Response to Provost Dorr re. letter about AAA
CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM
Los Angeles, July 25, 2016
Dear Provost Dorr,
We wish to inform you that we do not appreciate your dismissive answer to our letter from the California Scholars for Academic Freedom. Your answer does not address any of the specific points we raised. We therefore invite you to reconsider your response to our position, which we re-articulate here for you in the light of the dialogues entertained by members of our group on this matter with several UC Chancellors.
We are fully aware of the fact that along with many other universities, the University of California, in the person of its President (Policy 1300), has already expressed its opposition to “academic boycotts” in the past, and has the right to do so. What we have questioned is the inclusion of Chancellors in signing this letter, the lack of any consultation with UC faculty about its content and the timing of the letter. If Policy 1300 does give our President the right “to speak for the University,” this right comes to her from the Board of Regents, and it presumably refers to all matters of administrative and public representation of the University as an institution. On the other hand, the University of California also has a long-standing tradition and commitment to shared governance, especially when it comes to questions impacting academic matters. The two principles are clearly at odds with each other and it is therefore a delicate matter of interpretation and political acumen for a President to decide when it is appropriate to speak on behalf of the University.
That President Napolitano asked all ten chancellors to sign her letter is a clear indication that she was not certain of having the authority to send that letter and therefore sought to buttress her right by involving the Chancellors. In fact, the letter itself was clearly drafted in haste: even the name of the organization was botched into American Association of Anthropologists and—from the information we have since gathered— the letter was presented to the Chancellors in great haste not even following the normal procedure in the consultation of Chancellors by seniority beginning with UCSB Chancellor Yang. On all of these grounds the President’s actions and Chancellors’ caving to undue pressure demonstrated the exact contrary of what you claim in your response. It is particularly disturbing to witness your defense of this instrumental use of authority and lack of consultation with UC Senates and faculty on matters of great concern to the faculty.
We are therefore very pleased to have recently learnt that upon receiving motivated objections to his signing of the letter by the UCSB Faculty Association, UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang immediately recognized the validity of such objections and committed publicly never to sign a statement regarding the “public representation of our university” without previous consultation with the Academic Senate of his campus. Chancellor Yang rightly interpreted the spirit of our criticism, and we invite you, all other Chancellors, and President Napolitano to follow his example.
We also wish to reiterate that our letter in no way referred to the actual merits of the academic boycott under consideration by members of the AAA, but to the very serious interference of your letter with the voting of a resolution by members of a scholarly association who are employed or may be employed by our university. It is one thing to speak for or against a boycott resolution already voted upon by a scholarly association, it is an entirely different matter to do so before that vote takes place.
For an institution that hires the members of an association to urge them to vote one way or another is at best interference, at worse intimidation. We are therefore greatly comforted by the reassurance we received from AAA Executive Director Ed Liebow that the letter you sent on May 19 was never distributed to the members of the association.
We urge/demand that the University of California never again issue letters interfering with voting procedures by academic associations.
We hope that this time you will give serious consideration to our objections and will respond not with empty niceties but concrete acts aimed at restoring mutual trust in shared governance between faculty and administrators.
California Scholars for Academic Freedom
Professor Claudio Fogu
French and Italian Studies
Professor Nancy Gallagher,
Department of History
Sondra Hale, Professor Emerita,
Anthropology and Gender Studies,
Professor Lisa Rofel
Department of Anthropology
**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.
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