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.”

 

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Media Coverage 8/28/17

Berkeley Protest on Aug. 27

As of early evening Sunday, press reports indicate clashes between right-wing protestors and counter-protesters in downtown Berkeley turned violent, with police using tear gas to disperse the crowds. Those on the right claim they gathered to promote free speech and counter what they perceive to be the spread of Marxism in the US. Counter protestors have organized around a desire to reject what they argue is a right-wing movement centered around racism. Early reports suggest violence surged when antifa protestors jumped a barrier separating the two sides. A full report on media coverage from the protest will be included in next week’s summary.

More audits, Christ center stage, and the right-wing’s fall plans

A state audit deeply critical of UC’s payroll system was released Thursday. The report highlights not only that costs have trebled beyond projections to nearly $1 billion, but that the time to completion has been extended by five years. UC Path was intended to upgrade disparate HR systems across the system’s campuses and save money by eliminating the need for duplicate positions, but the audit says such savings “will not materialize.”

A few days earlier, the state auditor released another report that found UC failed to follow its policies regarding replacing workers with cheaper contract employees. Of 31 contracts the audit reviewed, two were found to violate rules requiring the system to provide justification for any contracts that will displace existing university employees.

The week before the two audits brought negative attention to UC, back-to-school coverage of Berkeley cheered the campus’s new leader, Carol Christ. The San Francisco Chronicle focused on the financial challenges facing Christ and the recently announced plan to reduce Berkeley’s $110 million deficit. The article notes Christ’s long tenure at the campus offers its advantages: “Many faculty appreciate that, and say she’s an insider who understands UC Berkeley’s culture and politics far better than the outsiders who preceded her.” However, the article foreshadows what may be a controversial decision to “help athletics pay the seismic retrofit portion of its stadium debt.”

In its take on Christ, the Mercury-News emphasized her status as the first woman to lead the campus, one rocked by a string of recent sexual harassment scandals. A profile in the LA Times painted a flattering portrait of Christ greeting newly-arrived freshman as they moved into Cal. The article notes her myriad professional achievements but goes on to add, “But it is her personable style, her penchant to listen and learn, and her natural instinct to connect that draw people in. Those qualities have helped stir new optimism and excitement on a campus battered by financial woesfree speech controversiessexual harassment scandals and a leadership crisis under her predecessor.” In an interview with Times Higher Education, Christ discussed the campus’s financial challenges and expressed pessimism that state funding will ever return to its historic norm.

Meanwhile, while plans to bring right-wing provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter back to campus have circulated for months, the details remain murky, according to the Chronicle of Higher Ed. The student group reportedly behind the invitation, Berkeley Patriot, may also be attempting to bring Breitbart editor and former Trump administration official Stephen Bannon to Berkeley. In an editorial ahead of Sunday’s protests, the Daily Cal criticized campus and city leaders for urging counter-protesters to stay away from the right-wing rally in downtown Berkeley. The editorial cites the recent right-wing protest in Boston which was peacefully drowned out by a sizable counter-protest.

Meanwhile, as happens annually, UC’s salary information was made public. Two former coaches earned nearly $3 million. On a happier note, UC President Janet Napolitano published an op-ed touting the system’s welcoming of 30,000 first-generation incoming students. Beyond urging other universities to reach out to first-generation students, she notes policies UC has implemented to attract and retain such students.

Audit

8/22 – New UC audit raises more questions about Office of the President (SJMN): The article on the contract audit notes a lawsuit is in the works related to the violation of protocol.

8/24 – UC’s new payroll system will cost at least $200 million more than expected (LATimes): The article notes, “As she did in that stinging audit earlier this year, (State Auditor Elaine) Howle on Thursday accused the president’s office of leaving the UC Board of Regents in the dark on the problems.”

8/24 – UC ripped again in latest audit that finds bungling of payroll upgrade (SFGate): The article notes Napolitano pointed out she arrived two years after UC Path was initiated.

8/22 – University of California system didn’t follow its own contracting rules, state audit finds (LATimes): A UC spokesperson, noting that only a few contracts reviewed violated the rules, said the contracts “generally adhered to the Office of the President’s contracting policy.”

For a copy of the full UC Path audit, click here. For a copy of the contract audit, click here.

The Right Returns

8/24 – Details on Berkeley Free-Speech Event Are Hazy, but Campus Readies for Another Fight (Chronicle): Students involved in Berkeley Patriot refused to confirm details to the paper.

