UC Faculty Groups Challenge Proposed “Intolerance” Policy

On Wednesday of this week, the University of California Board of Regents will meet to consider a number of controversial proposals, among them a revised version of a proposed “intolerance policy.” The policy, which was prompted initially by allegations of harassment of Jewish students, had met with wide criticism when first proposed last Fall from advocates of academic freedom (including a post by John Wilson on this blog) on one side and from Jewish student and advocacy groups, who argued that the statement ignored incidents of anti-semitism at the university, on the other side.  The proposal was dropped and instead the board announced plans to have a panel of system and campus officials, faculty members, and students come up with a new document articulating the system’s position on the issue.  In the course of the discussion, Regent Richard Blum, who is married to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, made comments in response to which the Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA) and the AAUP, responded.

The latest version of the proposal has also generated criticism from faculty advocates of academic freedom.

Last week CUCFA President Stanton Glantz sent the following letter to the regents:

I write you as President of the Council of UC Faculty Associations, which represents the faculty on all UC campuses.

Attached, please find a copy of a letter we sent to what was then called the UC Regents’ Working Group to Develop New UC Principles Regarding Intolerance last October about the impossibility of carving out a bright line redefinition of freedom of speech that allows unfettered expression yet enforces some standard of tolerance and civility. We send this letter to you now because the Regents are once again asked to vote on this issue.

We believe that the Regents should decline to adopt the report of the Regents Working Group on Principles Against Intolerance because the report continues to single out anti-Semitism as the primary focus of university’s concern about intolerance on its campuses. We believe it is wrong to privilege this form of discrimination over other, equally objectionable forms. It is essential that the university take no steps that might limit our community’s freedom of speech and the free and respectful exchange of ideas. For the reasons we laid out in October, we continue to urge the Regents to reaffirm the university’s commitment to enforcing existing internal university policies and state and federal laws to protect the free speech rights of all students and other members of the University community while ensuring that they all have recourse when the object of intolerant behavior.

If we can be of further assistance in this matter, please contact our Executive Director, Eric Hays, at info@cucfa.org or 888-826-3623.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best wishes,

Stanton Glantz
President
On behalf of the Board of the Council of UC Faculty Associations

The October CUCFA letter was also published on this blog here.

CUCFA was joined in its criticism by leaders of the UC Academic Senate, who today released the following letter:

Dear Colleagues:

The Academic Council of the Academic Senate met on March 17 to consider the Final Report of the Regents Working Group on Principles Against Intolerance in Regents Item E-1 and asked me to convey its concerns to the Regents Working Group. Additional details can be found in the attached report from the UC Systemwide Committee on Academic Freedom (UCAF), that also met on March 17, and in a letter from the Divisional Senate leaders, also attached.

The Academic Council appreciates the efforts of the Working Group to draft a statement on
intolerance and appreciates several notable attributes of the statement. For example, the
statement recognizes freedom of expression and freedom of inquiry as bedrock values of a public University and pledges that the University will defend them. The statement strongly affirms the first amendment protections for freedom of speech and affirms the right to engage in even impassioned dialogue on issues and to debate those issues on the merits of the speakers’ views.

The policy also clearly states that actions that attempt to deprive others of their freedom of
speech or actions that threaten, intimidate, cause injury or damage property are not protected.
The clear separation of protected speech from unprotected acts is a fundamental and extremely important distinction that the Academic Senate greatly appreciates.

The Academic Senate did find several areas of significant concern, however. Most importantly,
the Academic Senate objects to the inclusion of “Anti-Zionism” in the first sentence of the
second paragraph of the Contextual Statement. Zionism is a nationalist and political movement
with specific and well-documented historical roots. Explication, analysis, and critique of that
movement, both in all its current and historical manifestations, are legitimate subjects of
academic teaching, research and scholarly debate. We fear that an overly broad interpretation of “Anti-Zionism” may have a chilling effect on reasonable and appropriate discourse on this
political, social, and historical phenomenon. Thus the condemnation of “Anti-Zionism” in total
raises valid concerns for protected speech and academic freedom.

The Academic Council therefore cautions that the retention of “Anti-Zionism” in the first
sentence of the second paragraph of the Contextual Statement could lead to needless and
expensive litigation, embarrassing to the University, to sort out the difference between
intolerance on the one hand, and protected debate and study of Zionism and its alternatives on
the other. The Academic Council therefore strongly recommends that “anti-Zionism” be
removed from the first sentence of the Second Paragraph of the Contextual Statement.
UCAF also raised similar concerns but suggested a different approach. UCAF suggests that the wording be changed to make a distinction between criticisms of “Zionism” that “are simply
statements of disagreement over politics and policy” and others which are “also assertions of
prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture.” UCAF therefore recommends the
following change in the first sentence of the second paragraph of the Contextual Statement as
follows:

Suggested replacement phrasing (in bold):

“Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism, and other forms of unlawful discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

The change still may not remove all concerns about how the condemnation of “anti-Zionism”
might infringe upon free speech and academic freedom (e.g. how different forms of “anti-
Zionism” might be differentiated), but the amendment does make the language of the
condemnation consistent with the previous paragraph.

Also, as the Working Group was cautioned, the Divisional Senate leaders and the Academic
Council do not support the language, “Anti-Semitism and other forms of Intolerance…” in
Section c. of the Policy Statement. As the letter from the Divisional Senate leaders notes, “a
statement of Principles against intolerance should not privilege some forms of [unlawful]
discrimination over others.” A Davis faculty member summarized this viewpoint below, and the
viewpoint was endorsed by other Jewish faculty members:

“Speaking as a Jew who abhors any thought of anti-Semitism, I believe that elevating anti-Semitism in any way in a document like this will actually be counterproductive, insofar as it reinforces the perception that those in charge of the university take [unlawful] discrimination against some groups more seriously than [unlawful] discrimination against others.”

