Davis Faculty Association

Letter expressing concern over the draft UC Davis Freedom of Expression Policy

The UC Davis Blue Ribbon Freedom of Expression Committee has drafted a campuswide freedom of expression policy and is soliciting input. The draft policy is available online at:

http://manuals.ucdavis.edu/200-75draft.htm

(The above page also lists methods for members of the community to provide feedback, including a series of forums.)

In response, the DFA board has submitted the following letter:

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Dear members of the Blue Ribbon Freedom of Expression Committee:

The Davis Faculty Association has grave reservations concerning the draft UC Davis Freedom of Expression Policy. While the DFA recognizes the importance of maintaining an environment in which the core educational and research missions of the campus can flourish without undue disruption, this must be balanced against the equally important goal of encouraging and protecting open discussion and debate. Indeed, this is an absolutely essential part of the functioning of the university as a crucible for the development and testing of new ideas. The current document fails to properly balance these two considerations, nor does it follow recommendations from both the Senate Special Committee on Freedom of Expression Report and the Robinson-Edley Report to discuss civil disobedience as a particular category that has brought about beneficial changes.

Specifically, the draft UC Davis Freedom of Expression Policy (i) opens by paying lip service to the right of free expression, but fails adequately to follow up and affirm those rights in a positive way in its subsequent articles; (ii) contains a disturbingly long litany of restrictions on free speech. Of the seven subsections, A-G, in the “Policy” section (section II), five explain and defend *restrictions* on freedom of expression. So does the entire content of section III. Many of these restrictions are so vaguely worded that they seem likely to apply to virtually any sort of campus gathering.

That this document unduly emphasizes the restriction of freedom of expression strikes the DFA as especially inappropriate and ironic given the Pepper Spray Incident of November 2011. In that event, and its emotional aftermath, UCD students exercised their rights to freedom of expression with a truly amazing dignity and concern for safety of others. Given that history of responsible student conduct, the tone and content of this document are puzzling.

The DFA urges that this document not be adopted, and, instead, be recast in a way which more accurately reflects the rights and protections for free expression which are so valued on a university campus, as well as the history that UCD students have in the responsible and safe voicing of their opinions.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 at 7:20 am and is filed under Faculty Governance, Student Issues, UC Administration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Comment to “Letter expressing concern over the draft UC Davis Freedom of Expression Policy”

  1. May 13th, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    As the World Turns: Spinning the Idea of the University As We Know It – Social Text says:

    […] and its proposed “Freedom of Expression” policies—seem designed to thwart any desire to confront and critique the University, making it almost impossible to present anything on the campus without prior approval from “the […]

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