8/22 – When white supremacists flood the city, Berkeley should not back down (DailyCal): The student paper argues:

“But recent events show how a bloodbath can be avoided, and it’s not by staying away. In Boston, one week after Charlottesville, tens of thousands of counter-protesters drowned out the planned alt-right rally (dubbed a “free speech” protest, which nobody’s buying). And by 1 p.m., rally attendees had slunk away before they even made the speeches they had planned, and the Washington Post reported that no one was injured.”

Carol Christ Profiles

8/15 – New UC Berkeley leader takes over as school seeks creative money sources (SFChronicle): BFA Chair Michael Burawoy is quoted as saying, “She’s been very impressive. She is so prepared to talk with everybody.”

8/15 – Meet UC Berkeley’s groundbreaking new chancellor (SJMN): The article emphasizes Christ’s long tenure at Berkeley and provides a good overview of her career and recent campus controversies.

8/18 – UC Berkeley’s new chancellor brings optimism — and a world record — to an embattled campus (LATimes): The article says Christ is planning “open hours for students, community-building events, a new blog and visits to students, staff and faculty.”

8/19 – Berkeley chancellor to focus on funding and rebuilding community (TimesHigherEducation): Christ told the website, ““I will certainly do everything I can to advocate that state funding stays stable. [But] understanding the state budget in the way that I do, I don’t think it’s likely it’s going to go back to its former levels when it was much higher.”

8/18 – UC Berkeley wants students to know it’s OK to fail (SJMN): Recognizing how many students may challenged for the first time at Cal, the campus is doing what it can to help students face and grow from setbacks.

Other News

8/21 – Here are the 5 highest-paid UC Berkeley employees last year (DailyCal): Berkeley’s former mens basketball and football coaches led the list.

8/23 – Op-Ed: How UC is Shaping the Next Generation with First Generation (HuffPo): The article notes ways UC has offered targeted support to first-generation students, including special housing at UCLA.

Media Coverage 7/3/17

UC Berkeley’s new chancellor, Carol Christ, has announced the outlines of her plan to reduce the campus’s deficit from $110 million to $57 million during the 2017-18 school year. The cut is part of a four-year deal the campus made with UCOP, though coverage by the Mercury News portrayed it as Christ’s decision. Just over half of the reduction will come from increased revenue, including gifts, Christ announced in a press release. Nonetheless, she notes meeting the goal will be “painful.” Excluded from the cuts are “contracts and grants, including research funding from non-governmental sources; all scholarships and fellowships; programs funded with student fees; all instructional salaries; and utilities.” According to the release:

The (budget reduction) targets that divisions have been assigned are highly differentiated because of the way in which we have calculated the base. Targets for instructional divisions are about 1 percent; those for administrative, research, and service divisions are between 4 percent and 5 percent. I am pleased that many instructional divisions will meet their targets almost entirely from increased revenues.

Non-academic units are meeting their targets primarily through staff and service level reductions. Our overall staff workforce has shrunk by approximately 450 FTE within the last fiscal year. Total salary growth has slowed substantially over the past two years. We experienced a high of 6 percent growth in FY 2014-15 and expect it to remain flat in FY 2017-18 compared to this fiscal year. For the coming year, with the approval of the Office of the President, the senior leadership of the campus has agreed to forgo any salary increases.

In other news, the UC system announced new policies for responding to staff and faculty sexual misconduct, including a clear timetable for investigations and the involvement of chancellor’s in approving punishment. This week’s development in the UCOP audit saga includes a failed attempt by Republican lawmakers in Sacramento to authorize a forensic audit of UCOP. Democrats insisted the office be given time to make reforms, while the LA Times quoted State Auditor Elaine Howle saying she never found anything “nefarious” in her audit of UCOP. Meanwhile, the Regents approved a joint venture with Owl Rock to create a strategic loan fund, with UC committing $100 million in equity capital.

6/27 – Incoming UC Berkeley chancellor lays out plan to reduce budget deficit (SJMN): The article infers layoffs will result from the cuts and fails to note that the cuts are part of a deal Christ inherited.

See the official UC Berkeley statement here.

6/28 – Carol Christ teases budget, plans to halve $110M deficit (DailyCal): The article notes the campus deficit is scheduled to be eliminated by 2020. In an interview with the student paper, Christ emphasized a focus on revenue-generating programs, such as “UC Berkeley Extension, Summer Sessions, self-supporting degree programs and philanthropy.”

6/29 – U. of California System Changes How It Responds to Sexual Harassment and Violence (ChronHE): The article notes some of the changes:

Clear roles and responsibilities for Title IX offices and other campus offices in the adjudication and discipline processes for cases of sexual harassment and violence.

Completion of investigations within 60 business days. And 40 days after an investigation is completed, a decision on discipline should be made. After an investigation, respondents and complainants can communicate with the decision maker about the outcome.

Review and approval by a chancellor or chancellor-designee of discipline proposed by a staff member’s supervisors. For faculty members, a peer-review committee on each campus will help the chancellor come up with a resolution that includes discipline. All complainants and respondents will be informed of any outcomes.

6/28 – Democrats block Republican legislator’s proposal for forensic audit of UC Office of President (LATimes): Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, argued such a review would bolster UC’s credibility.

6/22 – Op-Ed: UC San Diego is failing in equity and diversity (SDUT): A retired UCSD administrator argues the campus is failing Chicano students.

6/29 – Owl Rock forms loan fund with University of California Regents (Reuters): The fund will “invest in senior secured loans that are made to middle market companies or in broadly syndicated loans.”

6/29 – UC Berkeley: Free speech lawsuit is unfounded (Berkeleyside): UC Berkeley has asked a court to dismiss a free speech case raised by student groups who allege the campus blocked conservative speakers from campus.

6/28 – A possible first in Berkeley: Housing for the homeless in People’s Park (Berkeleyside): A plan to address a shortage of student housing may also include housing for long-term homeless individuals.

Media Coverage 4/10/17

According to a BuzzFeed report, UC Berkeley knew of at least three sexual misconduct complaints against John Searle, professor emeritus of philosophy, before he was sued last month by a 24-year-old woman. The suit alleges the woman was fired from a post as Searle’s research assistant after refusing his advances. BuzzFeed’s report claims that in 2014 Searle told an undergraduate he could not employ her in a research position because she was married and therefore would not be committed to the job. In 2013, Searle allegedly tried to kiss a foreign exchange student in his office. In 2004, a graduate student reported to the chair of the philosophy department that Searle had tried to play footsie with her under a table at an event for prospective students. After it appeared the university took little action in response, the graduate student transferred to another school. BuzzFeed reports that the three newly uncovered incidents were reviewed by UC Berkeley’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination. In a statement made through his attorney, Searle has denied the claims advanced in the March lawsuit, stating that he “questions the plaintiff’s motives for bringing her complaint.” The statement also notes that UC Berkeley treated any past allegations “appropriately” and that the footsie incident was “rejected by the university” after an investigation. UC Berkeley declined to comment to BuzzFeed due to confidentially concerns, but said a “rigorous investigation” into the claims related to the March lawsuit and past allegations are on-going. In other news, University of California President Janet Napolitano penned an op-ed championing the system’s research ties with Mexico, an initiative she says President Donald Trump has complicated. In another op-ed, UC Berkeley’s next chancellor, Carol Christ, and two coauthors criticized an attack by the Hungarian prime minister on the Central European University. Christ and her coauthors are trustees on the university’s board.

4/7 – UC Berkeley Was Warned About Its Star Professor Years Before Sexual Harassment Lawsuit (BuzzFeed): The article also notes that Searle is accused of inappropriate behavior in large undergraduate classes and of impersonating an offensive accent.

4/4 – Op-Ed: Hungary’s xenophobic attack on Central European University is a threat to freedom everywhere (WaPo): The authors have a harsh take on the PM’s move to limit the immigration of international students and faculty:

Let’s not sugarcoat this attempt at purging CEU. This is nothing less than an attack rooted in a xenophobic nationalism and an anti-intellectual mistrust of the conduct of free inquiry, research and teaching. The crackdown on CEU is part of Orban’s (the prime minister) larger crackdown on nongovernmental organizations and freedom of expression. In October, Hungary’s biggest opposition newspaper, which was critical of Orban, was shut down. The government has also pledged to tighten its grip on foreign-backed NGOs.

4/7 – Op-Ed: UC initiative with Mexico shows advantages of cooperation over confrontation (SacBee): Napolitano highlighted some outcomes from UC’s program in Mexico:

The initiative is now showing results, and these successes have come at a propitious time. Among the outcomes announced during this trip were a $10 million grant from Mexico’s Energy Ministry for energy efficiency projects with UC researchers, gains in combating diabetes on both sides of the border, and new student internships. A reception at UC’s Casa de California brought together more than 200 UC alumni living in Mexico who were eager to support the UC-Mexico partnership.

4/6 – UC president walks downtown Merced, future site of administrative center (MercedSunStar): A new $45 million UC Merced building in downtown Merced is intended to help revitalize the town. The university’s main campus is set off away from the Central Valley city.

4/6 – UC lead Napolitano brings can-do message to Johansen High (ModBee): Napolitano’s appearance was part of a program intended to increase the diversity and number of students applying to the UC system.

