The Fall Semester is heating up.
The University is preparing to defend its 478 DACA students (and unknown numbers of staff). The BFA is sending a letter urging faculty to be flexible and understanding of the plight of these students. We have also written a letter to the Undocumented Student Program (USP) making unequivocal our support for DACA students. Last December, we gave USP $5,000 on behalf of our members as a gesture toward such support; some faculty may wish to make individual contributions as well. The struggle in the judiciary, the courts and the legislature against the end of DACA has just begun. The Chancellor and UC Regents have fired one of the first shots over the bow: suing the Department of Homeland Security to prevent it from ending DACA.
The campus “free speech” stance is heading toward a showdown on Thursday with the visit of Ben Shapiro. It is not known who else will arrive and with what weapons but it will surely set the scene for the so-called “free speech” week Sept 24-27 – free speech that has little to do with the FSM’s anti-racist, student-driven pursuit of social justice. The BFA questions the adequacy of the Chancellor’s fetishism of “free speech” without reference to the context of unequal power and injury. Fearing the impending violence, some faculty are already proposing to boycott the campus during that week.
On Friday, the Chancellor convened a discussion among 5 “advisors,” noticeable for the absence of students, lecturers, and staff. It turned into a stand-off between the new Dean of the Law School, Erwin Chemerinsky, who warned us of the dire legal consequences of disinviting speakers, and John Powell, Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, who began his comments by saying the issue is not free speech but white supremacy. The Chancellor’s response to tough but polite questions from the floor did not appease an angry audience that failed to understand why the campus would offer a platform for a political circus, saddle itself with costs running into millions of dollars, cancel academic lectures and potentially endanger students – all to accommodate speakers whose reprehensible views have already been disseminated widely by media. Given her discretion to determine “time, place and manner,” why does the Chancellor not minimize disruption to teaching and learning by having the “free speech” in the Stadium rather than Sproul Plaza?
The BFA Board has also endorsed an AAUP statement defending academic freedom and protecting faculty from harassment.
Chair of the BFA.