Media Coverage 5/22/17

The flood of news concerning the UCOP audit slowed to a trickle this week, though the repercussions of an earlier audit made news. The Regents approved a cap on nonresident undergraduate enrollment, a policy change spurred by a 2016 audit that found in-state students were disadvantaged in the admissions process as UC sought the financial benefits of out-state-students. System-wide, UC’s undergraduate student body is about 16.5 percent nonresident. The cap will allow the proportion to grow to 18 percent at five campuses currently below that threshold. Four campuses—Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego and Irvine—exceed that limit. Instead of being forced to cut down on the proportion of nonresident students, these campuses will be capped at their current level. The Regents considered an even more lax plan, but withdrew it from consideration after lawmakers expressed exasperation, citing constituents with high-achieving high schoolers who had been denied admission to the state’s premier higher education system. As part of a deal with Gov. Brown, the system should now receive an additional $18.5 million in funding, money that will be used to fund the enrollment of additional resident undergrads, according to the Sacramento Bee.

News about the more recent UCOP audit focused on a Regents meeting which protestors briefly shutdown. The protestors were there to criticize UCOP for what the audit characterized as excessive compensation. The Regents voiced their support for President Napolitano at the meeting, pushing back against some aspects of the auditor’s characterization of UCOP’s budgeting practices. In an op-ed, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-South Gate) urged the Regents to more closely monitor UCOP.

In other news, Gov. Brown’s May budget revision makes the receipt of $50 million contingent on three conditions:

  1. State Auditor Recommendations: In an April 2017 report, the State Auditor identified a number of problems with the UC Office of the President (UCOP), including the office’s staffing size and costs, spending on systemwide programs, and overall budget. The Auditor’s report included dozens of recommendations designed to enhance transparency, operational performance, and state oversight. The Auditor called for these recommendations to be implemented over a three-year period (between April 2018 and April 2020). The May Revision would link budget-year funding with UC’s implementation of the April 2018 recommendations.
  2. Transfer Enrollment: The May Revision also expects all but two campuses (Merced and San Francisco) to enroll at least one new transfer student for every two new freshman students for the 2018-19 academic year. That is, at least one-third of each campus’s new resident undergraduate enrollment would need to be transfer students. This target is intended to align with policies called for in the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education. In 2015-16, 31 percent of UC’s incoming resident undergraduates were transfer students.
  3. Activity-Based Costing:  The May Revision’s final condition is for UC to pilot activity-based costing at three campuses. The purpose of activity-based costing is to identify program- and course-level costs of providing instruction and other services to students. Currently, one pilot is underway at the Riverside campus, and two campuses (Merced and Davis) have completed scoping studies for pilot programs

The Legislature is debating the budget, which has a June 15 deadline for passage.

Non-Residents

5/18 – UC pulls back welcome mat for nonresident students with first enrollment cap (SacBee): The article notes that nonresident enrollment increased rapidly during the recession, when the UC system saw its budget sharply cut. However, as the budget has recovered, nonresident enrollment has not slowed. Two Regents voted against the measure, with at least one casting their vote to signal support for more out-of-state students and the diversity they bring.

5/19 – UC leaders to cap nonresident student enrollment in 2018 (SFGate): The article notes UC enrolls more resident students than peer public universities.

UCOP

5/18 – UC regents defend Napolitano, thank auditor for probe (SFGate): The Regents pushed back on the auditor’s characterization of funds being hidden.

5/17 – UC students protest hidden funds, shut down regents meeting (SFGate): Protestors briefly shut down the Regents meeting, calling out President Napolitano for the perceived excesses of her office.

5/17 – UC regents meeting disrupted by protests over state audit finding of undisclosed surplus (LATimes): “Shame on you, Janet Napolitano. Shame on you, UCOP,” one student said at the meeting.

5/16 – Op-Ed: Speaker Rendon: In wake of audit, UC Regents need to wake up, better oversee President Napolitano and roll back tuition hike (SJMN): In his op-ed, Rendon wrote:

Regents must also demand transparency. We must receive clear, quality information and timely answers to our questions. That’s the only way to make informed budget, personnel and policy decisions.

