The University of California, like many universities, was founded on freedom of speech. However, recent events have made it clear that UC Santa Cruz, like many universities, has abandoned that goal, instead favoring indoctrination. This trend has multiple negative effects: it chills free speech and inquiry, and, in some cases, creates environments that are toxic for members of the university community.
Diversity statements in faculty hiring and promotion
UC Santa Cruz has been a leader in requiring diversity statements for both faculty hiring and faculty promotion. As has been noted by many, such statements clearly inhibit free speech by mandating a particular viewpoint on issues of diversity. For example, a faculty member who states that they treat all students equally, regardless of race or ethnicity, receives a low score on such statements. A faculty member who believes in diversity of social class or of political viewpoint, similarly, is guilty of wrong-think because only diversity of race and ethnicity is important.
If this were merely an opinion held by the administration and many faculty, it would be bad enough. But expressing these views is necessary for hiring and advancement at UC Santa Cruz. If you don’t hold these views (or at least profess to), you can’t be hired. If you‘re already tenured (good for you!) and don’t parrot the acceptable viewpoints, your chances of advancement drop dramatically, even if you work to help all students in your classes. This restriction of free speech may actually contribute to lower success rates for minority students because of the problem of “mismatch”, as documented by multiple authors.
Administration pronouncements on irrelevant issues
The UC Santa Cruz administration, particularly Chancellor Larive and Provost Kletzer, have a long history of issuing press releases supporting or criticizing events completely unrelated to the university. Of course, such pronouncements are always made from a viewpoint designed to placate the vocal progressive faculty and students. Examples include:
- Criticism of the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict as a ”miscarriage of justice“. The trial, held in Wisconsin, acquitted Rittenhouse, a white male, of murdering two other white males at a Black Lives Matter-related event. There was no conceivable impact on the university from this case.
- Criticism of the Dobbs case returning abortion laws to the states. Since UCSC is is a California state school, the Dobbs case merely meant that California law, not federal law applied. At the time, abortion was legal in California (it still is), so there was no impact on the UCSC community. Yes, students who returned home might have felt an impact, but the Chancellor doesn’t issue statements on issues in China, despite the large number of Chinese citizens studying on campus.
- Equivocation on the October 7th massacre of Israeli civilians by Hamas. Despite other regents unequivocally condemning the October 7th massacre, the UCSC administration issued a “both sides” statement.
The concern about such statements is that they stifle free speech on campus. I know, based on discussions with students, that many disagreed with the administration view on the Rittenhouse case. However, given the chancellor’s official statement, such views were kept quiet because they conflicted with an “official” view.
Faculty Senate opposition to free speech
In early 2019, I brought a resolution to the UCSC Faculty Senate asking that they adopt the Chicago Principles on Free Speech which, at the time, had been adopted by over 50 universities. Over 90% of the faculty voted against the resolution, which merely states that the university should allow university community members to speak freely:
The reasons given to oppose the adoption were telling. Some faculty actually stated that the university won the free speech war when it defeated McCarthyism, not realizing that, by not adopting the resolution, they are subject to laws such as those passed by the DeSantis-led government in Florida. Others said that the Chicago Principles were being pushed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (now Expression). While correct (FIRE did support the Principles), this is an ad hominem attack, and has nothing to do with the validity of the Principles.
Needless to say, holding views counter to the far-left progressive views of many on campus will cause a faculty member or student no end of trouble. Of course, actually threatening some groups is perfectly acceptable on campus, as long as those groups aren’t “oppressed” minorities. If they’re Jews, threats of violence that would result in discipline if they were made against any ”oppressed” group are ignored.
Concerningly, antisemitism is rampant on the UC Santa Cruz campus. While senior members of the administration have published platitudes about the problem, they have actually done nothing, and are allowing faculty to violate UC regulations and freedom of inquiry in support of antisemitic views.
Several UCSC faculty are among the founding members of the Institute for the Critical Study of Zionism. However, this institute isn’t “critically“ studying Zionism. Rather, it is critical of Zionism. Instead of examining the history behind Zionism and its modern instantiation, the Institute‘s first founding principle states that ”Zionism is a settler colonial racial project. Like the US, Israel is a settler colonial state”. The Institute opposes Zionism and colonialism.” It is thus adopting as a founding principle a statement that is blatantly antisemitic. This is comparable to creating an Institute for the Critical Study of Gay Marriage whose founding principle is that gay marriage is an abomination, with no room for negotiation on the subject. The Institute seeks to counter the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, a definition that has been adopted by the US State Department and European Union. In doing so, the Institute seeks to redefine the definition of antisemitism away from that held by a significant majority of Jews.
The timing of a conference in Santa Cruz to kick off work on the ICSZ couldn’t have been worse: it was held about a week after the October 7th massacre of Israeli civilians by Hamas. As might be expected, the ICSZ published a statement blaming Israel for the atrocity, since (obviously) Palestinians couldn’t be expected to respect human rights of Israelis. In the minds of the ICSZ founders, rape is never excusable, except when Israelis are the target.
Making matters worse, the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Department at UCSC uses its department web page to advance antisemitism, in clear violation of University of California policies. Rather than detail these violations here, I suggest you read the Amcha Initiative’s report on the situation.