Tag Archives: University of California

Napolitano and the Decline of Berkeley

Complicity or incompetence: those two alternatives describe a good deal of policing in the Bay Area these last few years. Peter Shrag writes, “California or even the whole West Coast is in a liberal bubble in the age of Trump” and that “the Bay Area is a bubble within a bubble”—as manifested by its leaders’ politically correct deference to violent mobs from the left. Schrag notes how Oakland’s authorities have “fuss[ed] with their agenda of political correctness” while downtown businesses in the city have been repeatedly vandalized since the Occupy protests of 2011. Rioters shut the Port of Oakland, the nation’s fifth busiest. The Oakland Police Department is notoriously undermanned, mostly to the detriment of minority neighborhoods, while the city authorities spend $300,000 a year for a department of Race and Equity.

Schrag puts it nicely: “On April 27, when Anne Coulter was supposed to have spoken, and when militants threatened more violence, UC and Berkeley in effect confessed their role in allowing the disturbances of the prior months.”

Their delay in doing their duty, however, is going to cost California taxpayers half a million dollars to reimburse neighboring police agencies. Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern estimated the cost to his department at about $80,000, a sum he expects the University of California to pay. UC, at the time of this writing, does not have an official estimate of the total cost. It says it is working with other agencies for eventual reimbursement.

This, however, is only one manifestation of the way the University of California mismanages its affairs. Another was uncovered two days before the April 27 demonstration, with the release of a state audit of the finances of the UC president’s office.

Related: UCAL Regents Strike Back at Napolitano

The University of California, Berkeley denies free speech to selected individuals and groups by deferring to left-wing terror tactics. As a corollary, the university administration has encouraged lawlessness that endangers both individuals and public property. Furthermore, by permitting the metastasizing politicization of the university, the University has both violated its fiduciary responsibility to the taxpaying citizens of California and betrayed its mission as an institution of higher education.

To put the violation of fiscal responsibility in perspective, let’s go back to a case at UC Davis in 2011. Students staged a sit-down protest on campus to protest a hike in fees.

When the campus police ordered them to move, they refused to do so. Instead of carrying the protestors away, as has been done in the past, one officer used pepper spray to disperse the crowd. A recording of the incident went viral over the internet, which caused an image problem for the university. To counter the negative effects, Chancellor Linda Katchi used public money to hire a Maryland public relations firm to help scrub the internet of references to the protest.

This by itself raised ethical questions. An investigation conducted by Melinda Haag, former United States Attorney for San Francisco, uncovered further irregularities, which led UC President Janet Napolitano to describe the chancellor’s administration as “deeply flawed.” It showed “poor judgment,” she said, and “violated multiple university policies, misled, even lied to, superiors, the public, and the media.”

Katchi offered her resignation, which Napolitano immediately accepted.

At the same time as the free speech and violence issues erupted, a series of audits had uncovered poor judgment in Napolitano’s own office. In 2017, Assemblymen Phil Ting (D-San Francisco, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee) and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) called for another audit, this time over concerns about increased university spending and rising tuition and fees. Elaine Howle conducted the audit and released it two days before the scheduled demonstration in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The audit showed that Janet Napolitano’s office used poor judgment and had violated ethical standards. It had also misled the public, the media, and her superiors at the UC Board of Regents. The investigation further revealed mismanagement, waste, and a cover up. State legislators proclaimed their ire in a two-hour grilling of Napolitano.

A Slush Fund Discovered

While the UC system struggled with a $150 million deficit, Napolitano’s office had spent lavishly on perks such as expensive parties. It had also increased spending on cell phones, iPads, and other such devices. Her administration also paid its bloated staff higher salaries than those of their counterparts in the California State University system and the state government. At the same time, Napolitano’s office had been calling for yet another hike in tuition and fees—which had doubled since 2006-2007. Moreover, the president’s office had amassed a hidden slush fund of $175 million.

