The UC Council of Faculty Associations (CUCFA), of which the Berkeley Faculty Association is a member, has issued this statement and set of recommendations in response to the tragic recent events in Charlottesville.
The events and aftermath of Charlottesville have revealed the disturbing connection between Alt-Right rhetoric of violence and the very real violence perpetrated by white supremacist groups. This situation bears dangerous parallels with the way fascist movements came to power in 20th-century Europe. Historically, fascism takes root in the public demand for a strong government to restore order following the unrest and violence provoked by ultra nationalist organizations precipitating violent confrontations with antifascist forces. President Trump’s irresponsible and incorrect assertion of a “two-sided” violence has set the stage for a likely reaction by anarchy-inspired groups at the next provocation or implementation of violence by the Alt-Right / white supremacist front. This reaction, in turn, would allow the Trump government to present itself as the ‘neither left nor right’ party of order and security.
Knowing that university campuses are the likely sites for violence to erupt, it is tempting to call for suppressing the right to speak of any element connected with the Alt-Right movement. CUCFA disagrees. We reaffirm our unfettered commitment to free speech, and the proposition that universities cannot discriminate among speakers on the basis of the content of their speech. At the same time, we support denying permission to speak on campus if the speaker or those organizing the speech incite explicitly and/or pose a clear threat of violence.
CUCFA endorses the recent AAUP statement, and UC President Napolitano’s letter in the wake of the tragic events in Charlottesville. We invite them — and the entire higher education community — to also denounce more explicitly the connection among the Alt-Right appropriation of ‘free speech’ rhetoric to provoke violent confrontation, white supremacist violence, and the proto-fascist narrative of equivalence between left and right being spun by the Trump administration.
To counter this worrisome state of affairs, CUCFA further recommends that UCOP make public its criteria for determining and countering a clear threat of violence on the part of outside speakers, and institute an “Outside Speakers’ Commission”—with representatives of the UC faculty Senate, students, campus police, UC lawyers, and other possible stakeholders—in charge of reviewing and publicly discussing these criteria, and, if necessary, of updating them, or developing new ones which would pay particular attention and respond to the following concerns:
- What constitutes evidence of a clear threat of violence brought by a speaker or the organizers of a speaking event?
- If necessary, should the cost of extra police protection be borne by the University or the association asking for a certain speaker to be allowed to speak on campus?
- Should restrictions be passed to what protesters can hold in their hands (i.e. clubs, batons, etc…) entering any UC campus?
Lastly, recognizing the appealing status of all UC campuses as targets for Alt-Right provocations, CUCFA invites UCOP to publicize as soon and as widely as possible among students and faculty the “Ten Ways to Fight Hate Guide” released by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).