The Academic Council therefore endorses the recommendation of the Divisional Senate leaders that this section be changed as follows:

“Unlawful discrimination has no place in the University. The Regents call on University leaders to challenge actively any form of unlawful discrimination.”

Finally, the Divisional Senate leaders note that the statement of the mission of the University is
incorrect.

I regret the short amount of time before the Regents Meeting to bring the concerns of the broader faculty to your attention. On the other hand, the full faculty have had only a few days to review the item since its public posting.

Thank you for your assistance, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any
questions.

Sincerely,
J. Daniel Hare, Chair
Academic Council

And here is the text of the statement signed by the leaders of the divisional (campus) senates at all ten UC campuses:

We, the undersigned, are strongly in support of development of principles regarding intolerance. The nature of political and public discourse today and the directions in which it appears to be evolving make it imperative that the University of California be an institution of tolerance.

We have a number of concerns, however, regarding the content of the proposed Principles of
Intolerance (the “Principles”) occurring specifically on pages 8, 9, and 10 of the Final Report of
the Regents Working Group on Principles Against Intolerance and its revision to the mission of
UC. Other issues regarding specific wording and well-recognized concerns within the Academic Senate over process have been omitted from this document for brevity.

1. The Principles Identify only one specific form of discrimination (anti-Semitism).

The specific motivation for the working group and earlier Regents efforts, as described in the
Contextual Statement, arose largely from concerns regarding incidents of anti-Semitism.
Regardless of this context, a statement of Principles against Intolerance should not privilege some forms of discrimination over others.

At the end of item c, page 8, the Principles state,

“Anti‐Semitism and other forms of discrimination have no place in the University. The Regents call on University leaders actively to challenge anti‐Semitism and other forms of discrimination when and wherever they emerge within the University community.”

We, the undersigned, propose that item c, page 8, instead concludes as follows,

“Unlawful discrimination has no place in the University. The Regents call on University leaders to challenge actively any form of unlawful discrimination.”

In the same vein of not privileging one form of discrimination over another, we also offer the
following statement received from a chair of one of our committees, and which is supported by
other faculty signers of Jewish origin who also related to the quote:

“Speaking as a Jew who abhors any thought of anti-Semitism, I believe that elevating anti-Semitism in any way in a document like this will actually be counterproductive, insofar as it reinforces the perception that those in charge of the university take discrimination against some groups more seriously than discrimination against others.”

2. As written, the Principles restate the official mission of the University of California.

Item a, page 8, of the Principles states that “The mission of the University is to promote discovery and create and disseminate knowledge, to expand opportunities for all, and to educate a civil populace and the next generation of leaders.” The official mission of the University of California is

“The distinctive mission of the University is to serve society as a center of higher learning, providing long-term societal benefits through transmitting advanced knowledge, discovering new knowledge, and functioning as an active working repository of organized knowledge. That obligation, more specifically, includes undergraduate education, graduate and professional education, research, and other kinds of public service, which are shaped and bounded by the central pervasive mission of discovering and advancing knowledge.”
— Mission statement from the University of California Academic Plan, 1974-1978
http://www.ucop.edu/uc-mission/index.html

The difference between the two mission statements is the addition of the phrase and concept “to educate a civil populace.” This addition seems potentially quite significant and, we believe the language requires some thought. The current mission was adopted in the 1970s after a process of extensive consultation undertaken by the Regents. The consultation included (the University Academic Plan states) “hundreds of individuals—faculty members, students, Chancellors, deans and other administrative staff—from the {as it then was} nine campuses of the University of California.” This mission has long been reflected in the UC’s institutions and customs. If the Regents’ new mission is similarly to have force, it must find such expression as well. However, not having been subjected to the same tests and discussions as the mission of the 1970s, it is impossible to predict how it will manifest in the UC’s daily work.

If the University’s core mission is to be redefined, it should be done so through an extensively consultative process and in a document expressly and separately devoted to that purpose.

We believe there would be little difficulty in quoting the University’s confirmed official mission directly, with additional language the Regents believe essential to the established mission. That is, that all members of the UC community observe the norms of discourse that have been long established, if not codified and that the additional language attempts to specify some of the important defining limits to those norms.

Divisional Chairs of the Academic Senate:
UCD: André Knoesen, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
UCSB: Kum-Kum Bhavnani, Professor in Sociology
UCLA: Leo Estrada, Associate Professor of Urban Planning
UCB: Robert Powell, Professor of Political Science
UCI: Alan Terricciano, Professor of Dance
UCR: Jose Wudka, Professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy,
UCM: Cristian Ricci, Professor of Iberian Studies and North African Studies
UCSC: Don Brenneis, Professor of Anthropology
UCSD: Robert E. Continetti, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
UCSF: Ruth Greenblatt, Professor of Clinical Pharmacy, Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics

One thought on “UC Faculty Groups Challenge Proposed “Intolerance” Policy

  1. I agree with the faculty critique of efforts to treat all anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism. But I worry about statements like “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism, and other forms of unlawful discrimination have no place at the University of California.” Not all anti-Semitism is unlawful discrimination, just as racism, sexism, homophobia, and other expressions of bigotry are not all unlawful discrimination. When people say that bigotry has “no place” in a university, it simply isn’t true. Bigotry always has a place in a free society and a free university: it must be tolerated and criticized. Otherwise, we would be firing people left and right every time they say something bigoted.

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