California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who also sits on the UC Board of Regents, had said that Trump’s threat to withhold federal funds from the university “is asinine” and “showed zero awareness of the real-world,” and that to do so “would only create more innocent victims [the students] and more Trump carnage.” But, then, what had Napolitano and her administration done to students when they spent lavishly and hid money for their own use while raising student tuitions and fees? Newsom, of course, deplored the situation uncovered by the audit, saying that it was “outrageous.” But what else could he say?

He also treated Napolitano with deference, blaming the situation not on her but on the faceless bureaucracy. “I remain a supporter of Janet’s and her office,” he concluded. “I still believe in her.” He was still confident, he said, that she “has the political skills to smooth things over with the legislature. The fact that she hasn’t, doesn’t mean that she won’t and can’t.” Newsom found a (nameless) scapegoat while closing party ranks in defense of his fellow Democrat.

Even more serious than hidden funds, excessive salaries, and extravagant perks were the auditor’s conclusion that the “Office of the President intentionally interfered with our audit process,” which prevented “us from drawing valid conclusions.” The auditor had sent confidential surveys to each of the UC campuses to learn more about the system’s finances and expenditures, and to determine if there was any duplicate spending. Napolitano’s office appeared to have tampered with the results.

Republican Assemblyman Dante Acosta said, “Often, where there’s smoke there’s fire. Here I think we might have a mushroom cloud.”  And indeed, there was, for emails reported by the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that administrators at UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, and UC Irvine had removed statements critical of Napolitano and her staff at the direction of Napolitano’s office. Furthermore, her office had arranged a system-wide conference call to coordinate responses among campuses, when the surveys were supposed to have been independent and confidential.

‘Outrageous Tampering’

Howle said that this “tampering was outrageous and unbelievable,” while Ting compared Napolitano’s office’s actions to those of a professor who “magically … changes the grade [of a failing student] and passes the student.” When some lawmakers at the hearing asked Howle about the possibility of criminal violations, she replied that she didn’t know, because she wasn’t an attorney, but that in her seventeen years as auditor she hadn’t seen “interference of this kind.”  Ting, along with other Democratic Assembly members, plans to introduce a bill in the Legislature to create penalties for obstructing the state’s auditor. Some Republican legislators have called for a subpoena of documents from the president’s office, while Democrats want stricter controls over how state money is spent by the university.

Democratic Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon told the Los Angeles Times that he is “frustrated with the lack of communication coming out of the office of the president.” Governor Jerry Brown said that the state would withhold $50 million dollars from the university until it reduces its spending, and Democratic Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva called on Napolitano to resign, saying, “President Napolitano no longer engenders the public trust required to perform her duties.” An ironic echo of what Napolitano herself had demanded of UC Davis Chancellor Katchi.

Assemblyman Ting also said that “the fact that the president already tampered with a state audit is very serious,” and that the Board of Regents should look into the matter. Assemblyman Acosta said of the regents that he is “a little shocked at how out of touch they have been,” for it is their duty to oversee the operations of the sprawling UC system. But Monaca Lozano, chair of the Board of Regents, like Lieutenant Governor Newsom, defended Napolitano. Lozano said that she stands with the president, who has harnessed the university’s size and brain power to take on “great social challenges.” Lozano did not elaborate on what that means, or on why educational and financial challenges seem to take second place in Napolitano’s administration. Lozano instead said that “we have confidence in [the president’s] leadership,” and called Napolitano “a capable and effective leader.”

What will happen now? Napolitano will probably continue in office. Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist, now at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California, told the East Bay News Group that it is understandable why people would want to avoid open conflict with Napolitano. “She might be wounded at the moment,” he said, but “she’s going to recover, and she probably has a long memory, so there’s not much incentive for anyone to get in her dog house.”

In the light of all this uncomfortable publicity, the Board of Regents agreed to hire an outside consultant to investigate interference in the audit. This issue is too big for them to ignore—although they continue to disregard the decline in UC student performance and the increasing politicization of the university.

The Role of the Regents

The University of California holds a prominent and privileged place within the three-tiered system of public higher education in California, a system of mass higher education that has been described as a model for the world. At its base are community colleges that are conveniently located and affordable, offering courses required for the first two years for the bachelor’s degree, as well as technical and vocational courses of study. The next level is the California State University (CSU) system, which offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the liberal arts, the sciences, business, teacher training, nursing, engineering and other technical specialties. At the pinnacle of the pyramid is the University of California, which offers degrees from the BA to the Ph.D., as well as degrees in law and medicine. UC also carries on high-level scientific research on its ten campuses, as well as in the three laboratories that it supervises.

In 1879 the legislature made UC an autonomous branch of the California government, “equal and co-ordinate with the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive,” to be overseen by a Board of Regents whose members are appointed from among the citizens of the state. The board of regents thus functions within the state government in a manner similar to that of the boards of directors of business corporations. The Board’s autonomy was intended to insulate the university from the control of politicians. It is obvious from the results of the state audit that the board has failed to exercise either its fiduciary duty to the taxpayers of California or its obligations to its students.

As State Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) said, the Board has been “tone deaf” in its approval of decisions by the administration, such as when it raised the pay of its staff while cutting student services and raising tuition. As a remedy, she has proposed a constitutional amendment that would change the status of UC, and bring it more in line with the relationship that exists between the legislature and the CSU.

The only objection to such a measure is the one that led California to grant UC autonomy in 1879:  weaken the university’s autonomy and it will become vulnerable to political meddling. Yet, as demonstrated at length in the National Association of Scholars’ (NAS) report Crisis in Competence (CIC): the Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California (2012). the university has already become steadily politicized: not by meddling politicians, but by its own faculty and administrators.

CIC’s lead author was John Ellis, a former dean of Graduate Studies and Research at UC Santa Cruz, and then president of the California Association of Scholars, the California state affiliate of the National Association of Scholars. CIC notes the fall in measurable skills among students, along with reduced study-hours by students and reduced academic expectations by the faculty. CIC stated that as the public becomes increasingly aware of that slippage, it will recognize that college increasing lacks the capacity to improve reading, writing, or reasoning skills much less to provide the general knowledge necessary for success. Adding insult to injury, this collapse of UC’s academic quality has been accompanied by ever-rising tuition.

CIC then states that the collapse of college education in California has come about in large part because of politicized teaching, which has led to a shift in instruction from how to think to what to think. The report extensively substantiates that claim and recommends that the University of California take a different direction in its teaching. The report was addressed to the UC Board of Regents, the body responsible for the quality and the reputation of the university.

Rather than placing the points made in the report on the agenda for discussion, Ellis says that the regents were evasive, “ducking and weaving” to avoid the evidence, acting not as watchdogs in the interest of the university and the public, but rather as lapdogs of the administration that they are supposed to oversee. The regents can’t avoid addressing their failure with respect to financial problems and the way the administration has deceived them, but they can and will dance away from the question of politicization and its effects on the educational quality and the reputation of the institution for which they are responsible.

UC’s ideological conformity, appeasement of leftist violence, bloated administration, left-leaning faculties, political correctness, censorship, and self-serving administration are all connected to one another as part of a general decline of higher education at the University of California. But UC is not alone. As Stephen Hayward puts it, UC is just “a microcosm of an American higher education archipelago of ideological intolerance and detachment from reality,” in which the university “can’t control its spending and won’t control its kooks.”

The Ideal and the Real

Robert Gordon Sproul, after whom the UC Berkeley administration building and the plaza are named, was the president of the University of California from1930 to 1958. During that time the university transformed itself from a regional university to a nationally respected institution of higher education. UC then exemplified the ideal of what a first-rate university should be. Since the 1960s, however, UC and its peers across the country have abandoned that ideal. Universities today, says Victor Davis Hanson, are Potemkin villages: “their spires, quads and ivy-covered walls are facades” that mask a crisis not only of free speech but also of university finance, plummeting test scores, grade inflation, and student debt. UC is scarcely worth attending anymore.

  1. R. Reno, editor of First Thingswrites, “American elite universities today are cold, soulless places” because “they’re run for two purposes, both of which treat students as means, not ends in themselves.” One of those purposes is to “provide legitimacy to the American ruling class,” and the second is to “promote the greater wealth and glory of the university itself.” At one time the best American universities were quite explicitly for the social elite. During a brief meritocratic interlude, these universities sought out and welcomed the most qualified students, regardless of their background. After the 1960s, the elite universities returned to group consciousness in the form of affirmative action admissions—a policy designed to legitimate the university on the grounds of “social justice.”

Elite universities continue some meritocratic recruitment; if they didn’t they couldn’t maintain their status as premier academic institutions. They also continue to serve America’s elite, recruiting their less stellar children via the rubric of legacy admissions. The extension of meritocratic recruitment to foreign students now helps these universities to brand themselves for the global marketplace. Publicly funded universities also often give preferences to out-of-state and foreign students, since they pay higher tuitions than in-state students.

The problem with racial and ethnic preferences, however, is that far too many minorities have been brought up in conditions where education is not emphasized and where schools are poor, thus putting promising minority students at a disadvantage in the faster paced elite institutions. Thomas Sowell coined the term “mismatch” for such policies, policies which assert the social virtue of the university at the expense of students. Professor of law and economics at UCLA Richard H. Sander and legal journalist Stuart Taylor Jr. conducted a study that showed that mismatch indeed very often works in that way.

Reno says that admissions, therefore, serve the university’s purpose, not necessarily that of students and the public, by ensuring that “the establishment’s power remains legitimate,” and that the elite university itself remains “super-eminent”—and well-funded. Universities, he says, are thus on a trajectory to “becoming rigid, mechanical and artificial communities dominated by rent-seeking faculty, populated by alienated students, and governed by administrators,” and thus unable to “attract loyalty” or to “create a culture for the future.”

Student alienation manifests itself in several ways. One is when the doctrine of permanent victimhood and identity politics (which the university promulgates) leaves many minority students seething with resentment rather than focused on the advantages that American society offers. This doctrine orients minority students towards divisive race-based identities rather than towards a unifying identity as Americans. Since these alienated students know quite well that university administrations will yield to their demands because of their privileged position within the institution, many have banded together in organizations determined to impose their will on compliant institutions.

Takeover at UC  Santa Cruz  

The latest example at UC took place this April at UC Santa Cruz. There, the African Black Student Alliance (ABSA), a racially defined organization, occupied the administration building, while accusing the university of fostering “a hostile climate.” The protesters locked the doors and plastered the windows with posters, saying that they would disrupt university administration until their demands were met. Those demands centered on segregated campus housing and ABSA-designed mandatory propaganda sessions for all incoming students. Chancellor George Blumenthal was willing to negotiate. He was afraid, however, to go near the occupied administration building. Instead, he met with ten representatives of the group in another building, where he submitted to all ABSA’s demands.

Press interviews of students revealed other forms of alienation. Some who supported the protesters identified with their cause, saying that the climate on campus was indeed hostile, no matter what the administration, faculty, and students did to make them feel welcome. And some white students who agreed in principle with diversity ideology were puzzled by the fact that certain groups wanted further special treatment when so much is already being done for them.

In sum, universities have become institutions run by the administration for the administration’s own purposes, much as corporations are run by their managers and boards of directors, while the politicization of the faculty and the resultant student alienation remain unaddressed. The high costs of college education and rising student debt also remain unaddressed. With every passing day, the taxpayers of California are given further reason to doubt the value of a UC college education—for which they pay so dearly.