I am frustrated with what Napolitano’s office has communicated and not communicated to the State Auditor, the public and the students. I will be ready with tough questions at the meeting. Legislators have to hold the Regents accountable, and the Regents have to hold the President accountable. That is what will bring lasting change.

Budget Revision

5/15 – State of California: LAO Budget Revision Analysis (LAO): The UC information is on page 26 of the report.

Media Coverage 5/15/17

A week-long parade of bad press following the state audit of UCOP has put questions about President Janet Napolitano’s leadership front and center. One lawmaker has already called for the former governor and Homeland Security secretary to step down. Gov. Jerry Brown is even in the mix, saying $50 million will be withheld from UC if the system doesn’t adopt the audit’s recommendations. In an op-ed, Napolitano said her office is in the process of implementing the changes. She struck notes of both apology and defiance, saying that things could have been done better, but insisting the audit’s implications of hidden money are fiction. Despite the negative news, Regent Richard Blum has called the criticism over the reserve fund “utter nonsense” and added he believes UCOP’s account of allegations concerning interference with the audit.

Nonetheless, concerns about UCOP meddling in the audit have led the Regents to vote to bring in an independent investigator to look into the interference claims. The San Francisco Chronicle reported three campuses changed responses in ways that painted UCOP in a better light, a finding that elicited harsh criticism from lawmakers. In response, Democrats have proposed making such interference a criminal offense.

Making matters worse, another story from the San Francisco Chronicle highlighted the high costs of retirement parties for UCOP employees, including one in 2015 with a bill of $4,200. The article also notes the $11,500 monthly rent on Napolitano’s Oakland apartment, though UCOP emphasized the space is used for official business and is paid for with private funds. Buried in the story is a note that iPads and cell phones have cost UCOP $2 million over a four-year stretch, a 29 percent increase. During the same period, the State of California was cutting cell phone costs by about 30 percent.

Amid the audit dustup, UC has also proposed a more politically palatable out-of-state student cap. Earlier, the university proposed capping the system-wide proportion at 20 percent, but after facing criticism, they’ve moved the cap down to 18 percent. Just as before, this new cap would not be enforced at campuses which currently exceed the limit.

Audit Fallout

5/11 – Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget holds back $50 million from UC to ‘hold their feet to the fire’ on reform (LATimes): Brown questioned the salaries of UC administrators and said his move would “hold their feet to the fire.”

2017-18 May Budget Revision

5/10 – Janet Napolitano, the ‘Political Heavyweight,’ Now Finds Herself Under Fire (Chronicle): This overview of Napolitano’s recent trials includes the amusing understatement: “Given the audit’s findings, however, (Napolitano) foresees spending more time working with state legislators to explain how the system is adopting the changes recommended in the audit.”

5/9 – UC audit reveals president’s office has extravagant taste (SFChronicle): UCOP spent $4,200 on a single retirement party in 2015. Between 2014 and 2016, at least 20 parties cost over $500. Additionally, UCOP spent $13,000 on dinner and security at a celebration of two departing Regents, though the money came from private sources.

5/10 – Op-Ed: UC president responds to critical audit (SFChronicle): Napolitano notes the suggested reforms will be implemented but emphasized the scope of UC’s responsibilities and questioned the audit’s characterization of its findings.

5/12 – $350 hotel nights, limo rides in Europe: UC audit finds more questionable travel expenses (LATimes): The LA Times piles on with more accounts of lavish spending, including a stay at a luxury hotel in Baltimore. UCOP notes no other hotels were available.

5/11 – California State Assembly member calls for Janet Napolitano’s resignation (DailyCal): Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) has called for Napolitano to step down. The article also quotes student leaders who are critical of the system president.

5/11 – UC regents take first steps to investigate alleged interference in state audit surveys (LATimes): The Regents will hire an independent investigator to look into allegations that UCOP interfered with the state’s audit. Napolitano says she supports the move.

5/14 – Column: Key UC regent is standing by Napolitano (SFChronicle): Regent Richard Blum called the brouhaha over the reserve money “utter nonsense.”  Blum used colorful language to describe Lt. Gov. Newsom’s characterization of the audit’s finding.

5/11 – A Cloud Over the University of California (NYT): The California-focused daily newsletter from the New York Times highlighted the system’s woes.

5/14 – Closer look at $175 million UC hid from the public (SFChronicle): A closer look at the “hidden” $175 million, which UC insists wasn’t hidden. The vast majority of the funds have been allocated, including money for food pantries and sexual harassment training.

Audit Interference?

5/10 – 3 UC campuses change responses in state auditor’s survey (SFChronicle): The article relies on records from the audit:

The surveys and previously unreleased emails show that administrators at UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego and UC Irvine removed criticism of Napolitano’s office or upgraded performance ratings in key areas at the direction of Napolitano’s staff. The interference — including a systemwide conference call conducted by the president’s office to coordinate responses among all campuses — prompted (State Auditor) Howle to discard all the results as tainted.

“The tampering is absolutely outrageous and unbelievable,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, who requested the audit last year with Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, amid concerns over increased spending and rising tuition and fees. Napolitano oversees an office with a $686 million budget and nearly 1,700 employees.

5/9 – After blistering UC audit, interfering with state auditor could become crime (SJMN): Republican lawmakers are calling for a subpoena of relevant documents from UCOP’s offices.

5/9 – After UC probe, interfering with state auditor could soon be a crime (SacBee): The plan by two Democrats to introduce a bill is intended to clear up any confusion over whether such interference is criminal.

Out-of-State

 

5/9 – UC revises its plan to limit the share of spots going to out-of-state students (LATimes): UC has lowered the proposed cap on out-of-state students from 20 to 18 percent, though the four campuses above that limit would be able to maintain their current levels. Berkeley’s undergraduate population is 24.4 percent out-of-state.

 

Media Coverage 5/8/17

UC President Janet Napolitano answered questions  from lawmakers about a scathing state audit of her office during a legislative hearing Tuesday. Reviews of her response to the audit—which contends UCOP has been hiding money, overpays its employees and interfered with the auditors’ survey of employees—were very critical. A column in the LA Times emphasized how UCOP has become a bloated administrative office while academic staff have limped along at the system’s ten campuses. Even worse, the column contends, the audit undermines Napolitano’s credibility as a champion of public higher education, an institution under threat from a number of directions. After Tuesday’s hearing, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on emails that suggest Napolitano misled lawmakers about her interference with the auditor’s investigation. UCOP has stated Napolitano’s testimony, which emphasized that her review of auditor surveys was intended to guarantee accuracy, was truthful. In particular, the Chronicle article shows Napolitano wanted survey responses that had already been turned in to the auditor withdrawn. During the hearing, Napolitano said she did not ask campuses to withdraw their responses. The issue has received attention across the media spectrum, even appearing in a Breitbart article.

In other news, overtime costs for law enforcement from the Coulter protests totaled $500,000, an amount UC Berkeley may be on the hook for according to one report. Meanwhile, The Chronicle of Higher Education revisited the Katehi scandal at UC Davis and found the ousted campus president is bitter about the events that led to her downfall. Adding to the string of bad publicity, news broke that 25 retired UC employees are receiving pensions of over $300,000. In good news, a study found Berkeley is the number one pipeline to Silicon Valley.

The Audit

5/5 – Column: The audit of UC’s management shows that the real threat to higher education is inside the house (LATimes): Not only the does the column hammer Napolitano for her mismanagement, it argues that the bad press makes it hard to the UC leader to effectively lobby for the UC system:

What the report and the responses demonstrate is that UC, once the jewel among U.S. public universities, is not in good hands. A thorough housecleaning is in order. That’s not merely because of flaws in the UC administration’s spending and accounting, but because those flaws undermine the administration’s ability to make the case for UC’s mission and protect the system from its enemies.

5/5 – Editorial: Answers from UC’s Napolitano do not engender confidence (EastBayTimes): The editorial takes a similar stance as the LA Times, arguing that Napolitano’s office must be reigned in.

5/3 – Emails raise questions about Napolitano’s testimony on audit (SFChronicle): The article shows emails suggesting Napolitano asked for survey responses to be withdrawn from the auditor, contradicting testimony she gave to lawmakers.

5/3 – Assembly Speaker: “Not Our Desire” To Strip UC’s Constitutional Independence (CapRadio): Democratic Speaker Anthony Rendon has not embraced calls to remove UC of its independence despite being worried by the audit’s findings.

5/2 – Lawmakers grill University of California chief over audit (AP): An overview of the hearing.

5/4 – Cal Legislature Testimony: UC’s Napolitano Interfered with Audit (Breitbart): The alt-right outlet covered the audit outcry in a fairly by-the-books manner, mirroring the reporting found in mainstream outlets.

Watch the Tuesday hearing here (the link is near the bottom of the list).

Other News

5/3 – A Year After Her Ouster, Linda Katehi Still Can’t Resist a Fight (Chronicle): The article focuses on Katehi as she prepared to rejoin the university as a faculty member.

5/5 – University Of California ‘Recalled Retirees’ Receiving $300,000+ In Annual Pensions (CBS): The news comes amid questions of whether UCOP overpays its employees.

5/2- Coulter clash at UC Berkeley costly for university (SFGate): The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said overtime costs from the Coulter protest, reflecting the efforts of a number of agencies, cost $500,000. According to the article, UC Berkeley is working to reimburse the involved agencies.

5/2 – A public university sends more grads to Silicon Valley’s tech giants than any Ivy League school (BusinessInsider): San Jose State came in at number eight, while Berkeley led the way.

5/5 – Strawberry suit: UC Davis and former professors clash over who owns the fruits of research (AP): The article includes a number of good puns, while also raising the question of to whom does the rewards of publicly-funded research belong.

Media Coverage 5/1

While the press cheered the nonviolent nature of Thursday’s protests, commentators characterized recent events as signaling the decline of free speech on campuses. Meanwhile, a scathing audit by the state on UCOP’s finances raised questions about whether recent tuition hikes were necessary. Calling to mind disagreements over an earlier state audit concerning non-resident enrollment, UCOP pushed back against the report’s findings, calling them misleading and over-the-top. Say what you will about university rankings, but for a bit of good news, Berkeley leads the nation for balancing excellence and affordability, according to a report by Forbes.

In her report, State Auditor Elaine Howle said UCOP has hidden $175 million in reserves while also lavishly compensating employees. She further says UCOP attempted to interfere in the audit by screening employee responses to questions. UC President Janet Napolitano countered with a lengthy rebuttal, noting that the reserve fund is not secret and that the majority of the figure Howle cites is already committed to campus and student services. Napolitano also said the screening of responses was intended to ensure accuracy.

Thursday’s protests, spurred by an on-again-off-again appearance by Ann Coulter (which, in the end, was off), were largely peaceful, though police did arrest students on campus. The tone of media coverage ranged from relief due to the absence of violence, to scorn at Berkeley for dishonoring its free speech legacy, to pity for a campus caught up in a debate that has little to do with the university.

UCOP Audit

4/25 – UC kept secret $175 million reserve as it raised tuition, state audit finds (SacBee): The Bee quotes lawmakers who are critical of UCOP:

Yet Assemblymen Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, said all options are on the table. The lawmakers, who chair the Assembly Budget Committee and the panel’s education subcommittee, jointly requested the audit last August to determine if growth in staffing and spending at the Office of the President resulted in savings for campuses or duplicated work.

At a press conference, Ting and McCarty lambasted the office’s $175 million in reserves as exemplary of UC’s “mission creep” away from its primary focus on serving students. They said the money would be better redirected toward opening new enrollment slots, especially as the university returns to the Capitol each year seeking more funding.

