Thursday, April 27, 2017

The incoming Berkeley chancellor will need to do more than lament

Lame-duck Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks has lamented his dilemma caused by the now-you'll-see-her-now-you-won't Ann Coulter event in an op ed in the NY Times. See below. But the problem is not in elaborating on the evident challenges entailed, but in coming up with solutions. Whether the lawsuit that was filed over the Coulter case can continue now that she has canceled is a matter for legal beagles. But even if that lawsuit is now deemed moot, some other lawsuit involving a similar circumstance is likely to succeed in compelling the university to accommodate whatever speaker is involved. There is just too much of a first amendment/public university connection for that not to be the outcome. So the incoming chancellor better have a plan.

The Regents are likely to discuss this matter at their upcoming May meeting. Possibly, they will do it in closed session if the Coulter litigation is still pending. That would be a shame. Some open discussion is needed. Below is what Dirks said:

Berkeley Is Under Attack From Both Sides

Nicholas Dirks, April 26, 2017, NY Times

BERKELEY, Calif. — The University of California, Berkeley, and the community around it have been symbols of free speech for more than 50 years. We still celebrate the legacy of Mario Savio and others who fought in the 1960s to ensure that the First Amendment be honored on campus.

But today Berkeley is facing extraordinary challenges to living up to this legacy. The campus has become a magnet for groups who seek to use the site of the birth of the Free Speech Movement as a staging ground for violence and disruption.

The now-canceled campus speech by the conservative author Ann Coulter is a dramatic case in point. The Berkeley College Republicans invited Ms. Coulter without consulting with the university about the date of the event. This meant we at the school were unable to identify a place and time that could satisfy the extensive but necessary security requirements.

As a compromise, the college identified other dates and times for the event — during a forthcoming reading week or early in the fall semester — during which secure venues would be available. Meanwhile, we were receiving mounting threats of violence around the event. People describing themselves as anarchists and anti-fascists openly threatened to prevent Ms. Coulter’s talk “by any means necessary.” Right-wing groups threatened to appear on campus armed to ensure the opposite — they declared the event would be held “by any means necessary.”

Given the reality of our times, we could not ignore these warnings. Berkeley has been the site of violent clashes this winter and spring — most notably when the right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos came to speak in February. Masked protesters infiltrated peaceful student demonstrations and set fires, injured people and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. While the school remains absolutely committed to ensuring that all points of view can be voiced and heard, we cannot compromise the physical safety of our students and guests in the process.

Ms. Coulter responded by announcing she would speak on the date on which she had originally been invited, but in a public space on campus called Sproul Plaza. But even though the Berkeley campus police department had called for reinforcements from across the state — at enormous expense during a time when California universities face a severe budget shortfall — it could not safely secure the public area. On Wednesday, Ms. Coulter said that she would not speak here at all; the Berkeley College Republicans and other sponsors had withdrawn their backing over safety fears.

Violence, of course, is a silencing tactic. It is the antithesis of open inquiry and of all the university represents. The question for Berkeley now is whether our commitment to the tradition of free speech extends to the point where we must allow our campus to be used for a publicity circus that has little to do with liberal discourse.

To say that Berkeley is liberal is not to say that all faculty members and students share the same political perspective. Nor does it mean that everyone agrees on how to interpret the First Amendment. It means that the university adheres to a common set of values that allow the practice of open, inclusive and unfettered inquiry. Despite the myriad political perspectives on campus, there is widespread agreement that free speech, including the right to protest, is a fundamental value here.

This academic liberalism has become a stalking horse for both the far right and the far left: The far right accuses us of indoctrinating students into what they call a mind-set of “political correctness.” The far left accuses us of allowing the promotion of ideas, such as intolerance and exclusion, which are at substantive odds with the inclusive principles of the campus community.

I agree that inquiry on college campuses is not always as open as it should be, and I agree with those who suggest that we need to be better at teaching the principles and history of jurisprudence around the First Amendment. After all, the First Amendment was written to protect against the possible tyranny of majority factions and the government.

But the use of force has entered the discourse around the First Amendment in an alarming way. The university has been accused of not responding aggressively enough against our own students, and the institution must now invest more public tax dollars in equipping campus police forces to subdue campus protests — even though the perpetrators of violence have been groups with no campus affiliation.

Free speech may be the new clarion call of the far right, but the real subtext of those who try to disrupt institutions built on principles of openness and inclusion with violence is only barely disguised. Berkeley’s status as a symbol of free speech and protest makes it a tempting site for the staging of physical confrontations between both sides.

This spring, the school has collaborated closely with many student groups on campus, including the Berkeley College Republicans, to ensure that we can host speakers of their choosing in a safe and secure manner. Yet, our academic commitment to openness can succeed only if the school does not become a center for violence. Educational institutions need to make urgently clear the reasons the First Amendment is so critical to our nation, on campus and off. The future of liberal democracy is endangered when the university becomes the focus of attacks.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sacramento Bee Editorial: Strong-Armed

Eight audits in four years?
UC is getting strong-armed

BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD, Sacramento Bee, 4-25-2017

One reason the University of California has kept its stature is its political autonomy.

The Legislature doesn’t control the UC, the better to shield academia from political pressure. But state lawmakers do have leverage: About $3.5 billion of the UC’s $32.5 billion operation comes from state appropriations.

State money makes up a bit less than half of the university’s core educational budget. So while the Legislature can constitutionally exert only so much muscle, that doesn’t mean it won’t try.

It’s against this backdrop that we should view Tuesday’s audit of the UC President’s Office, called for last year by Assemblymen Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco.

The two, who lead the subcommittee and committee overseeing the UC budget, want to get more California students into the UC system. At the same time, state lawmakers have been pressured by UC President Janet Napolitano, who in 2014 threatened to raise tuition if the state didn’t give UC more funding.

