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UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi apologizes for pepper spray incident

Linda Katehi waits to speak during a rally on Nov. 21st 2011 AP Images

(CBS) LOS ANGELES, Calif. - After an outpouring of anger and criticism over police use of pepper spray on nonviolent student protesters at UC Davis, Chancellor Linda Katehi stood before more than 1,000 students Monday and apologized for the incident.

Speaking from the Central Valley campus' main quad, Katehi tried to subdue criticism about how university officials handled the situation and its aftermath. Yesterday, she placed the university's Police Chief Annette Spicuzza on administrative leave.

The Los Angeles Times reports that before Katehi spoke, several students who were pepper-sprayed in the incident took to the small stage and described their ordeal. Katehi's arrival to the stage drew boos as well as cries of "Let her speak!"

"I am here to apologize," she said. "I feel horrible for what happened."

The incident on Friday sparked nationwide anger and controversy. Cameras captured university police spraying pepper spray in the faces of non-violent student protesters sitting with their heads down and arms linked. The students were part of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has recently spread to college campuses.

Trying to restore peace to the campus, Katehi also put the officers that sprayed the students on paid leave over the weekend.

The chancellor said that she had given the order for protestors' tents to be removed, but gave no order to police to use pepper spray in the manner shown on the videos. The campus spokesman would not comment on who gave that order, explaining that it would be investigated by law enforcement officials.

Katehi has ignored calls for her resignation. She told Good Morning America on Monday, "I really feel confident at this point the university needs me. There are so many critical issues to be addressed and we really need to start the healing process and move forward."

Her appearance on the quad Monday came as criticism of her leadership increased. It is almost certain that her actions as well as those of the campus police will be looked at in days to come. Leaders at UC, state politicians, and national education organizations have condemned the incident.

The Los Angeles Times reports that there is no consensus among those on-campus about what should happen with Katehi.  Many feel she should step down, while others think she should stay in her position, but not without some sort of reprimand. 

The UC Davis faculty association said there has been a "gross failure of leadership," and calls for the chancellor's resignation.

The Huffington Post reports that before the assembly ended, the crowd voted and decided to hold a campus-wide strike on Nov. 28, with a meeting of the University of California governing board.