4/25 – Press Release: UC responds to state audit report on University of California Office of the President (UCOP): The press release rebuts the audit and notes:

Just a week before the state audit report was released, three ratings agencies — Moody’s, Fitch and Standard and Poor’s — reaffirmed UC’s AA rating. Said S&P’s RatingsDirect report, “UC is sophisticated in many aspects of its financial operations, including debt and capital management, budgeting and forecasts, and centralizing expenses, which has helped maintain rating stability through the economic volatility of the past few years.”

4/5 – Letter: Napolitano’s response to a draft of Howle’s report (UCOP): Napolitano notes the $175 figure is exaggerated, and says the accurate size of the reserve fund is $38 million, which she calls a prudent size for the organization.

Also see a detailed point-by-point critique here.

4/5 – Letter: Regents’ response to a draft of Howle’s report (UCOP): The Regents take aim at a recommendation that the Legislature directly appropriate funds for UCOP, which, the governing board argues, would undermine UC’s independence.

4/27 – Big changes are needed at UC — starting with the Kool-Aid-drinking Board of Regents (LATimes): The Times has further criticism from lawmakers:

I hope the University of California is not tone deaf,” says Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, a moderate Republican from Contra Costa County. She’s vice chairwoman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. “I’m deeply troubled by this very damning report. And I say that as an alumnus of the UC Berkeley law school. It’s very easy to pile on. We should give UC a chance to respond. And it better be good.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), who sits on the UC Board of Regents, says, “We need really, really honest and straightforward answers.”

“A lot of things bother me” about the report, Rendon says, especially “charges that the UC president’s staff was obstructing the audit. That shows a tremendous need for more legislative oversight.”

Berkeley Protests

4/30 – Left, right Berkeley protesters display civility along with signs (SFChronicle): The article argues that the two opposing protest camps share a lot in common.

4/29 – Column: Berkeley a punching bag for angry people of all ideologies (SFChronicle): The sardonic column notes that Berkeley has become a symbol for every side to scapegoat:

Recent headlines should remind us Californians of yet another way we are lucky. Our state has the world’s best scapegoat: you.

You — our most distinguished public university and all the people, institutions and neighborhoods surrounding it — serve as a punching bag for angry people of all manner of ideological preoccupations. The right and the center can pin all of California’s liberal sins, real and imagined, on you. The left sees a reactionary threat in everything, from police action on or near campus, to the presence of law Professor John Yoo, who justified torture under President George W. Bush.

Yes, California as a whole takes a lot of critical blows. But can you imagine how much more bloodied the rest of our state would be if we didn’t have you around to absorb so much abuse? In recent months, as a furious world chokes on its own populist vomit, it’s been deeply reassuring to see you play your familiar role as California’s sacrificial lamb.

4/29 – Column: Ann Coulter gives readers another reason to bash Berkeley (LATimes): The article cites a variety of opinions on the matter from readers.

4/29 – Column: Berkeley, free speech and college campuses. The one thing that will change the game (FoxNews): The conservative outlet frames the episode as an instance of “progressive intolerance,” while pinning he blame for potential violence on the left.

4/27 – Column: Berkeley Forgets Its Purpose (NationalReview): The column argues that Berkeley is more interested in serving its brand and creating the next cadre of liberal elites to value free speech or a true education.

But don’t forget…

4/30 – UC Berkeley Ranked As Best-Value College In Forbes Report (CBS): UCLA came in at #2.

 

The Day After: Calm protests, a young scholar arrested

A massive police presence in Berkeley encountered two opposing but peaceful protest camps Thursday. Following the cancellation of a speech by Ann Coulter, authorities feared a repeat of the violent clashes between right- and left-wing protestors that have plagued downtown Berkeley in recent weeks. One of the points of contention is who, exactly, cancelled the appearance.

Student groups invited Coulter to speak on Thursday, but the university asked for Coulter to come at another date so that student safety could be protected. Coulter refused, and called the rescheduling an assault on free speech. A student Republican group who helped invite Coulter also took up this framing. The university emphasized its embrace of free speech while at the same time noting it’s deep consideration for student safety.

SF Gate’s take on the protests can be read here: “Calm prevails in Berkeley after cops gear up in wake of Coulter cancellation”

Even though Coulter said she would not appear Thursday despite earlier indicating she would speak on Sproul Plaza, opposing protestors stated their intent to appear, with threats of violence circulated online. Those threats went unfulfilled, though the protest by the right-wing activists included Islamophobic and racist rhetoric.

Despite the peaceful protests, police did make arrests. One Cal student, Jorge-David Mancillas, was arrested for allegedly possessing a weapon. Mancillas is a stand-out student on campus, according to the Daily Cal, and was accepted into numerous prestigious PhD programs in sociology. Students protested his arrest Thursday afternoon claiming he was racially profiled.

 

2:30pm Protest Update

A multi-agency police response in Berkeley has stood watch over largely peaceful protestors, according to media reports. Right-wing protestors have mostly gathered at Civic Center Park, across from Berkeley high. Left-wing protestors have stuck to campus, according to reports, where a large police presence is visible.

According to the Daily Cal, two arrests were made by 1 pm. The student newspaper reports:

As of 1 p.m., UCPD had made two protest-related arrests. One individual was arrested on suspicion of carrying a knife on campus, while the other was arrested and charged with wearing a mask and providing false identification to a police officer.

City and university administrators had feared a violent clash even after Ann Coulter announced she would not speak on campus. In recent weeks, violent clashes between those on the far extremes of the political spectrum erupted in downtown Berkeley. In February, a riot on campus resulted in the cancellation of a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, also disrupting a mass of students who had protested peacefully.

Based on coverage from the Daily Cal’s twitter feed (a good source of on-going coverage), some right-wing protestor have framed their protest as one in favor of free speech and dialogue while other right-wing protestors have made violent threats and outlandish claims directed at former President Barack Obama.

For more coverage, see SF Gate.

4/26/17 Coulter Update

Ann Coulter announced she will not speak on campus tomorrow after two conservative groups which had backed her appearance withdrew their support. Coulter’s appearance seemed certain to induce a violent clash between those on the far extremes of the political spectrum given bloody confrontations in downtown Berkeley in recent weeks and the riot which resulted in the cancellation of a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos in February.

Coulter and conservative groups have repeatedly tried to frame the controversy as an assault on free speech, while Berkeley officials have emphasized their willingness to have Coulter speak, but only under conditions where student safety could be ensured. Coulter refused the university’s invitation to speak on another date.

According to the New York Times:

Late on Tuesday, the conservative group that was helping Ms. Coulter in her legal efforts to force Berkeley to host her, Young America’s Foundation, said it could no longer participate. ‘Young America’s Foundation will not jeopardize the safety of its staff or students,’ the group said.

The article notes that the Berkeley College Republicans, which initially invited Coulter to campus along with a nonpartisan student group, also withdrew its support. Both the College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation have sued the university, claiming it treats left- and right-wing speakers differently.

Before news broke of Coulter’s decision to cancel her appearance, Chancellor Dirks sent an email to the campus community. In the message, he stressed the campus’s commitment to free speech and safety, and emphasized how the university’s desire to reschedule Coulter’s appearance was an effort to balance the competing commitments.

You can read the full letter below:

To the Members of the Berkeley Campus Community,

As I write this, I am aware of the uncertainty surrounding Ann Coulter’s stated intention to come to campus tomorrow afternoon.  We will be sending out a separate message later today with updated information about safety arrangements, as well as our hopes and expectations regarding how members of our campus community should conduct themselves.  For now, I want to share my thoughts about all that has led up to the current situation in which we find ourselves.

This University has two non-negotiable commitments, one to Free Speech, the other to the safety of our campus community members, their guests, and the public. In that context, we cannot ignore or deny what is a new reality.  Groups and individuals from the extreme ends of the political spectrum have made clear their readiness and intention to utilize violent tactics in support or in protest of certain speakers at UC Berkeley. In early February, a speaker’s presence on campus ignited violent conflict and significant damage to campus property. In March, political violence erupted on the streets of Berkeley.  In April opposing groups again violently clashed on the edge of our campus. While some seem inclined to use these events and circumstances to draw attention to themselves, we remain focused on the needs, rights, and interests of our students and our community. We cannot wish away or pretend that these threats do not exist.

The strategies necessary to address these evolving threats are also evolving, but the simplistic view of some – that our police department can simply step in and stop violent confrontations whenever they occur – ignores reality.  Protecting public safety in these circumstances requires a multifaceted approach.  This approach must take into account the use of “time, place, and manner” guidelines, devised according to the specific threats presented.  Because threats or strategic concerns may differ, so must our approach.  In all cases, however, we only seek to ensure the successful staging of free speech rights; we make no effort to control or restrict the content of expression, regardless of differing political views.

This is a University, not a battlefield. We must make every effort to hold events at a time and location that maximizes the chances that First Amendment rights can be successfully exercised and that community members can be protected. While our commitment to freedom of speech and expression remains absolute, we have an obligation to heed our police department’s assessment of how best to hold safe and successful events.

In relation to the invitation made by a student group for Ann Coulter to speak at Berkeley this week, we have therefore to take seriously the intelligence UCPD has regarding threats of violence that could endanger our students, our community, and perhaps even Ms Coulter herself. It is specific, significant, and real.  Yet, despite those threats we have, and will remain ready, to welcome her to campus, and assume the risks, challenges, and expenses that will attend her visit.  That is demanded by our commitment to Free Speech.  What we will not do is allow our students, other members of the campus community, and the public to be needlessly endangered by permitting an event to be held in a venue that our police force does not believe to be protectable.  If UCPD believes there is a significant security threat attendant to a particular event, we cannot allow it to be held in a venue with a limited number of exits; in a hall that cannot be cordoned off; in an auditorium with floor to ceiling glass; in any space that does not meet basic safety criteria established by UCPD.  This is the sole reason we could not accommodate Ms. Coulter on April 27th, and the very reason we offered her alternative dates in early May and September, when venues that satisfy safety requirements are available.

Contrary to some press reports and circulating narratives, the UC Berkeley administration did not cancel the Coulter event and has never prohibited Ms. Coulter from coming on campus.  Instead, we received a request to provide a venue on one single day, chosen unilaterally by a student group without any prior consultation with campus administration or law enforcement.  After substantial evaluation and planning by our law enforcement professionals, we were forced to inform the group that, in light of specific and serious security threats that UCPD’s intelligence had identified, there was no campus venue available at a time on that date where the event could be held safely and without disruption.  We offered an alternative date for the event (which was rejected) and offered to work with the group to find dates in the future when the event could occur. Throughout this process our effort has been to support our students’ desire to hold their event safely and successfully. 

Sadly and unfortunately, concern for student safety seems to be in short supply in certain quarters. We believe that once law enforcement professionals determine there are security risks attendant to a particular event, speakers need to focus on what they actually want to achieve. If it is to speak to a large audience, to make a case for their positions, to engage students in discourse, we stand ready to make that work on any date when a protectable venue is available. If, on the other hand, the objective is stir up conflict and violence without regard for the safety, rights, and interests of others in order to advance personal interests we cannot abandon our commitment to the safety of our community members.

We will work cooperatively with members of our campus community who would sponsor events to ensure that those events can occur and that the campus can actually benefit from the dialogue their invited speakers might generate. To this end, we are working to clarify our policies and practices so that all know what is expected and how sponsors can best engage us to facilitate the success of their planned events. We trust that cooperation and good will among the members of our own community can help us jointly defend our campus against the threats to both speech and safety currently being posed by outside groups.

Sincerely,

Nick Dirks
Chancellor