The long march of the authoritarian left has succeeded in capturing the institutions of higher learning, and they have imposed their anti-liberal and anti-intellectual agenda upon institutions that once supported a free marketplace of ideas. Illiberal administrations and boards of directors disregard the missions of the institutions they are charged with governing. These institutions are financed by student tuitions and fees, by donations from alumni, businesses, and philanthropic organizations, and by taxes, government subsidies, and tax-funded grants. Perhaps it is time to rethink our unquestioned support of institutions that are failing to fulfill their missions in so many ways.

Excerpted with permission from the author and the site of the National Association of Scholars.

Thumbs on the Racial Scale at UCLA, Berkeley

It appears as though the University of California succumbed to the  relentless pressure from the California legislature to discriminate more effectively against Asians and whites, i.e., to admit more Hispanics and blacks.

The headline of a Los Angeles Times article announces that “UCLA, UC Berkeley boost admissions of Californians, including blacks and Latinos.”  The article reveals, however, that its head should have read especially blacks and Latinos. “The Westwood campus offered seats to 624 African Americans, or 6% of all California freshmen, representing a 37.7% increase over last year.” According to the most recent census figures blacks make up 6.2% of California’s population.

Unless one assumes whites are disproportionately dumb, UCLA’s discrimination against them this year seems to have been quite effective. 38% of California’s population (2015) is “White alone, not Hispanic or Latino,” but only 24.6% of the California students offered admission are white.

As usual, however, Asians are the big losers when numbers of blacks and Hispanics go up. This year “their share of the campus’ admitted freshmen class shrunk from 42.3% to 39.5%.”

Here are two possible explanations of these results. We report; you decide.

  1. Over the past year, the proportion of bright, qualified black applicants has dramatically increased while the corresponding proportion of whites and Asians has declined.
  1. Admissions officials have placed their thumbs not so gingerly on the racial and ethnic scales.

Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, UCLA’s vice provost for enrollment management, stated that “I’m really pleased we’re making progress and we’re showing we can make a difference.” It shows we can do this if we have the will.” She added that UCLA ”does not raise the entry bar for Asian Americans,” since “considering race and gender in admissions decisions at public universities has been banned since passage of Prop. 209 in 1996.”

But where there’s a will there’s a way. In that regard, see “Prof Charges UCLA Admissions Cheating, Resigns From Committee” and “UCLA: Lying Scofflaw.

UCal Regents Strike Back at Napolitano

On September 17 a committee of the Regents of the University of California discussed at their regular meeting a proposed “Statement of Principles against Intolerance” that had been drafted and offered for their approval by President Janet Napolitano and her staff. The Regents resoundingly rejected the draft, by implication questioning Napolitano’s judgment that it was worth their time. Items on the Regents’ agenda rarely attract public attention, but this one was different. Before the meeting the Regents received thousands of communications objecting to the statement, and both before and during the meeting there was severe criticism by individuals, organizations, and Regents.

Both state and national press reported on the event, but these accounts seemed in some ways confusing because the statement was criticized for two quite different reasons. Some thought the statement went too far, while others thought it didn’t go far enough. The latter wanted stronger action against campus anti-Semitism, while the former saw in the statement a threat to the free expression of ideas. But both wanted it withdrawn.

To fully grasp what happened at the meeting we need to understand that two different developments on the UC campuses, involving very different kinds of people, led up to the meeting. The one involved an ugly series of anti-Semitic incidents on the campuses. The other was a movement to identify and stamp out “microaggressions.”

The anti-Semitic incidents were well documented, and persistent. There have been painted Swastikas, graffiti expressing Nazi sentiments (e.g., “Hitler was right” and “Zionists should be sent to the gas chambers”), vandalizing of a Holocaust Museum, physical threats and even physical attacks. In particular, students wearing the Star of David are often menaced or assaulted. In one case a student was surrounded by angry Muslim students who threatened to kill him. Before the meeting over 100 UC faculty wrote a letter to the Regents expressing alarm at campus anti-Semitism, and noting that too often criticism of Israel crosses the line into attacks on Jews as people.

