

In fact, Chancellor May values critics who have the courage to speak truth to power. However, when facts are deliberately misrepresented and falsehoods allowed to stand, it corrodes communities and relationships.

Falsehoods about Chancellor May’s connection to Leidos have been circulating in our community since he arrived in Davis in 2017. For example, he has never hidden his relationship with Leidos. He began serving on the company’s board in 2015, when he still worked as dean of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech.

Chancellor May was invited onto the Leidos board because of his academic achievements and his advocacy for members of underrepresented groups pursuing careers in STEM.

Georgia Tech publicized Chancellor May’s board service, recognizing that his relationship with Leidos was a distinction that could lead to networking opportunities for students and faculty, and to fruitful public-private partnerships.

Board memberships are common among university leaders; they are typically understood as significant honors. Even still, the University of California has clear guidelines about outside professional activities, and Chancellor May was transparent in disclosing his service on the Leidos board before he accepted an offer to lead UC Davis.

Regardless, Chancellor May understands that members of the campus community have questions about Leidos’ business interests. He recently spoke with the company’s CEO, who assured Chancellor May that — contrary to claims — Leidos does not provide weapons that are used by Israel in its war with Hamas.

Much as there was no truth, several years ago, in the false claim that Leidos was involved with the Trump administration’s practice of caging immigrant children along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In the six years that Chancellor May has led UC Davis, the university has entered an era with a clear focus on meeting students’ basic needs, improving retention and graduation rates, and strengthening our commitment to inclusivity. Our COVID-19 response helped make Davis one of the healthiest communities in the United States. Our philanthropic funding has exceeded $2 billion, and our research enterprise has climbed above $1 billion in each of the last two years.

Aggie Square is well underway in Sacramento, estimated to bring $5 billion and 25,000 jobs to the region’s economy once it opens in 2025. We’ve risen in national and international rankings, including being named No. 1 in the nation in sustainability and diversity and achieving top-10 status in many rankings of public universities, as well as rising from No. 11 in US News & World Report in 2017, the year Chancellor May arrived, to No. 6 now.

Again, we believe that holding leaders accountable is laudable. Chancellor May agrees. But when good-faith disagreements shade into rumor mongering, when sincere protests are hijacked by activists seeking leverage through false narratives, we have a responsibility to set the record straight.

Chancellor May often points to the best of UC Davis and says, “This is who we are.” And so we close by noting that this is who Chancellor May is: a fierce advocate for higher education as an engine of social mobility; a person committed to truth, transparency, and integrity; and the leader of one of the finest public universities in the United States.

Chancellor May’s Leadership Council:

  • Simon Atkinson, Vice Chancellor, Research
  • Mary Croughan, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
  • Karl Engelbach, Associate Chancellor and Chief of Staff
  • Rocko DeLuca, Director of Athletics
  • Shaun Keister, Vice Chancellor, Development and Alumni Relations
  • Ari Kelman, Faculty Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost
  • David Lubarsky, Vice Chancellor, Human Health Sciences and Chief Executive Officer, UC Davis Health
  • Pablo Reguerin, Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs
  • Clare Shinnerl, Vice Chancellor, Finance, Operations and Administration
  • Mike Sweeney, Chief Campus Counsel
  • Dana Topousis, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer
  • Renetta Tull, Vice Chancellor, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion