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Media coverage of UC continued to focus on free speech as the university system launched a DC-based center to study the First Amendment and the Daily Cal took heat for a cartoon many called anti-semitic. In an interview with the LA Times, UC President Janet Napolitano explained the thinking behind the center, saying, ““The students themselves are raising questions about free speech and does it apply to homophobic speech, does it apply to racist speech? We have to consider the student concerns but return to basic principles about what free speech means and how do we better educate students about the extent of the 1st Amendment.” The advisory board of the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement (to see the center’s website, click here) includes former US Senator Barbara Boxer, conservative columnist George Will and Tamara Keith, NPR’s white house correspondent, among others.
In related news, the Daily Cal removed from its website and apologized for a cartoon that depicted retired Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. The cartoon reportedly intended to depict the hypocrisy Israel-supporters display toward Palestine. In a letter to the editor, Chancellor Christ asked, “Are you aware that its anti-Semitic imagery connects directly to the centuries-old ‘blood libel’ that falsely accused Jews of engaging in ritual murder?” The far-right website Breitbart called the cartoon Nazi-themed, a claim echoed by Dershowitz.
In other news, the melodrama within the Berkeley College Republicans continued to unspool in reporting by the San Jose Mercury News. Meanwhile, an internal audit found Berkeley is not in compliance with its $15 minimum wage. We also revisit a Daily Cal piece from last week that takes a deep dive on Cal Athletic’s debt, the largest burden of any American university athletics department.
Continuing this blog’s focus on the debate over free speech, five pieces on the topic are highlighted, including commentary from Yale Law Professor Robert Post, part of a back and forth debate with Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky. In the piece, Post argues, “Underlying Chemerinsky’s [claim that free speech must be protected vigorously on campus] is the assumption that speech within the university (and outside the classroom) is the same as in the public sphere. But the root and fiber of the university is not equivalent to the public sphere. ” A piece in the New Yorker explored the controversy stemming from an invitation Bard College extended for a conference at its Hannah Arendt Center to a member of Germany’s far-right AfD party (which recently won seats in the Bundestag). Other pieces touch on the First Amendment in the digital age and a congressional hearing on campus speech.
Free Speech Center & a Cartoon
10/26 – UC, roiled by 1st Amendment controversies, to launch national free speech center (LATimes): The article frames the center’s launch as a response to political clashes at and around UC Berkeley, though the piece notes such controversies are happening across the country, though Berkeley has become a symbol of the times.
10/26 – University of California to open free speech center in Washington DC (SFGate): The center will be funded with donations and fundraising.
10/27 – Editorial: University of California’s commitment to free speech is badly needed (SDUT): The paper’s editorial board, often critical of Napolitano, praises UC’s president for her leadership on free speech.
10/27 – University of California launches First Amendment center to study free speech (Breitbart): The far-right publication’s coverage of the launch is fairly straightforward, though the organization leads its post with an image of a fire from Milo Yiannopoulos’s first aborted campus appearance.
10/26 – Cal’s student newspaper apologizes for cartoon after backlash (SFChronicle): The paper’s Editor-in-Chief wrote, “The criticism we have received reaffirms for us a need for a more critical editing eye, and a stronger understanding of the violent history and contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism. We appreciate those who have reached out offering to help us better our understanding of these issues. We will be taking them up on the offer.”
10/29 – UC Berkeley Paper Apologizes For Anti-Semitic Cartoon (Breitbart): The article quotes Dershowitz as saying the cartoon was “a hard Left neo-Nazi cartoon,” thus continuing a trend of the right turning the criticism’s of the left back on the left.
10/28 – Bitter feud divides Berkeley College Republicans as the club’s future hangs in the balance (SJMN): According to the piece, “In the past, the student club was a quiet group of Ronald Reagan admirers who talked about issues such as free trade. In the last year or so, however, a vocal contingent of members have sent the club lurching to the right and into the spotlight.”
10/25 – UC Berkeley not in compliance with 2015 fair wage plan, internal audit finds (DailyCal): The issue was not limited to Berkeley, but appears to be a problem across the UC system.
10/19 – ‘An impossible situation’: Cal Athletics gets $20M bailout from chancellor’s office (DailyCal): Cal Athletics will receive $20 million from the chancellor’s office, which pushes the total amount of bailout funding to $100 million since 2010. According to the piece:
According to a department financial report, Cal Athletics expects to pay about $18 million annually in interest until 2032, when the principal of the debt kicks in. Payments will then jump to more than $25 million per year and gradually inch close to $40 million. For reference, the total revenue for Cal Athletics in the 2016 fiscal year was about $86 million.
In total, Cal Athletics holds more than $400 million in debt, the most of any athletic department in the country, almost entirely from the renovation and seismic retrofitting of the stadium and construction of its athletics complex. Bloomberg News has called the debt “crippling.” Deadspin ran a piece this summer with the headline, “Cal Is Fucked Because Of Its Stupid Stadium Deal.”
10/25 – Op-Ed: There is no 1st Amendment right to speak on a college campus (Vox): To drive home his point, Post shares the following example, “To give a simple example, students are free to march with candles chanting, “No means yes, yes means anal,” in a park. The First Amendment gives them the right to do so. But no sane university would tolerate a student group marching through its campus shouting this ugly slogan (as some male students once did at Yale). “
10/26 – Column: Does the Far Right Have a Place at Academic Conferences? (NewYorker): The piece argues that making room in academia for far-right thinking could be dangerous.
10/27 – Op-Ed: How Twitter Killed the First Amendment (NYT): The author, a professor of law at Columbia, considers the inadequacy of the First Amendment for our Internet age.
10/27 – Congress Rallies Around Campus Free Speech (IHE): The article covers a congressional hearing that touched on the Charles Murray fiasco at Middlebury college.
10/29 – Blog Post: The Problem with “Taking Offense” (Academe): The post considers the way framing student activism as a matter of “being offended” undersells the legitimate complaints of students.
Over the week, the student journalists at the Daily Cal published a number of well-reported pieces, including an article on a power struggle within the Berkeley College Republicans student organization. The group is marred by a split between a rising “alt-right” wing and those who claim fidelity to established Republican doctrine, a divide that resembles what the GOP is facing nationally. In a separate piece, the paper reported that Cal Athletics will receive $20 million from the chancellor’s office, which pushes the total amount of bailout funding to $100 million since 2010. In another piece, the paper documented how severe the university’s reliance on corporate research sponsors has become: industry funds have grown from $32 million in FY 2007 to $72 million in FY 2017, a figure that accounts for around nine percent of all new research awards. Among the donors are Altria, which owns Philip Morris. The online version of the article has a very detailed visualization of funding sources and receiving departments, which is worth taking a close look at (scroll to the bottom of the article).
In other news, UC President Janet Napolitano emphasized the university’s commitment to survivors of domestic abuse in a Huff Po op-ed and an interview with the Daily Cal. In the op-ed, Napolitano writes, “UC is setting clear expectations, demanding accountability, communicating about services we provide for survivors of violence, and much more.” The interview is worth a close look, as Napolitano also touches on recent security costs for right-wing speakers and the possibility of tuition hikes.
Gov. Jerry Brown surprised a number of commentators when he vetoed a bill that “would have codified into law controversial guidance issued by the Obama administration’s Department of Education on Title IX,” according to the Atlantic. Brown said his veto was driven by concern about due process rights for students accused of sexual misconduct, a concern more often voiced on the right than left. In a less surprising move, the governor signed a bill that covers tuition for first-year community college students.
Gainesville, Florida became the focus of the campus free speech debate last week, as white supremacist Richard Spencer made an appearance at the University of Florida. After his talk was cut short by hecklers, The Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece exploring how some campuses have made moves to limit heckling, which is often employed to silence speakers. UF President W. Kent Fuchs called the costs of providing security “unfair,” though he looks wise for taking the threat of violence seriously, as Spencer supporters allegedly fired a gun at protestors. Away from the Sunshine State, the University of Chicago hosted a closed-door session for campus leaders to discuss free speech.
Daily Cal on a Roll
10/15 – Berkeley College Republicans president impeached by secretary amid power struggle (DailyCal): The student who led the ouster of the organization’s president accused his colleague of turning the organization into a “troll factory.”
10/19 – ‘An impossible situation’: Cal Athletics gets $20M bailout from chancellor’s office (DailyCal): As Cal Athletics struggles with its debt, the article notes, “Major cuts to Cal Athletics could be on the way in the coming months. Teams might be removed, rosters may be reduced and Edwards Stadium could be turned into housing.”
10/13 – Industry-funded research takes on a larger role on a cash-strapped campus (DailyCal): According to the piece, “For every dollar that was awarded to STEM recipients from 2014 to 2016, less than 3 cents were awarded to non-STEM recipients.”
10/18 – Napolitano: University of California and State Leaders Work to Enhance Public University Support for Survivors of Domestic Violence (HuffPo): The piece makes the case that UC is making progress on the issue.
10/13 – Transcript: Napolitano talks DACA, sexual harassment and tuition (DailyCal): Napolitano calls the aborted “Free Speech Week” at Berkeley exceptional:
(My) thought process was that the campus was making the right decisions. In other words, even though the campus and its leadership disagreed vehemently with the views of the speaker, they were still views that were entitled to First Amendment protection, they were speech. But it seemed that the expenses that were being borne by the campus were exceptional. Normally, campuses pay for their own security expenses — we don’t pay for that as the Office of the President.
But there’s always room for exceptions to the general rule, and the combination of Shapiro plus Milo (Yiannopoulos) and “Free Speech Week” seemed to me to be a set of exceptional circumstances where we could — the Office of the President should — pitch in and help.
10/19 – An Unexpected Ally for Betsy DeVos on Campus Sexual Assault (Atlantic): The article quotes Brown as noting, “(T)houghtful legal minds have increasingly questioned whether federal and state actions to prevent and redress sexual harassment and assault—well-intentioned as they are—have also unintentionally resulted in some colleges’ failure to uphold due process for accused students.”
10/13 – Jerry Brown signs bill to make community college free statewide for first year (SFGate): The bill will save students about $1,000 their first year.
10/18 – University Chief: Security Cost for Spencer Speech ‘Unfair’ (NYT): Costs were estimated to be $600,000.
10/19 – Heckling Is a Staple of Controversial Campus Speeches. Should Colleges Intervene? (Chronicle): The University of Wisconsin disciplines students who heckle speakers.
10/20 – White nationalist shot at protesters after Richard Spencer speech in Florida, police say (LATimes): The alleged shooters were quickly arrested driving away from the scene.
10/16 – Presidents and Provosts Gather to Consider Free Speech Issues (Inside|HigherEd): Some attendees pushed against the portrayal of college students as sensitive “snowflakes,” a term popular on the right.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law this weekend which imposes strict new budget transparency rules on the University of California, a response to a highly critical state audit that argued UC hid $175 million in reserves. The UC system disputed the audit’s framing, conceding the budget may have been hard to read, but resisting the characterization that money was concealed. In response to allegations UCOP interfered in the audit, the bill also prevents campuses from coordinating with UCOP when the state auditor’s office requests information.
In a follow-up to a piece from last week, Fox News reported on the harassment of conservative students on Berkeley’s campus. This week’s article frames such students as a persecuted minority, writing, “(Conservative Berkeley undergrad Jonathan) Chow is not like most of his fellow students. He’s part of a small minority of seemingly marginalized students at one of the largest universities in the U.S. He’s a conservative.” The article quotes Steven Hayward, a senior resident fellow at the Institute for Governmental Studies.
“It’s certainly not easy,” Hayward, a conservative, told Fox News. “There are not many conservative students — and those that are conservative are, many times, afraid to speak for fear of being mocked or trolled by their fellow students.”
In other news, UC Berkeley’s endowment office hired a new chief investment officer, who comes to campus from the University of Washington. At UC Davis, a professor was forced to return $1,000, which he had received as reimbursements for limo rides.