The campus climate is also influenced by bias in many classrooms, where treatments of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute commonly fall short of what competent academic inquiry must be: a sober presentation of all the relevant historical facts (not just those that favor one side), and of how those facts are interpreted by all the major participants. Instead, lectures and readings often present only one interpretation, and therefore only the evidence that supports that interpretation.

Microaggression Hunters

At the meeting, Regent and former Democratic Assembly Speaker John Perez laid to rest any possible doubts about the authenticity of these campus reports when he coolly said that he himself had witnessed actions on a variety of campuses which by any reasonable person’s definition were anti-Semitic. But perhaps the most compelling incident was the UCLA student Council’s vote to deny Rachel Beyda’s proposed appointment to its judicial Council on the grounds that she was Jewish.

The Nuremburg laws at UC? (The vote was hastily reversed only when the majority began to understand what this would cost them.)   The microaggression hunters, on the other hand, seemed to need a microscope to find what they were looking for. They wanted to see intolerance, bigotry, racism and sexism in all kinds of seemingly innocuous everyday language, so that, for example, to say “the most qualified person should get the job” must be interpreted as covert aggression and bigotry towards minorities, and not (as we always thought) simply the expression of a common view of an important question in social policy.

The common expression “America is the land of opportunity” might seem benign to most of us, but for the microaggression people it too carried dark implications of bigotry. And if a professor notices a minority graduate student looking lost in the corridors of a campus science building and offers help, that too is a microaggression, because the implication is that the student is really there to break into one of the labs. The draft statement offered a real gem: calling disabled people disabled would be a microaggression too.

Invisible Bigotry  

Side by side, the two situations formed an odd contrast. The microaggression hunters strained to find bigotry that nobody else could see, but managed not to notice all too real, well-documented bigotry and aggression that horrified others. They were quick to notice the slightest hurt to anyone’s feelings in some cases, but couldn’t see real emotional anguish even when it was repeatedly brought to their attention. What explains the exaggerated zeal in the one case, and total lack of concern in the other?

First of all, microaggression theorists have a finite list of groups that are oppressed and need protection, and Jews are not on their list.  (History is not their strong suit.)   Another motivating factor is surely a desire to narrow the range of permissible expression on campus. People who have reasoned doubts about affirmative action, or who think the free market a powerful force for the good, would be effectively silenced if the microaggression theorists had their way.

Finally there is the fact that on the modern campus denouncing racism and sexism seems to satisfy a deep-seated need for moral self-congratulation, though it is now terribly hard to find much of it there: campuses are devoutly politically correct places. Hence the frenzied attempts to find even the faintest traces of the sins that can afford the delights of ritual moral preening.

Common Sense

Needless to say, whenever accounts of microaggression theory come to the attention of the general public, the common sense of those who don’t live on campuses comes into play: the public finds all of this so stupid as to border on demented. And for everyone but the tiny charmed circle of microaggression obsessives, there is no need for any more nuanced judgment.

While both strands of campus life fed into what happened at the Regents’ meeting, only one of them actually provoked the session. The clamor at widespread, gross campus anti-Semitism became so great that something obviously had to be done about it.  But—and this is the crucial point for an understanding of what happened at the meeting—while anti-Semitism, not the notion of microaggressions, sparked the need for the meeting, Janet Napolitano assigned the drafting of the statement to the wrong side: she gave it to the microaggression theorists. She had recently created the new position of Vice-Provost for Diversity and Engagement (at a salary around $200,000), and the first appointee to that title is UC’s premier advocate of microaggressions. Predictably, microaggression people wanted to use the occasion to advance their own ideas, and so the draft was heavy on microaggressions, and didn’t even mention anti-Semitism.

This couldn’t have been a simple misjudgment on Napolitano’s part, for she is herself heavily invested in microaggressions. Earlier this year she set up a series of seminars on each of the ten campuses in which microaggression theory was relentlessly pressed on deans and department chairs. When protests arose about the inanity of the content of these meetings, Napolitano had her staff claim that the seminars had been purely voluntary. But that was a lie. In her letter of invitation to the seminars she had spoken firmly of “the seminar you will be attending,” and bluntly informed everyone that she had asked to be informed of attendance on each campus. Attend, or else, was the clear message.

Dodging Anti-Semitism

Reaction to the draft at the Regents’ meeting was withering.  Many Regents were openly contemptuous of a statement that avoided any real engagement with campus anti-Semitism.  Regent Norman Pattiz set the tone, leading off his remarks by asking: “What is this? It doesn’t say anything about anything.” He went on to say that it was “insulting” to the people who had brought the problem to the Regents.

Pattiz was clearly angry at UC’s attempt to dodge the problem of anti-Semitism, and the next three Regents explicitly associated themselves with his devastating remarks. The remaining five who spoke took essentially a similar view. John Perez called the statement a “whitewash…one which essentially says nothing,” and just walks away from offensive behavior. Bonnie Reiss lamented the fact that the statement gave no indication that the Regents had listened to the complainants. Bruce Varner said that we needed a statement that dealt with the real issue. And the student Regent, Abraham Oved, said that he had tried to make suggestions to the Vice-Provost who was drafting the statement, but was rebuffed.

Regent Richard Blum even went to the extraordinary length of saying that he had discussed the draft with his wife (US Senator Diane Feinstein), and that she planned to comment publicly about the university unless it produced something much better than this. As a UC faculty member I’ve seen 10 Presidents come and go, and don’t recall any of them being treated with such contempt.

Volokh’s Reaction

People concerned about the free expression of ideas on campus had been just as disturbed. A few days before the meeting, free speech theorist Eugene Volokh had published a highly critical analysis of the draft: . But though it was the microaggression silliness in the draft that prior to the meeting had most attracted adverse comment by those concerned about free expression, it was barely mentioned at the meeting, except in so far as the statement was repeatedly denounced as meaningless and empty.

Evidently, all present felt that that was all the commentary that microaggression deserved. Apart from issues of substance, the statement was also a confused and contradictory mess. It claimed to honor free expression while attempting to restrict it. It claimed not to be punitive while condemning certain expressions as unacceptable. As staff work it was lamentably incompetent, and yet Janet Napolitano thought it good enough to place before the Regents.

The furor at the meeting was a humiliation of Napolitano, and she knew it.  She responded to the discussion only with a short, halting, barely coherent comment. But then the next blow fell: the Regents took the whole matter out of the President’s hands, giving it to a committee that they would set up expressly to deal with it, one composed of Regents, faculty and students. Napolitano and her Vice-Provost for Diversity and Engagement would no longer be in control.

Grasp of Free Expression

The result of the meeting was in one way encouraging for UC. The university community and the Regents had recognized the draft for the absurdity that it was, and demanded better.  And the Regents had done what governing boards so rarely do:  they had intervened decisively after it had become clear that the administration could not or would not do the right thing.

What particularly impressed me was Regent Perez’s clear grasp of the nature of free expression indispensable to campus life, and of the need for firm action on anti-Semitism but only within the limits of that framework. University spokesmen never came close to this level of analysis and understanding.   What was not so encouraging was that UC’s President had been unable to recognize empty verbiage when she saw it, that she had committed herself unequivocally to the foolishness of microaggression theory, and that she was wasting a great deal of the university’s time and money on it.

When Napolitano was appointed, doubts were expressed about the appointment of a political figure with no experience in academic institutions. What has now become clear is that things are much worse than that. To debate the pros and cons of Napolitano’s performance in restrained academic fashion, setting out logical points for and against, would not really do justice to the situation. Only some rather more blunt language will do that: the meeting at which Napolitano presented her draft statement on intolerance brought shame on a great University, and a realization that it now has a politically correct president who is not up to the job.

The University of California Does Not Like Criticism

“A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California,” a recent report from the California Association of Scholars (CAS), detailed the radicalization and decline of the once-great UCal system. Charlotte Allen wrote about it here.

Continue reading The University of California Does Not Like Criticism