 

Media Coverage 3/17/17

Carol Christ has been appointed Berkeley’s next chancellor, the first female to hold the position. An expert on Victorian literature, Christ served as executive vice chancellor and provost for six years in the 1990s. In 2002, she left Berkeley, where she had worked since becoming an assistant professor in 1970, to become president of Smith College, a role she held from 2002 to 2013. Christ returned to UC in 2015 to lead the campus’s Center for Studies in Higher Education and became interim executive vice chancellor and provost in May, replacing Claude Steele who resigned due to a perception that he and other campus leaders were tolerant of sexual misconduct. Christ has again been called on to fill a post vacated by a controversial resignation, as current Chancellor Nicholas Dirks agreed to step down following mounting criticism around his handling of sexual misconduct and an investigation into misuse of funds. The move was met with a high-level of praise from various bodies representing campus communities, including the Faculty Senate, the BFA and the Daily Cal’s editorial board. Christ’s salary will be$532,000, the same as what Dirks currently earns. Regents approved her appointment on Thursday and she will officially take over July 1.

In other news, Assembly Democrats announced a plan to reduce student debt. The plan has four components: (1) to make community colleges tuition free for one-year; (2) to expand the Success Grants program for low-income community college students; (3) reject Gov. Brown’s proposed elimination of the Middle Class Scholarship, which covers about 40 percent of tuition for 55,000 students; (4) and to create a new Degrees Not Debt Scholarship to help with non-tuition related costs of attending a UC or CSU campus. The governor’s office has expressed skepticism about the state’s ability to fund the $1.6 billion program. Elsewhere, the UC Regents delayed a vote on the non-resident enrollment cap until May. While it hasn’t received media attention, Assemblymembers Kevin Kiley (R-Roseville) and Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) have proposed a bill that would “urge” higher education campuses in California to adopt a free speech statement similar to the one produced by the University of Chicago (which you can read here).

3/13 – Carol Christ is named UC Berkeley’s chancellor (SFChronicle): Note the following reactions quoted by the paper:

“It’s fantastic news for the campus. Carol already commands a great deal of respect from the faculty,” said Robert Powell, a political science professor who chairs the Faculty Senate on campus.

“Carol Christ’s integrity, commitment to transparency and genuine love for UC Berkeley make her a worthy choice,” said the group’s co-chair, Celeste Langan, an associate professor of English, though “we don’t expect always to agree with (her) on every issue.”

For example, Langan said, her group believes the solution to the campus deficit “is to restore full public funding of tuition, not to turn the university into a revenue-generating business enterprise.” But she said Christ, who has not advocated eliminating tuition, has “demonstrated her willingness to engage in respectful, collegial dialogue.”

Michael O’Hare, a professor at the campus’ Goldman School of Public Policy, was so enthused by her selection that he emailed lyrics from Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado,” which include the sentiment: “With joyous shout and ringing cheer, inaugurate our new career!”

O’Hare said he thinks Christ might be the first chancellor willing to slash money-losing intercollegiate athletics.

“I think she’ll have the courage to put them on a short financial leash, even if that means we have to leave Division 1, which I think would be great,” he said.

Kathryn Lybarger, a UC Berkeley gardener and president of the statewide labor union, congratulated Christ in a statement while inviting her to “join our efforts to address skyrocketing executive compensation (and) prevent outsourcing of career jobs to poverty wage contractors.”

3/17 – Editorial: Appointment of Carol Christ good for campus (DailyCal): Student editorial praises Christ for her knowledge of the campus and notes some of the challenges she may face, such a decision over whether to build a dorm on People’s Park.

3/14 – Editorial: Assembly Democrats over-promise free college (SacBee): Given uncertainty around Federal funding for social programs, now may not be the best time for a large new expenditure, the paper writes.

Also see: Official Statement

3/13 – Debt-free college? Assembly Democrats want to make it possible for California students (SacBee): The plan would cost the state about $1.6 billion, a figure the governor is citing in statements reflecting his office’s skepticism toward the state’s ability to pay for plan.

3/16 – UC regents debate enrollment limits on students from other states and countries, approve Berkeley chancellor (LATimes): The Regents delayed until May a vote on a proposal to limit out-of-state enrollment system-wide to 20 percent. A number of issues are in the air, including how to treat campuses which already exceed the limit and will be allowed to maintain their current levels under the plan and whether the cap is set at the right level. There is pressure both to lower the cap and to eliminate it.

3/16 -Four-year degree costs drop at California systems (IHE): According to a report, the institutional costs per degree dropped by 6 percent at UC from 1987 to 2013. In 2013, the cost was $109,000.

3/15 – University of California Fund to Double Private-Equity Holdings (Bloomberg): UC will double its investment in private equity (such as startups) and reduce what is held in traditional stocks, a move the fund’s manager said is made with long-term stability in mind.