In the realm of free speech, Wendy Brown and Judith Butler both published reflections on the path forward in the Trump era as part of The Big Picture, a symposium organized by Public Books and NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge. Brown considers what the definition of freedom promoted by the right conceals, while Butler explores the repercussions of Antifa’s tactics on the broader left community. Meanwhile, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was prevented from speaking at Whittier College by right-wing protestors, flipping a script that usually pits left-wing campus activists against conservative thinkers. Meanwhile, the White House suggested UNLV investigate a professor who linked the shooting in Las Vegas to Trump’s election. And at Drexel, a professor whose outspoken positions have earlier attracted controversy was suspended for what the university claims is his own protection.
10/14 – After scathing audit, UC will have to be more transparent in reporting costs (LATimes): The bill will further require UC to “use publicly available financial information when it publishes its biennial report on the costs of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.”
10/12 – Conservative students at UC Berkeley face everything from insults to threats of violence (FoxNews): The article ends with a nice glimmer of productive introspection:
(“Free Speech Week”) also highlighted a divide among the school’s conservatives that some blame for the ramping up in the harassment aimed at the group.
Chow, who has been a member of BCR for two years, said the organization’s new leadership is taking the group in a different direction – now it focuses on bringing in provocative speakers with far-right views and creating pet projects like the Berkeley Patriot. He said the group now seems more interested in sparking controversy than making positive changes.
“They are all about creating outlandish remarks and trying to pull off these outlandish events,” Chow said, “… there is hypocrisy on both sides.”
10/11 – UC Berkeley Finds New CIO at University of Washington (Institutional.Investor): The Berkeley Endowment Management Company oversees $1.8 billion.
10/12 – UC Davis professor charged school almost $1,000 for limo trips, audit says (SacBee): The audit report into the matter does not name the professor.
10/10 – Wendy Brown – The Big Picture: Defending Society (PublicBooks): UC Berkeley Professor Wendy Brown argues that the political right’s embrace of a neoliberal conception of freedom has obscured the connection between the broader social good and freedom. In particular, she is critical of the right’s move to cover white nationalism and patriarchy in the guise of free speech. In response, she argues:
…we may still want to extend to all the right to speak and assemble. Or we may want to consider that the West’s first known democracy, in ancient Athens, did not feature free speech but isegoria, equal speech, the right of every citizen to be heard in assemblies concerning public policy. It did not feature freedom from state interference but isonomia, equality before the laws of the state. It did not feature managed and bought elections, but isopoliteia, equally weighted votes and equal access to political office. Democracy in its cradle was not rooted in individual license but in freedom resting on three pillars of political equality.
If we cannot afford stupidity about how profoundly neoliberalism has stripped freedom of the context and culture that make it an element of justice and popular sovereignty, we also cannot cede freedom to the right, to neoliberalism, and to the white nationalism daily attracting new recruits in the Euro-Atlantic world. Plutocrats, nativists, and fascists have grabbed freedom’s mantle to attack democracy, but we cannot fall into the trap of opposing it in the name of other values—security, safety, inclusion, or fairness. Rather, our task is to challenge the neoliberal and right-wing discourse of libertarian and market freedom with a discourse that relinks freedom with emancipation (and thus with social justice) and with democracy (and thus with political equality).
10/13 – Judith Butler – The Big Picture: Protest, Violent and Nonviolent (PublicBooks): UC Berkeley Professor Judith Butler argues that debates over the appropriateness and effectiveness of Antifa’s violent tactics fail to consider the “radical exclusions” from American democracy that contributed to Trump’s rise. As Butler contends:
A minority elected this government, which means that the electoral result signifies a crisis in democratic politics. Violence only compounds the sense of hopelessness and skepticism about the possibility of practicing democracy, when that is precisely what we need most: the exercise of judgment, freedom, and power within the sphere of politics that can activate the true majority to drive Trump and his crew out of office.
Again, one can argue against violence both on principle and on practical grounds. It is of course ironic, if not appalling, that the members of the Black Bloc, a group of mainly white men emphatically able-bodied, decided to turn the police barricades into instruments of violence and destroyed part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union on the UC Berkeley campus last spring. Did they think in advance about how painful it would be for many people to witness an attack on the building on campus that symbolizes and honors the struggle for civil rights?
10/10 – A college professor criticized Trump. Now the White House wants an investigation (Salon): The publication accuses the Trump administration of hypocrisy for criticizing the professor while also promoting free speech on campus.
10/15 – Who’s Exercising a “Heckler’s Veto” Now? (Academe): The hecklers have frequently sought attention by disrupting appearances by Democrats.
10/15 – On Missing the Point About Academic Freedom and Free Speech (Academe): The post wades into a debate about the suspension of a Drexel professor who was threatened after expressing views on the Las Vegas shooting. The AAUP weighed in to criticize Drexel for suspending the professor without due process.
Last week the student group responsible for the flubbed “Free Speech Week” asked the US Department of Justice to investigate UC Berkeley’s administration for what they claim is retaliatory behavior. The group’s lawyer alleges in a complaint that Chancellor Christ threatened conservative students with a criminal investigation based on comments she made in reference to hateful messages that appeared in chalk and on posters ahead of the planned event. Berkeley Patriot, the student organization, interpreted Christ’s insistence that the campus would investigate the messaging as a veiled threat at conservative students broadly. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Campus spokesman Dan Mogulof called the allegations ‘utterly unfounded’ and said the complaint ‘seems like a desperate attempt to avoid any responsibility for the collapse of the events.'” In an op-ed, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of Berkeley’s law school, praised Christ’s handling of the “Free Speech Week” controversy. In the op-ed, Chemerinsky wrote:
Be clear, if Chancellor Christ were to prevent particular speakers because of their offensive message, she would get sued. The speakers would win and get an injunction to allow them to speak. The campus would have to pay their attorney fees and perhaps money damages as well. The excluded speakers would be victims and martyrs. And nothing would be gained because they would get to speak anyway.
Overall, media coverage of Berkeley and debates about free speech on campus were quieted as attention once again turned to gun control following the tragedy in Las Vegas. Nonetheless, an event at the College of William & Mary sparked debate. At an event focused on the First Amendment, a member of the ACLU’s Virginia arm was prevented from speaking by Black Lives Matter protestors who were critical of the organization for its commitment to defending the First Amendment rights of white supremacists. An op-ed in the New York Times struck a sympathetic but critical tone, noting, “someone should tell (the student protestors) that if the principle of free speech is curtailed, those with the least power are most likely to feel the chill.”
“Free Speech Week” Fallout
10/4 – Conservative Berkeley students ask US Justice Department to launch investigation (SFChronicle): The article notes that Berkeley Patriot claims they cancelled the event due to the perceived threat of an investigation.
You can read the complaint here.
10/3 – Op-Ed: Why UC Berkeley was right not to ban Milo, and other lessons from Free Speech Week (SacBee): Chemerinsky also dismissed Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ assertion that free speech is imperiled on campus, saying such events as “Free Speech Week” are intentional spectacles.
10/3 – Op-Ed: Millions for security, cuts to critical theory program underscore need for transparency (DailyCal): Two doctoral students bemoan cuts to the Program in Critical Theory and the obscure decision-making that led to the downsizing. The authors contrast the decision with the public affirmation the university made to fund security for the recent string of right-wing appearances.
9/20 – UC system will chip in at least $300,000 to help Berkeley pay security costs for controversial speakers (LATimes): In a news item this blog originally missed, the UC system chipped in $300,000 to help Berkeley pay its recent security bill.
10/5 – Antifa stalking UC Berkeley’s conservative students, group says (FoxNews): Berkeley College Republican members have had their locations Tweeted by Antifa-affiliated accounts.
10/6 – Op-Ed: The Worst Time for the Left to Give Up on Free Speech (NYT): The author contends, “When disputes about free speech are adjudicated not according to broad principles but according to who has power, the left will mostly lose.”
10/5 – ACLU Speaker Shouted Down at William & Mary (IHE): Students reportedly chanted “ACLU, you protect Hitler, too.”
While “Free Speech Week” was called off, a number of small rallies drew protestors from opposite sides of the political spectrum to Sproul Plaza last week. A large police presence, reserved in anticipation of “Free Speech Week,” was visible throughout campus and a handful of arrests were made following scuffles. However, the national media paid little attention to events on campus after the much-hyped parade of high profile conservative speakers was cancelled, instead shifting their attention to consider free speech in the context of NFL protests.
In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, Chancellor Christ contrasted the appearance by Ben Shapiro, who was invited by the Berkeley College Republicans, with “Free Speech Week,” which was driven by a small and largely inactive student group, Berkeley Patriot. Christ called the latter event a “fiction” meant to provide a useful narrative for the alt-right, while the former event realized its stated purpose, namely providing an opportunity for a conservative thinker to share his views on campus. Christ’s further said she suspects Berkeley Patriot never intended for their event to occur, a view backed up by email records obtained by the San Jose Mercury News. In an email exchange with campus leaders, one of the invited right wing speakers, Lucian Wintrich, wrote, “It was known that they didn’t intend to actually go through with it last week, and completely decided on Wednesday.”
The big picture emphasis on free speech in the national media was driven in part by a speech Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave at Georgetown University. Sessions declared, “A national recommitment to free speech on campus and to ensuring First Amendment rights is long overdue.” While the right attacked campuses for supposedly not embracing free speech, a number of commentators called out the apparent hypocrisy of conservative commentators, who during the week were critical of high-profile protests by NFL players. A number of pieces exploring the issue of free speech are included in this week’s news summary on the Our University blog. While the featured writers dismiss the speech of Milo and his coterie as hollow grandstanding, a number are critical of the reception mainstream conservative thinkers receive from student activists.
The Week That Wasn’t
9/26 – Berkeley’s Leader Saw Hints That ‘Free Speech Week’ Was a Stunt. Here’s Why She Planned for It Anyway (Chronicle): Christ emphasized how the campus went of its way to help the group behind “Free Speech Week,” though she now doubts the group ever intended to hold the event:
“We took extraordinary measures to try and accommodate them even though they missed all these deadlines. And we have spent extraordinary resources, not just in money for security, but in people’s time, and the amount of administrative attention this has received.”
9/25 – UC Berkeley’s ‘Free Speech Week’ officially canceled, appeared to be set-up from the start (SJMN): A lawyer for Berkeley Patriot denies Wintrich’s account, saying the group planned to go ahead with “Free Speech Week.”
9/25 – And the point of all this was what exactly? (SFGate): Sociologist David Meyer who studies social movements said Milo’s appearance, albeit brief, was a victory for the provocateur.
9/28 – Milo, Ann Coulter and the “Free Speech Week” Add Up to the Right’s Best Troll Yet (Wired): The article outlines the strategy behind the alt-right’s focus on Berkeley. Namely, appearing on a campus famed for its commitment to free speech forces the university to shell out large sums of money for security, which often prevents violence, but nonetheless provides the right with the optics they crave.
9/26 – Column: The Milo Yiannopoulos shtick shows the disconnect between Berkeley students and the meaning of free speech (LATimes): The article suggests the climate on campus is not conducive to views that go against the grain. The writer notes the difference between the abhorrent rhetoric of the far right and the main stream right, asking if the latter is welcome.
9/26 – Scuffles break out during far-right march in Berkeley; at least 3 arrested (LATimes): The article describes a campus protest by the right wing group Patriot Prayer and scuffles with counter protestors.
9/26 – Confrontations Result in Arrests During Patriot Prayer March in Berkeley (NBC/BayArea): Three were arrested at the Patriot Prayer rally.
9/27 – Berkeley: Suspicious package defuses latest free speech protests (SJMN): A rally that pitted left and right wing protestors against each other was dispersed by police due to a suspicious package.
9/27 – Antifa leader, teacher Yvonne Felarca arrested at ’empathy tent’ Berkeley brawl (FoxNews): The conservative news outlet highlights the arrest of a local Antifa leader who has become a symbol of the movement within right-wing media channels.
Free Speech in Focus
9/26 – Sessions’ Justice Dept. Will Weigh In on Free-Speech Cases. What Should Campuses Expect? (Chronicle): Sessions announced the Justice Department plans to “enforce federal law, defend free speech, and protect students’ free expression from whatever end of the political spectrum it may come.” However, a number of the institutions the Justice Department has singled out maybe surprising, including Boise State, Clemson and Georgia Gwinnett College. The Justice Department last week filed a statement of interest regarding a case against Georgia Gwinnett last week.
9/26 – Sessions Calls for ‘Recommitment’ to Free Speech on Campus, Diving Into Debate (NYT): You can read Sessions’ prepared remarks in full here.
10/1 – Flip-Flopping on Free Speech (NewYorker): Historian Jill Lepore writes “An unwillingness to engage with conservative thought, an aversion to debate, and a weakened commitment to free speech are among the failures of the left.” While she rejects the claim made by those on the right that conservatives are interested in promoting free speech, she is quite critical of left’s drift away from the lessons of Mario Savio and Harry Edwards.
9/28 – Why We Must Still Defend Free Speech (NYRB): The ACLU’s national legal director argues that while free speech is difficult in such an unequal society, a commitment to its defense is our best bet for preserving democratic pluralism, defending the most marginalized and avoiding violence.
9/26 – A Nation of Snowflakes (Atlantic): The columnist probes the role of the Trump-era state in silencing free, writing, “The boundaries of free speech that elements of the conservative movement mean to set delineate a world in which the state protects the right to discriminate against religious, ethnic, sexual, and gender minorities, and those who choose to protest such treatment can be easily marginalized with public opprobrium or state violence if necessary.”
9/26 – Why Banning Speakers Is Absolutely Wrong (Academe): The author takes a very critical view of a letter Berkeley faculty, students and staff signed calling for a boycott during “Free Speech Week.” The author, TK, writes, “Calling for a campus boycott with the goal of banning certain events and certain speech is an attempt at repression.” He also dismisses claims that “Free Speech Week” posed a threat to students covered by DACA.
9/27 – Free Speech Then and Now: The FSM and the Alt-Right on Campus (Academe): The author, a professor of English, explores how speech on campus has changed under neoliberalism and the embrace of corporate-style techniques for controlling behavior.
“Free Speech Week” is off. Following a series of conflicting media reports, it emerged that the student organization that had hastily invited a parade of alt-right speakers to campus for a week-long event had backed out. After hosting a video-press conference on Saturday, event headliner Milo Yiannopoulos appeared on campus Sunday without the backing of any student organization. The university spent an estimated $800,000 to muster a police force for the event, which was largely peaceful despite a large contingent of protesters and a smaller but sizable coterie of right-wing activists. During his brief speech, Yiannopoulos made a sex joke and invited his supporters to pray. After interacting with supporters for about 15 minutes, he was whisked away in a GMC Yukon parked outside Barrows Hall. The student organization behind “Free Speech Week” has reportedly filed a civil rights complaint against UC Berkeley for denying their First Amendment rights. The campus was posed to spend millions on security to ensure the week could occur safely.
Turn-of-the-screw stories detailing the on-again-off-again drama of “Free Speech Week” overshadowed two incidents in which individual members of the Berkeley community were harassed by “Free Speech Week” participants. In one incident, posters from the David Horowitz Freedom Center accused community members of supporting terrorism. In another incident, Yiannopoulos posted information online about two students who had been critical of Free Speech Week.
While “Free Speech Week” monopolized media attention, two stories concerning UC’s financial situation made the news. According to the Daily Cal, the administration is considering cutting funding for Berkeley Connect, a program that unites graduate student mentors with undergraduates. The program not only helps undergrads navigate Cal, but also provides funding to graduate students. A Daily Cal editorial urged the administration to protect the program.
Meanwhile, the LA Times reported that over 5,400 UC retirees take in annual pensions worth over $100,000. As the article notes, “Someone without a pension would need savings between $2 million and $3 million to guarantee a similar income in retirement.” According to the paper, “the number of UC retirees collecting six-figure pensions has increased 60% since 2012.”
Free Speech Sunday
9/21 – UC Berkeley students harassed after Milo Yiannopoulos publicly identifies them (DailyCal): Yiannopoulos published photographs of the two students on social media accounts.
9/21 – Posters alleging UC Berkeley community members are ‘terrorist supporters’ appear on campus (DailyCal): Chancellor Christ condemned the posters in a campus-wide email.
9/24 – Milo Yiannopoulos’ brief visit was ‘most expensive photo op’ in Cal history (SFGate): The article offers a ticker-style update of the day’s events.
9/24 – Milo Yiannopoulos’ 15 minutes in Berkeley cost university $800,000 (SJMN): Yiannopoulos argues the campus prevented his supporters from making it to his speech.
9/23 – Yiannopoulos pledges to speak on UC Berkeley campus Sunday, welcome or not (SFChronicle): In a video conference on Saturday, Yiannopoulos said:
We are going to be hosting an event come hell or high water. We will be expressing our constitutional rights to free speech, free expression, on Sproul Plaza, the home of the Free Speech Movement, tomorrow as planned, with or without student help, with or without the cooperation of UC Berkeley itself. The administration has done everything in its power to crush its own students’ aspirations. UC Berkeley has a deservedly poor reputation for free speech.
9/22 – Milo Yiannopoulos’ ‘Free Speech Week’ At Berkeley Falls Apart, Organizers Say (NPR): The article highlights the confusion around what led to the downfall of Free Speech Week.
9/24 – In Sad, Sad Press Conference, Milo Says ‘Free Speech Week’ Is Now Just One Measly Rally (HuffPo): Yiannopoulos appeared beside an anti-Islamic activist and a noted conspiracy theorist and “mens’ rights” activist.
9/22 – Berkeley Patriot files civil rights complaint against UC Berkeley (DailyCal): The complaint is included as a PDF in the story.
9/22 – Let Right-Wing Speakers Come to Berkeley? Faculty Is Divided (NYT): The article highlights a debate among faculty members over how the campus should respond to the incursions of extreme right-wing speakers.
9/23 – Organizers call off far-right festival at UC Berkeley; some speakers plan rally on campus on Sunday (LATimes): The article notes that the 11 members of Berkeley Patriot were divided over whether to cancel the event. The article also cites information that indicates the event was cancelled earlier than acknowledged, though Yiannopoulos denies the claim.
9/22 – Student Organizers Cancel ‘Free Speech Week’ Events at UC Berkeley (KQED): KQED was one of the first outlets to report the cancellation, though their initial report was refuted by some involved upon publication.
9/22 -‘Out of control situation’: Uncertainty looms over cancellation of ‘Free Speech Week’ (DailyCal): This article highlights some of the confusion in the press over whether the event was cancelled following KQED’s report.
9/19 – Press Release: ACLU of Northern CA Corrects the Record on Berkeley Patriot Statement as Reported on KQED’s The California Report (ACLU/NorthernCalifornia): The statement notes the legal organization is not involved in helping Berkeley Patriot.
9/22 – Confusion reigns as far-right Berkeley ‘free speech week’ approaches: Coulter won’t be coming (LATimes): The article notes that one of the event’s planned headliners, Ann Coulter, “never” planned to attend.
9/18 – Milo Yiannopoulos’ far-right Berkeley event is set to occur at birthplace of 1960s free speech movement (LATimes): The article notes Yiannopoulos’ attempts to leverage the history of Berkeley’s campus.
9/16 – ‘Failure to confirm’: Berkeley Patriot loses Zellerbach, Wheeler auditoriums for ‘Free Speech Week’ (DailyCal): One of the first dominoes to fall in what eventually became the cancellation of Free Speech Week.
9/19 – Op-Ed: There’s no crisis of free speech. Milo’s campus crusade is rank hypocrisy (TheGuardian): The author calls the perception of a threat to free speech a myth.
9/24 – UC is handing out generous pensions, and students are paying the price with higher tuition (LATimes): The paper highlights what it frames as excessive benefits:
Nearly three dozen received pensions in excess of $300,000 last year, four times as many as in 2012. Among those joining the top echelon was former UC President Mark Yudof, who worked at the university for only seven years — including one year on paid sabbatical and another in which he taught one class per semester.
9/19 – Editorial: UC Berkeley is considering defunding valuable mentoring program. This is a mistake (DailyCal): The editorial cites research showing the program boosts transfer student GPAs.