The UC got its bump, and tuition remained flat until this year, when the Board of Regents approved a modest increase. But relations remain rocky. This week’s UC audit was the eighth in four years.

That’s a lot. And like last year’s audit – which dubiously claimed that in-state students were being crowded out of UC by the out-of-staters who actually help subsidize California enrollment – this week’s is as political as it is scathing.

The gist seems to be that Napolitano has paid UC employees more than other state workers; channeled extra funds into systemwide initiatives such as carbon neutrality and support services for undocumented students; and has squirreled away reserves in the university budget that, depending on the accounting method, amount to a shocking $175 million or a reasonable and prudent $38 million.

For these and other sins, State Auditor Elaine Howle recommends that Napolitano be forced to hand off UC operations to a third party, and to give the Legislature direct oversight of the president’s budget. In other words, more control for lawmakers, less for UC.

In fairness to McCarty and Ting, it’s no fun taking the flak when constituents complain that UC tuition is too high, or that UC Berkeley rejects their brilliant children. And they’re not the only lawmakers who have grappled with UC.

Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, has tried to term-limit the regents. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for new strategic directions. Gov. Jerry Brown famously clashed with Napolitano.

And pressure does work. Napolitano has made room for thousands more in-state students, and proposed a cap on nonresident enrollment.

But why drop references to “cover-ups” and “slush funds,” as the two lawmakers did Tuesday? Napolitano has been a solid leader. The university’s AA bond rating was just reaffirmed by Standard & Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s. She’s a former U.S. secretary of homeland security and Arizona governor, not some rookie.

Taxpayers deserve their money’s worth, and lawmakers should ask tough questions. But they shouldn’t be micromanaging and casting personal aspersions without proof. Nor should they undermine the UC’s independence, unless there has been malfeasance.

“Significant reforms are necessary to strengthen the public’s trust in the Office of the President,” concludes the audit. Sorry, but no, they are not.


Hannah Carter Japanese Garden - The Continuing Saga

We have received an email indicating that Hannah Carter Japanese Garden that UCLA sold with considerable controversy has been designated as an historical cultural monument by the LA City Council. That status gives it added protection. 

Looks like Berkeley dodged a bullet on the Coulter talk

From Sacramento Bee: Ann Coulter said Wednesday that she is canceling her planned speech at the University of California, Berkeley, because she had lost the backing of conservative groups that had initially sponsored her appearance.
Coulter, in a message to The New York Times, said, “It’s a sad day for free speech.”
Despite insisting that she would go to Berkeley regardless – even after the university said it could not accommodate her on the date and time it had initially scheduled her because of threats of violence – Coulter said she did not see how she could go forward. The school said she could speak only at a later date and an earlier time of day, when there were likely to be fewer students on campus and less of a likelihood for violent outbreaks.
Late Tuesday, the conservative group that was helping 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.
Without any support, Coulter said, she was left with little choice.
“Everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away,” she said.
Coulter was confronted with the dangerous prospect of setting foot unguarded on a campus that erupted in violence in February after another conservative speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos, planned to appear. The school canceled his event.
Observation: Probably, the best possible outcome, given the circumstances. It's unclear whether she will come at the later date that was on offer.

Time to call the governor?

Obviously, we are not headed for a good place, as the powers-that-be at Berkeley and UCOP themselves say. Isn't it time to call the governor (who likes to point to his official role as head of the Regents), for assistance in providing security if UC and local authorities can't do it? It's too late to debate who said what to whom or constitutional legalities.

Source of article and image above:

Gubernatorial Candidate Newsom Responds to Auditor Report on UC

Lt. Gov. Newsom responds to UC audit (whether you like him or not):



'Audit must be embraced as an agent for change'

SACRAMENTO - California Lieutenant Governor and U.C. Regent Gavin Newsom issues the following statement on the State Auditor's report on administrative expenditures within the University of California's Office of the President:
"For decades, the University of California's central bureaucracy has been institutionally evasive at the expense of U.C. students, faculty, donors, and public transparency. This overdue moment must be embraced as an agent for change rather than denial, and the state's legislature is to be recognized for initiating the review.
"The audit must serve as a wake-up call for the Board of Regents, as a catalyst for serious soul-searching within the U.C.'s administration, and demands a reboot of the relationship between the system and its governing body. While respecting the constitutional autonomy of the University of California, I support the spirit and intent of the State Auditor's prescriptive solutions and in particular, the recommendation for a third-party corrective action plan.
"Finally, it is outrageous and unjust to force tuition hikes on students while the U.C. hides secret funds, and I call for the tuition decision to come back before the Board of Regents for reconsideration and reversal."

UC Responds to State Auditor

We posted yesterday about the report on UCOP by the California State Auditor. Below is the official response:
UC’s Office of the President and its governing Board of Regents today (April 25) addressed issues and recommendations contained in the state audit report about the budget practices and administrative expenditures of the Office of the President, welcoming most as constructive while raising significant concerns about others.
In a six-page letter to California State Auditor Elaine Howle, President Janet Napolitano responded to recommendations in the report that dealt specifically with UCOP, agreeing with the vast majority of them. Much of what the audit report recommended was already underway at UCOP or is on track to be implemented soon.
The audit report made other recommendations directly to the UC Board of Regents and the state legislature. In a separate letter to the auditor, Board of Regents Chair Monica Lozano and Regent Charlene Zettel, chair of the Compliance and Audit Committee, formally requested the removal of audit recommendations that encroach on the constitutional autonomy of the university and are inconsistent with the constructive recommendations about improving processes, accountability and transparency...
Full news release with links to letters from UC prez and the Regents at: