Davis Faculty Association

Dear President Yudof: Reliance on outside groups risks student and faculty rights to speak freely and responsibly

Dear President Yudof:

The Davis Faculty Association shares your concerns with regard to hateful speech and the intimidation of minority groups at the University. However, we are troubled by some aspects of your recent letter to the University concerning an incident that took place at the University of California, Davis. In particular, you referred to an incident that involved representatives of the Israeli armed force who were speaking at the Davis campus. You stated in your letter:

“It was wrong for hecklers to disrupt speakers on the UC Davis campus at an event entitled ‘Israeli Soldiers Speak Out.’  It was reprehensible that one of these hecklers accused the speakers of being associated with rapists and murders. Under the direction of Chancellor Katehi, campus officials dealt appropriately with this individual, moving him out of the room and barring re-entry. I condemn the actions of those who would disrupt this event. Attempting to shout down speakers is not protected speech. It is an action meant to deny others their right to free speech.”

According to the accounts of multiple members of the UC Davis faculty who were present at this event, however, only a single individual actually disrupted the meeting by heckling the speakers.  The other students who attended the meeting in order to protest staged a silent walkout and then held a meeting outside. Your own description of what happened on this occasion therefore seems to confuse the issue by equating responsible and respectful protest with intimidation and disruption.

You also announced that you intend to consult two particular outside groups for advice and information about how to “improve campus climate for all students.” As faculty members, we do not understand why outside groups should be required in order to observe or define hateful speech at our University. We are concerned that the occasion may arise where students object to the content of a professor’s course and enlist the help of these outside groups.  We are alarmed that you intend to rely on such groups to help you determine the appropriateness of expression of opinions on campus.

We urge you instead to rely on the resources that you already have: the faculty of the University of California. It is surely possible for the faculty themselves to understand these issues and to decide what constitutes hateful or intimidating speech and protest.  To rely on outside groups for consultation or advice risks infringing upon the right to speak freely and responsibly that both students and faculty enjoy as members of the university community.  We ask that you reconsider these aspects of your statement to the University and your undue obeisance to select outside groups.

The Board of the Davis Faculty Association

cc: Linda P.B. Katehi, Chancellor
John Meyer, Vice Chancellor, Administrative and Resource Management
Linda F. Bisson, Chair Davis Division of the Academic Senate
Bruno Nachtergaele, Vice Chair Davis Division of the Academic Senate

This entry was posted on Monday, March 26th, 2012 at 8:33 am and is filed under Calls to Action, UC Administration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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