Media Coverage 10/23/17

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.”

President Napolitano

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. 

Gov. Brown

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.

Free Speech

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.

 

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Media Coverage 10/16/17

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.

UC News

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.

Free Speech

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.

Media Coverage 10/9/17

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.

Free Speech

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.”

 

Media Coverage 10/2/17

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.